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the '60s and '70s thousands of women fought a hard battle in the workplace.
The purpose was to prove what seemed like a fundamental point: that,
beyond the physical, there are no intrinsic differences between women and
men. The intention was
certainly valid -- opening doors to occupations and executive positions that
were gender restricted or out of reach in the past due to the infamous glass
ceiling. However, as the doors
to equality began to open, an interesting reality also became apparent.
Men and women are really not the same - in their thinking, acting,
communicating or in many other behaviors.
The truth is, we can never be the same, nor should we strive to be.
Consequently, it is imperative that we recognize and understand just
what those innate differences are - and then learn how to use them to our
Primary Gender Differences
simplify any conversation about gender dynamics, we need to make broad
generalizations about males and females.
While individual personalities and other factors all play a part in
determining our behaviors, gender differences are significant enough for us
to acknowledge, study and discuss.
primary difference between the genders is that men, in general, are
resolvers and women are relaters. Being
resolvers, men focus on doing, taking action, finding solutions, getting
things done and solving problems. As
a result they are very externally focused.
relaters, women focus on pleasing, communicating, making connections,
understanding feelings, exploring emotions and being understood.
As a result they are more introspective and internally focused.
author Deborah Tannen sums these differences up quite succinctly by pointing
out that "women talk to establish rapport ... while men talk to
to Tannen, this means women use language in ways that develop relationships;
men use language to tell people what they know. Our basic intentions and perspectives are different, and
those differences play themselves out in a myriad of ways throughout our
is complicated even further by the dichotomy of our internal versus external
author John Gray says this difference is apparent very early on in children.
When young boys have to deal with life problems, they tend to act
out. They get more aggressive,
even violent, and are likely to blame others for their dilemmas.
notes that when young girls are faced with similar difficulties, they tend
to act in. They get more
introverted and usually blame themselves.
is why, according to Gray, 80% of the people in our prisons are men and 80%
of the people in therapy are women.
is not surprising when you consider that females have been invading the
male- dominated work environment for only a few short decades.
Prior to the sixties and seventies women were relegated to a very
narrow range of job possibilities: primarily as teachers, nurses,
secretaries and sales clerks. Beyond
these parameters the pickings were slim, the possibilities quite limited.
As women accelerated their climb into the managerial and executive
hierarchy, the differences in their approach to business - especially in
terms of communication and relationship-building - became areas of
contention at worst, and confusion at best.
the male-focused business world both men and women agree on one thing: men
have greater perceived credibility. They're
more comfortable standing in their power as authorities.
Women are fighting age-old perceptions to gain their credibility.
While men are judged by the position of power they hold, women in our
culture are often still judged by the presence they bring into a room.
In many cases they have to earn their influence through means other
than perceived authority. That
translates into working harder to prove themselves through overcoming more
obstacles, achieving higher goals and demonstrating skills that measurably
boost the bottom line.
fundamental principle of psychology notes that people are more readily
influenced by those they see as similar to themselves.
Men have always taken this for granted when dealing with other men in
business. Dissimilarity has
become a major challenge for many career women who have trouble assimilating
into the business world or corporate culture because they don't always know
how to "play by the rules."
Here are some concrete suggestions for women who want to bridge the business gender gap through playing by your own rules -- and making cross-gender communications work for you.
Rosalind Sedacca is a Business Communication Strategist who speaks, trains
and consults on women's business issues and gender communication dynamics.
She can be reached at 561 588-5581, fax 561 588-6905 or [email protected]
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