Is Gender on the Agenda?

Having worked for a long time in the area of behaviour and communication at work I know there are a whole host of diverse influences on how we behave and communicate including religion, race, geographical location, class, role position, company culture, personality and… gender. If you are a man reading this, are you now about to hit the delete button? Perhaps the men didn’t get past the title. I really hope not because the point of this post is to explore whether this is on your radar or not.

When I talk to women about how it impacts them, particularly when working with male dominated work teams they quickly relate to the subject. They’re usually very aware of how it affects their working relationships, and open to understanding how they may undermine their own credibility and apparent confidence and are keen to learn how they can change it.

I recently tweeted about a talk I had given to a large group of women entitled “How to Talk So Men Listen” One man responded by asking how I help men talk so women listen. Fair point, and the question it raised for me is do men care?

Women are interested because they are usually in a minority on senior teams, can site numerous examples of when they’ve felt frustrated that they’ve not been listened to or acknowledged and can frequently see the potential implications for their personal and business success.

Do men have the same incentive to address this? If the senior team of your business has always been  male and has well established conversational norms, what’s in it for you as a man, to consider anyone joining the team, whose style of communication doesn’t fit those norms, whether that is due to gender or any of the other influences, for that matter.

I’d really value your input on this because I don’t want to approach it as purely a women’s issue. I want to learn more about your experiences and thinking.

Whilst acknowledging that none of these are absolute measures and more on a spectrum of styles, what do you think about men and women having different ways of behaving and communicating?

  • What has been your personal experience?
  • What have you noticed when men and women work together in teams?
  • What impact can these differences have?
  • What, if anything, is in it for men to acknowledge or address any differences?

8 Responses to Is Gender on the Agenda?

  • Julie, This is great. I think engaging men is key. Many of them are open to the opportunity of fostering a more diverse working dialogue, however they have to be able to see what’s in it for them.

  • Hi,
    I am one of the only female alpine ski coaches at a world cup level. As a woman I am always alone in meetings and in the beginning men simply ignored my presence. However, once they discovered they could not speak behind my back (I speak four languages) so easily without me making fun of there interest in my breasts they came to give me respect.
    However, I do have to put up with their banter about affairs, which of their female athletes looks best in a skin suit, and other such prattle. Some of the coaches also flirt, or sleep with their athletes and it’s fairly disgusting to watch. I try to defend the girls the best I can but generally hang out with the men that are less boys and more mature.
    To deal with communication I assert myself in my body language as being strong and keep my chin up. I indulge in their ridiculous conversations from time to time so that I may be known to have a sense of humor. It is not easy but compromise so far has been the best result in order for men to listen to me.

    • Hi SJ thank you so much for contributing your experience of working in this kind of environment. A great deal of what you describe resonates with me from the time I was serving in the Armed Services.

  • Hi Julie,

    I work in a female dominated work environment that is always on a time crunch. I think time pressure changes behavior. So while I have nearly 30 years working on teams w/women my view likely differs considerably from others.

    What I see is women communicating in a more open style; inviting comments. Men less so, but men expect comments they don’t necessarily feel the need to invite them. I believe men see conversations this way, “If you got something to say speak up, and for Pete’s sake get to the point.”

    In other words men, in general, don’t feel the need to be invited to speak or to invite others. Men also seem more comfortable if a person does not appear to be asking permission to speak (e.g., qualifiers before getting to the point).

    Men do want to hear what people say. It just expected they will say it. At those times when a man thinks another man has something relevant to say, and is waiting for the right time to interject it men will often say, “I want to hear your thoughts on this Bill.” or something akin to it.

  • At work the initiative is the difference .. Preparation and end of the sex sets. Action is what defines, initiative and ability to manage ..

  • In my view, labor relations today are balanced when dealing with sex and exposure man or woman is the same, depending on the suggestion of either party, is an open door. The dating and sex are discussed more openly and transparently, the curiosity for the new and unusual. In the religious education were more present today liberalism is being confused with libertinism. It’s out there. The ranking continues … what more you sell! Sex and Religion.

    • Hi Waldson. I am going to assume you are a man, in which case, thank you for being the one and only man to comment. I know there are also only two comments from women here but many more have emailed their comments privately. I find your comments interesting and perhaps they confirm my theory that women put much of their experience down in part to gender differences and particularly gender based communication styles. Men on the other hand, either don’t see any differences or put any difference down to other influences. Either way, there doesn’t seem to be a strong desire from men to explore this issue.

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