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You might think that by now, in the 21st century, we’d finally got over the whole ‘Men are from Mars’ thing, but to be honest, it’s never gone away.

(If you’re not familiar with this book, it basically states that fundamental psychological differences between the sexes is the cause of all their communication problems.)

I think this belief that there’s a basic difference between men and women is still a major reason woman often find themselves being treated differently to their male counterparts by their managers.

I’m still hearing the same old lines about men and women being ‘fundamentally’ different because of their genes, or upbringing or whatever.

And, consequently, I still see women underrepresented in C Suite, and some still getting paid less for similar work and even getting left behind when it comes to promotion – really? Yes, really.

A conversation I had a few weeks ago with an acquaintance at an event surprised me.

We got into a conversation about whether men are naturally more likely to strive to be high achievers while most women prefer less stressful roles because they are ‘wired’ differently…

…can you imagine what I was thinking?!

Yes, it’s true there’s a biological difference – but in terms of how they act and react, their attitude and behaviours – it’s just not that simple.

Not all men are driven by their career. And not all women are nurturing homemakers either!

Science would have us believe that the claims about the difference in gender behaviours are simply not true.

So how should you manage men and women in the workplace?

Should they be treated differently?

Or the same?

Well, that’s today’s podcast topic, so without further ado, let’s get into it.

 

Hi there everyone, this is Rachel Hewitt-Hall from the Learn Grow Succeed Podcast. Gender in the workplace: It’s a hot topic, isn’t it? I’ll get into that in just a moment.

First though, if you are new here… welcome 😊!

By the way, you’ll always find a transcription of our podcast over on the Excel Communications website.

Which is also full of resources to help you develop your leadership capability.

Over the last few years we’ve run many leadership training webinars and if you would like access to these please visit https://www.excel-communications.com/wr – and the wr is in lower case.

So, should you manage your male and female staff differently? Or should you be treating everyone the same?

There’s been a lot of research about gender behaviour in the workplace over the last year.  And interestingly, it seems to point to the fact that there isn’t really a difference in behaviour between men and women.

So, what’s going on here?

I read an article in Harvard Business Review recently that actually sparked this podcast idea.

They had run a survey on this very subject at one of their client organisations: a large multinational with a definite lack of women at the top!

The aim was to establish if this was due to the women’s behaviour, or if something else was afoot.

Over four months, they monitored hundreds of employees in one office with a view to finding out if the women had different behaviours to the men.

We’re talking about things like – less face to face time with their manager, less access to mentors, less willing to engage with senior management.

Now here’s the interesting thing. Their data clearly found that there were no differences whatsoever in the behaviour patterns of the men and women surveyed.

Hmmmm…interesting!

So, if there’s no difference in behaviour, why do we even consider that men and women should be managed differently?

Could it be down to gender bias?

Here’s another interesting fact. Research shows that men are perceived as more responsible when they have children, while women are seen as being less committed to work.

Sadly, yes…it’s true!

Bias, it seems, is responsible for managers treating women employees, not on the basis of their actions, but on the manager’s perception of those actions.

So, what can managers do to focus on reducing bias and gender inequality in the workplace?

Well, a good start is by looking at the cold hard facts. To provide a tailored solution, it’s crucial companies ask the relevant questions for their own workplace.

Questions like:

“Does our company culture discriminate against women?“

or “Are we making assumptions about female employees that promote stereotypes?” etc…

Although we’re frequently told that gender equality is the new norm, women still take on most of the work around the house, looking after the kids, doing the shopping etc.

In fact, women are more than five and a half times more likely to do most or all of the housework than their male partner.

I’m shaking my head in despair here!!!

On a serious note, though, with many women opting to take time out of their career or needing flexible working patterns to juggle their external family commitments, the pressures of a heavy workload that inevitably comes with senior roles make it more difficult for them to advance.

Maybe the answer lies in companies adjusting their culture to support working parents better, so they don’t have to make that choice between family and career?

It’s also frequently bandied around that women don’t take risks, don’t negotiate well and aren’t confident as men, and this is why they need to be ‘managed’ differently.

To be honest, it’s all just a bit condescending, … don’t you think?

Throughout history, famous women – from Elizabeth the first to Ellen DeGeneres – have bucked the trend, despite being labelled unfeminine or ‘hard’ – we just can’t win!

But the fact remains – we have had some amazing women leaders and inspirational female role models.

By the way, if you want to be inspired by successful female leaders – see my article on the Excel website!

It seems that women are caught up in long-held myths that see them treated differently.

Now, some women may react to this by adjusting their behaviour.

For instance, if a manager presupposes a female team member shouldn’t take on company negotiations because they’re “too nice” that individual might begin to believe it’s true.

Or they don’t bother arguing because they don’t think their (male) boss will listen…or they’ll be seen as a ‘hysterical’ female if they stand up for themselves.

But bear in mind that research all points to the fact that women are just as capable as men at negotiation, leading, decision making and the rest of it. I refer you back to my women in history comment!

I firmly believe the answer to this ‘perceived’ gender difference can only be put to rest when companies ask themselves some serious questions about their beliefs, practices and policies, and look to change their mindset.

Only then can we really move forward and embrace gender equality.

So, no, men and women shouldn’t be managed differently.

They should be managed as individuals on a level playing field to allow them to achieve their best as individuals…not stereotypes.

The future of a great workplace is one that embraces individuality and responds to individual needs.

As Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

Till next time!

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