16 August 2009

Men are from Mars, women are from Venus

Recently I attended an interesting meeting at my organization. The focus was on empowering women in the organization. The participants were all female. Perhaps thats why we had an extremely uninhibited discussion. As with all meetings, I had gone with the perception that this might be a male-bashing session wherein all women rant about how they suffered in the workplace due to the insensitivity of their male counterparts. Surprisingly enough, I was proved wrong!

We ended up discussing how men and women both have certain preconceived notions about gender stereotypes. And how this hinders their understanding of each other as colleagues. Also, due to social psyche, women are sometimes ill-equipped to deal with workplace requirements. I know the feminists among you may already have raised their eyebrows hence some examples follow :)

  • Women do not have informal forums such as men when they go on smoke or tea breaks. There was a debate whether a woman should shed her femininity and follow her male colleagues on these jaunts or preserve her womanly grace and stick with other (much fewer) women colleagues only.
  • Women are more qualitative rather than quantitative. While appreciating someone, they will only say "Nice!", "Very good". There is no additional data such as "I appreciate that you did xxx particularly well". Also, they will approach their manager saying they just got married and have to move to another city. Hence can he do the needful for their transfer to the office in that city? The organizational expectation here is that the manager is only there to facilitate the transfer; the onus of making it happen is really in her hands by building a good enough business case for her transfer!
  • Women are used to being appreciated for efforts rather than results. At home, when they sweat it out in the kitchen trying out a new recipe and even if it doesn't turn out that well, their efforts are well applauded. They expect the same at office, but manager is more interested in whether a task was taken to completion rather than how much effort was spent on it.
  • Women are shy about taking credit or marketing themselves. They think that tom-toming about their achievements - whether at workplace or even in school/college is bad etiquette. However, men are used to this and rather expect this from their colleagues.
  • Men think that women are good organizers hence the task of arranging for a party or an outing usually falls into the plate of the woman in any team. Some women are actually really bad at this or even hate this and some men actually love doing this. Women should learn to be firm with a gentle touch and turn down such assignments with panache.
  • Women are not aggressive or assertive in workplace communications. The other end of the spectrum here is that a woman who has been aggressive in a meeting is never forgiven for that outburst by the men. She is labeled as "difficult" and it pretty much follows her everywhere. A man in her place is immediately given the benefit of doubt, however. Again, here the onus is on women here to lead with a gentle hand or wield the whip where required.

There were many such topics discussed but these were the ones worth mentioning most. They certainly opened my eyes. Even with many women stepping into the corporate world today, there are very few on the top. The differences between men and women start getting exposed most as they rise up the corporate ladder. There are no courses to teach some of these things to women and most learn through tough or bitter experiences only. By giving a platform to discuss such things, my organization really helped us learn from each others' experiences!


paamar said...

Nice post. not a quantitative comment ;)

btw "Women are shy about taking credit or marketing themselves" ?? Not all. Rather I believe this is dependent on the individual's style rather than gender.

Random Blogger 3 (Amit Shirodkar) said...

Well written, as usual! Are you heading towards writing a book? :-)

More seriously, most of the points are valid ones - e.g. being left out of informal forums like tea breaks. BTW many males are left out of smokers' gatherings as well if they don't smoke themselves! In these gatherings people actually discuss strategy or take some important decisions, which is a bad practice. One should never take office decisions without involving all the people concerned, but that's the way it is sometimes ...

Also not taking credit for achievements is found in men as well - but overall I would agree that more women fit the bill here.

Finally, kudos to your organization for having such an event in the first place! Not many companies I know do something off-track like this.

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