Business World

Balanced Life

Colleen Larsen CEO of Business Engage says;

Over the past few decades, women in general have contributed more to growth in the world’s gross domestic product than either new technology or the emerging economies of China and India. Numerous leaders of international corporations are publicly singing the praises of women in the workplace and the need for gender diversity in the boardroom. Gender diversity is indeed the hottest topic worldwide amongst regulators, policymakers, boardrooms and the public at large.
Question- Why do men and women behave differently in the workplace?

There are a number of fundamental differences between the way that male and females act for a number of reasons.

The first that comes to mind involves confidence. A number of international studies have shown that women are less likely to accept a promotion if they feel they are not 100% equipped for the position, whereas males are more likely to accept the position and learn what they don’t know as they grow into the job. In a similar vein women undervalue there own skills, achievements and experiences much more than men do.  Interestingly these traits are found across all age groups.

Women also have a real or perceived lack of role models. In a recent study fully two thirds of those women interviewed see this absence of female role models in the workplace as a barrier to their development. This is as true in the USA as it is in South Africa and yet the leaders of IBM, Yahoo and Lockheed Martin together with the chiefs of operations at Facebook are women.

Women are said to be more emotional while men are more straight shooters – is there truth to this? 

Women tend to act in different ways to men in a number of important aspects. Women are much less comfortable with confrontation, especially when confronting men. That does not mean to say they are weaker, they just prefer dealing with issues in a more collaborative way.

Research suggests that women, especially in higher management positions take their roles more seriously, prepare more conscientiously and ask the awkward questions that some men may shy away from in fear of rocking the boat. Women certainly bring different perspectives and voices to the table, to the debate and to the decisions.

 Does it work in one’s favour in the workplace to take these blind spots/assumptions into consideration and deal with your colleague based on gender? 

Despite this increasing approval of women in the workplace many men, and I’m afraid to say women as well, prefer their boss to be a man rather than a woman. So we have conscious bias before we even start to consider unconscious bias issues.

We have all heard of the glass ceiling but researchers are now referring to the “slippery ladder” alluding to the attrition rate of women as they move up the corporate ladder. There are many reasons for this, starting a family being just one of them.

How can women overcome their own weaknesses (being overly sensitive)? 

Women must understand the power that they have individually and as a collective. Women make or influence in excess of 70% of all purchasing decisions UK including over 50% of purchasing decisions traditionally made by males. Further, in the U.K. women are expected to own 60% of all personal wealth by 2025.

They are also being better educated. In many parts of the world women account for slightly more than half of University graduates and a similar figure exists for those obtaining first class degrees and university professional programmes.

But they cannot view their problems in the workplace as a “women’s issue”, it is generally well accepted that gender diversity is a business issue. Women also need to realise the power of sponsorship as opposed to mentorship. Most women want a mentor or a life/work coach, which is great and important but then they ignore the role of sponsorship. Sponsorship is used to great effect by men and works by way of people in senior positions “looking out for” and positively endorsing rising stars. For some reason some women find this to be cheating.

30% Club Southern Africa

Colleen Larsen


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