I’ve been noticing increased gender comparisons in the media lately. Being privileged to work with smart and ambitious men and women, I’m more and more conscious of behavioural differences between the sexes. Whether these differences originate in the brain or culture or socialisation, as women want to advance their careers to the top level, they need to pay attention to research.
When men get together, they almost always talk about their success and achievements – even jokes are to establish dominance. All-women groups in contrast share stories of blunders, gaffes or confusions to reassure each other and establish intimacy. It seems men need to command respect and women build rapport. It becomes highly apparent when in meetings men are far more likely to interrupt – and interrupt women – to gain status.
Even the pace of decision making is distinct. Men arrive at an individual decision quickly to demonstrate independence and authority whereas women tend to confer and consider an array of outcomes first. If managers are not aware, decisions taken by men are valued more because they are first to arrive at the decision even if it may not carry the support of the team.
It’s a mistake however for a woman to adopt a masculine approach. She is likely to meet with opposition and criticism for being ‘unfeminine’. Deborah Tannen, Professor of Georgetown University points this out in her book “You just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation”. So what to do as a woman if you want to gain leadership status in a male oriented environment?
In my view, there are four strategies that help develop women’s gravitas and leadership: –
- Women need to recognise their strengths, expertise and contribution and need to promote recognition for what they achieve.
- They need to be more aware of their “why?” – their purpose and vision for their lives. They need to be self aware, to know their limitations and work within them; to claim what is genuinely theirs and refuse to accept how others define them.
- To be able to manage stress, acquire a calm presence and self assured assertiveness under pressure. This will become very powerful in commanding a room.
- Build rapport with people who matter and learn to influence them.
Woman have no need to jeopardise their femininity, just learn to be confident in it and themselves to gain advancement and leadership position.