Gender diversity in the workplace allows for a wider talent pool and brings a wider range of perspectives and ideas to business development. But gender differences sometimes create workplace conflict. So, how do you benefit from positive aspects of workplace gender diversity while eliminating the conflict? Here are 6 keys to creating productive gender work partnerships:
Communication: Allowing for Different Styles and Encouraging Everyone to Contribute
It may seem obvious and that’s because it is obvious: good communication is central to all relationships. Despite this super-obvious and necessary component though, differences in communication styles sometimes prevent good ideas from coming forward. If anyone in your company feels as though they don’t have a voice then there is a problem.
Studies show that women at times feel their ideas aren’t being heard and that men have a tendency to steamroll conversations with an aggressive communication style. Conversely, women tend to be more measured, ask more questions and incorporate a wider arrange of opinions, which men at times complain takes too long, prevents decisions from being made and lacks authority.
Obviously, both styles have their merits and neither should be the sole style within a company. Everyone needs the confident, authoritative decision-maker (regardless of gender) but we all also recognize the need for raising questions, including all opinions and taking the time to weigh options. Creating a work environment that encourages all team members to contribute allows for the best of both worlds.
Talent-Matching: Placing Team Members Together Who Possess Complementary Abilities
Tom has great ideas. He sees a problem and comes up with a very creative solution. But he lacks organizational skills to see the solution from conception to implementation and finally success. Jane is the most organized person you’ve ever worked with. Lightbulb moment: put them together working on the same project.
This example demonstrates that value of putting together individuals who fill each other’s talent gaps. Recognizing that men and women, and all individual contributors, bring unique skills and talents, your job is to place the right people together. This often includes men and women working together. Along with good communication, this forges positive working relationships.
Leave Your Assumptions at the Door (Or Get Rid of Them Altogether)
Okay, so I know this seems somewhat contradictory given the generalities discussed earlier, but generalities are only a guiding point. Any manager or leader worth their salt sees all team members as individuals and leaves any assumptions based on gender (or race, religion etc.) at the door.
This allows for a more honest appraisal of talents and skills, creates a more open dialogue and allows the top talent to move up more quickly. Leaders that demonstrate this attitude also pass it along to their team members. As leaders and followers alike embody this attitude, gender equality gets ingrained into the workplace culture.
Make Leadership Opportunities Clear
Despite the women’s leadership movement and the fact that women graduate college and enter professional roles at a higher rate than men, women are still greatly underrepresented in leadership roles. When mostly men represent the leadership of a company, women tend to view opportunities for advancement as more difficult than their male counterparts. This causes morale issues, can lead to workplace conflict and makes it near impossible to retain top talent. Outlining a clear path to leadership empowers all of your employees to work cohesively by demonstrating the opportunities available for all employees.
Align Equality Goals with Business Goals
You want the top talent at your company to rise to the top and be the leaders of business growth. This actually aligns exactly with the idea behind equality. Too often, capable and talented women get overlooked, marginalized and pushed to the wayside because of old world assumptions and attitudes. This is business suicide. Doing something over and over again because it’s what’s familiar or traditional will never allow you to be nimble and competitive in the market place.
Creating a true meritocracy that allows top talent to lead your business requires removing any viewpoint based on demographic information, such as gender. In this way, the goal of creating equality in the workplace drives the business goals of improving company performance. It will bring out the best in your female employees as their value to the company is reflected in their contribution. The same goes for male employees who understand that they won’t be able to coast because their career movement will depend on performance and performance alone.
Drop the Metaphors that Assume an Awareness Not Every Employee Has
I like sports…a lot. If it’s a Sunday during football season my whole family knows not to even bother seeing if I’m available. I’m the kind of guy that can watch the same episode of Sportscenter over and over again (which is typically how I fall asleep). But, if I’m sitting in a team meeting and my boss says that our recent revenue numbers are “like 4th down on the 20 with 30 seconds left to go and we got to go for the touchdown” (which is a made up example because that would be rather dire) and I see team members’ eyes gloss over (men and women), clearly there is a problem with the communication style.
Now, I understand that sports are not unique to gender. The problem here has more to do with resonating with all of your employees. Chances are good you have women in the office that do like sports and men that don’t. So, you run the risk of alienating both male and female employees who don’t like sports. Think about whether not your analogy will resonate with all of your staff before including it. Often, you will find the analogy is not needed and straight talk is more effective.
Positive gender relationships in the workplace should be a top priority for many of the reason discussed above. The most important thing to remember is to simply have respect for all of your employees. There are other issues that relate to gender equality in the workplace, such as equal pay, creating family balance, etc. but these tips can help managers in the workplace today.