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Gender is a gift enriching our lives and expands our possibilities when women and men work together in settings that recognize and celebrate differences.

Women in the Workplace: vive la différence!

When it comes to thinking about the distinct contributions women bring to the workplace, whether it is to an executive boardroom, an office team, a manufacturing line, or a sales group, I discovered my appreciation of a woman’s impact on my world at home during my childhood. My dad and mom were bright individuals, and each had a strong character. My dad poured himself into his formidable technical skills, and he won the admiration of many of his peers. My mom was just as intelligent and strong as my dad, but she made her most significant contributions through remarkable discipline, self-control, emotional intelligence, and relational impact. The contrast between them was dramatic; when I was 14 or 15, one of my father’s peers told me he believed my dad was so brilliant he could have been president of the United States. My immediate thought was, “Yeah, but if you really want to change the world, you should probably vote for my mom!”
She was just as smart as my dad, but as a woman, she approached her life and challenges differently than he did. Some of her qualities were indeed distinct to her, individually, and reflected her upbringing. But several of her qualities are generally shared by women; not all women, but many. Past generations may have erred in making too much of gender distinctions. Still, there’s no benefit now in failing to recognize that despite our many similarities and shared capacities, women and men remain distinct in ways that matter to our mutual success in all of life. And vive la différence!
Both women and men can lead effectively in business and community life. Still, their leadership styles often differ in ways that add value. Women can join men in serving in heavy industry and the military. Their different perspectives and distinctive strengths contribute to mission success. Women and men are now effectively working alongside each other everywhere we look, but they still contribute in ways that reflect their gender. Gender is a gift enriching our lives and expands our possibilities when women and men work together in settings that recognize and celebrate differences.
I am currently coaching a handful of executives and regional leaders in a prominent IT firm with a high-performing workforce marked by a deep commitment to diversity in every life category. And the company attributes much of its success to pairing male and female executive partners when it opens new regional offices.
Why? They think women and men working together in a healthy, respect-filled partnership brings maximum advantages to leading, managing, marketing, selling, operations, accounting, and human resource functions.
Yes, women bring distinctive gender strengths that complement the male gender in ways that make workplaces more humane, increase sales, promote innovation, create greater efficiency in operations, and maximize profits. Yes, profits! When men dominate, minimize, or exclude women, they lose. Everyone loses!
Written by Ray Befus
About the Author >>>
"Gallop reports revealed women leaders and managers consistently score areas of business that require connecting with other people."
Repeated studies reveal that to run a company, manage a team, or launch a new business without women at every level in the organization, is to be financially irresponsible to every investor and stakeholder. No exaggeration.

Smart, disciplined, skilled women bring distinctive strengths to whatever work they choose. The news is actually better than that when it comes to business leadership. In 2019, Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, writing for Harvard Business Review, declared that in thousands of 360 executive reviews, women in leadership positions demonstrated all of the competencies male leaders do. The authors didn’t stop there; Zenger and Folkman claimed that among the thousands of leaders they surveyed, women actually scored higher than men in most of the specific leadership competencies they measured; qualities like taking the initiative, acting with resilience, practicing self-development, driving for results, and displaying high integrity and honesty.

Men scored higher in two areas: developing strategic perspectives and technical expertise. That’s right: after reviewing thousands of 360 reviews, the women in their study outscored men in 17 of the 19 leadership strengths surveyed.
...especially valuable in our knowledge economy
The Gallup organization’s gender studies also highlighted women’s value in workplace leadership. Gallop reports revealed that women leaders and managers consistently score areas of business that require connecting with other people—measuring and recognizing performance, getting the right people into the right seats, and empowering professional development. While men often focus on task excellence, women tend to focus on both task excellence AND relationship excellence, which is a winning combination that delivers results and raises team engagement and employee retention. This gender distinction is proving especially valuable in our knowledge economy. (Michael Stallard, “Why Women Leaders are Outperforming Men,” Forbes, 2018).

Sally Helgesen, author of The Female Advantage: Women’s Ways of Leadership and How Women Rise, notes neuroscientists have discovered when presented with a problem or a challenge, one area of a man’s brain fires up with a laser-like focus to find and execute a solution as quickly as possible. It’s a gender-specific strength that men bring when sharp strategies are needed and must be executed quickly with precision.
"...pairing of complementary strengths is the reason strong, intelligent, successful men and women make better management and leadership decisions together..."
However, when presented with the same problem or challenge, multiple areas of a woman’s brain light up. Helgesen notes that women bring a 360-degree empathetic awareness to problem-solving that highlights the extended ramifications of any course of action. When men are ready to step on the gas, women may touch the brakes by asking, “How will this customer-oriented decision impact our vendors? If we launch today, what obstacles will we encounter and have to overcome six months from now? Are we missing any hidden costs or consequences in our rush to engage with this opportunity?”

Men who are in a heated rush may chafe at the questions women ask, but this pairing of complementary strengths is the reason strong, intelligent, successful men and women make better management and leadership decisions together than they make when the only people at the table are one gender.

Helgesen challenges women to embrace and celebrate the reality that men need what women bring to the business world.
Each of these authors goes on to suggest that early in their careers, despite their gender strengths and individual skills, women often lack the confidence that they have what it takes to rise alongside men, especially in management and leadership. Both men and women fail to recognize female managers and leaders as strong and effective role models, contributing to their lack of confidence. This may be because many business cultures have been created by men, for men, and reward male values and styles of leading and managing. Perhaps it is because many men in leadership and management are slower to promote women than men. Or is it because women who rise still receive less pay than their male counterparts? It’s profoundly sad even to have to mention that in many male-dominated environments, women regularly are subjected to gender bias in ways that are aptly described as “death by a thousand little cuts.” Exclusive, biased business cultures can undermine anyone’s confidence.
I am honored for the invitation to stand alongside Christine Beckwith for all of these reflections and more. She is a smart, strong, and successful female leader building a training organization composed of both women and men who are giving their best, side by side, to those we serve, train, and coach. We are eager to support our male students as they take on their challenges and rise to greater levels of success. And we take special delight in training and coaching women in the real estate and mortgage-banking industries committed to being their best selves, doing their best work, and changing their world in ways women are especially suited to achieve. We believe in you and the distinctive strengths you bring to your world.

As a collector of leadership quotes, I find the words of female leaders are as inspiring as those of men. Let me leave you with several that bring a smile to my face.

20/20 Vision for Success Coaches

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