THE BLOG
12/04/2013 09:21 pm ET | Updated Feb 03, 2014

Are Women Being Excluded?

Men and women truly want to work more successfully with each other, but we're unsure how. We often have difficulty reading each other's intentions and understanding each other's behavior. We're trying our best to work together effectively and find greater happiness in our personal lives, but we're coming up short in many ways, and so unnecessarily!

Work With Me: The 8 Blind Spots Between Men and Women at Work reveals, for the first time, survey results of over 240,000 men and women across the globe, uncovering the leading false assumptions and mistaken opinions that men and women have of each other, and in many ways, believe of themselves!

What often surprises men are the barriers women say they face each day in the workplace -- challenges women consider obstacles to their professional and personal success. Men are often taken aback when they hear what women say about feeling excluded, revealing a huge blind spot for men:

  • Eight-one percent of women say they feel some form of exclusion at work
  • Ninety-two percent percent of men don't believe that they're excluding women
  • Women's feelings of exclusion are not about isolated instances but rather a recurring pattern of male behavior that is most often unintentional. Inadvertent or not, their behavior tends to exclude women from informal networks, limit their chances for mentoring and sponsorship, and overlook their ideas and questions during meetings. Let's explore some examples:

    Women often feel left out of casual get-togethers and informal social events where team bonding takes place, introductions are made, relationships are established, and information is shared. The participants in these networks and events are predominantly if not exclusively men, primarily because they've been traditionally designed by men for men. They generally reflect men's interests, like golf outings, and often include clients or prospects. Many times, men won't think to extend the offer to the women on their teams, assuming they don't golf, don't want to go to a sporting event, or don't want to be around men being men!

    Women don't necessarily want to prevent men from getting together, but they do want to feel a part of the team as well as help their own careers along.

    Men often say they are more comfortable mentoring other men and admit that they're generally apprehensive about mentoring women. Men tend to feel more comfortable being around other men -- just as women tend to feel more comfortable being around other women. It stands to reason: behaviors and interests are more alike and more predictable.

    But men are hesitant to mentor women for other reasons as well. There's a concern for having their intentions misunderstood by the woman mentee or by other colleagues who may see them occasionally walking together and maybe even having lunch. Men also reveal that they fear saying or doing something that might be misconstrued as sexual harassment. So many men will simply avoid mentoring women altogether.

    It's common practice for men during meetings to interrupt each other and compete to get their ideas across or take another person's idea up a notch and not necessarily give credit during the exchange. Men generally collaborate to compete and tend to approach teamwork as a team sport. Women typically collaborate to share and tend not to approach teamwork so competitively. They'll often give credit to the other person for his or her ideas before added their own thoughts to the mix.

    Inclusion is generally not a top-of-mind issue for men. As a result, a woman may misread a man's behavior in team meetings as being aloof and indifferent, which tends to amplify a woman's feelings of exclusion. Contrastingly, a man may misread a woman's need to collaborate, share, and question as a sign of indecisiveness and insecurity.

    Men's tendencies are to work independently until a task or issue is resolved. They generally view teamwork as a quick, agenda-driven exercise to confirm or calibrate a course of action. During team meetings, men's general nature is to respond quickly to issues and form immediate opinions. The sooner they can disband and get back to work, the better! Women, on the other hand, generally consider teaming and collaboration an integral part of work.

    Given that a man's thoughts and opinions are often quickly formed and stated, a woman will tend to interpret this behavior as dismissive and exclusionary. They'll assume that he doesn't care about her point of view because he's already made up his mind. In reality, this couldn't be further from the truth.

    All a man needs is more information and his mind will change. He may be singularly focused on results, but he'll be open to ideas that can improve his effectiveness or efficiency in attaining his goals. Men don't often appreciate that women generally seek to improve a situation and are actually being supportive by questioning men's ideas and actions.

    These and a number of other small, though repetitive actions on the part of men tend to chip away at a woman's confidence and feeling of acceptance, yet commonly go unnoticed by men.

    What it takes is for men and women to be more actively conscious of their gender differences, especially in stressful situations when we tend to act more instinctively. Gender Intelligence expands our understanding of each other's intentions and needs. We discover how to frame our questions and responses in ways that the other gender can grasp and act upon. And with greater understanding, we can become more aware our gender blind spots and ultimately find greater satisfaction in our careers and personal lives.