Women in the Workplace

Dr. Purushothaman
December 6, 2013

In today's workplace women have a unique role that has evolved over the last twenty years. In the past the "feminine" ability to nurture and to be empathetic were frowned upon or seen as weak. Today, businesses recognize the importance of the softer skills in managing teams, leading, mentoring and developing trust among clients. Today both men and women enter the workplace with a different set of rules.

Carol Gillian wrote In a Different Voice in 1982 when women were struggling to find their place in corporate America. The natural skills that Gillian described in her landmark book, the ability to be empathetic, the ability to listen, the tendency to put people before results were considered negative. In fact, Gillian wrote, "Psychologists tended to regard male behavior as the 'norm' and female behavior as some kind of deviation from that norm."

What Gillian discovered was that men and women played differently as boys and girls. These games led to normative behaviors that transcended into the workplace. What she particularly found was that men were more concerned with rules and women about relationships.

Today's workplace values teams and team work. Teams are built on trust, strong communication, listening, and rapport building. What we have learned over the last 20 years is that bringing women and their unique abilities into the workplace, combined with the male tendency toward competition and results created a longer-lasting and more profitable work environment. Once women stopped trying to be "men" and instead maximized their strengths, everyone benefited.

Let's look at some of the things that have changed in the workplace as a result of a feminine/masculine environment:

* Teams. There are more teams and teams are the norm. If you cannot work on a team, you cannot work incorporate America.

* Mentoring and Coaching Programs. Women recognized the need to help other women become successful at work. At first they developed informal mentoring programs for themselves. Now, most companies have mentoring programs or coaching for all new employees.

* Self-Assessments. Many companies are doing more and more self- assessments to help people learn more about their strengths and weaknesses.

* Win/Win Leadership. In the past the goal was Win/Lose. In fact the kind of manager who got results regardless of the people he left behind was admired. Today, we search for consensus and opportunities to build relationships through win/win. Most marketing materials target benefits--. How can I help you--before a product is ever sold.

* Social Consciousness. Many organizations and companies look beyond their products to the impact of that product on the world. Organizations like http://www.thesavvygiver.com identify these companies. Being environmentally, internationally and socially conscious has become a symbol for the most successful companies.

* And where would Bill Gates be without Melinda? Surely before he married her, he was not a philanthropist. Now he and his foundation prove that giving back to the world is equally important as taking from it. Woman-owned companies are leading the way in philanthropy.

Women have set the pace for a workplace that no longer eats people up, but welcomes them as individuals with a heart, a soul as well as two productive hands. The rules have definitely changed.

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