Business of Men

Bridging the gender gap in business

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For men and women to forge long-term business relationships, the art of gender communication must be mastered. Females and males differ in many ways, and in the corporate world they often speak different languages. So how do you bridge the gender gap in business?

Historically, men are the hunters and women the homemakers. Obviously times have changed, but the inherent male and female traits remain the same. Men are goal-orientated and get satisfaction from conquering situations;  women take pride in the construction of their work and the process, not just the result – they are ‘builders’.

The physiological gender gap makes communication between the sexes difficult, especially in business. Knowing these differences exist, how can a man connect with a woman (and vice versa), and yield results? How do both parties learn the rules of the other sexes’ game, and use them to become master connectors? Here are the foundations for both sides of the gender gap in business.

Tips for women approaching men

  1. Men often have sizeable egos — it’s a fact. From birth, men are trained to measure their value on their achievements and as a result, they’re particularly sensitive to criticism and failure. Women must connect with men in a way that acknowledges their position and respects their level of power, not presenting themselves as a challenge or a threat.
  2. In line with their goal-orientated nature, men are concerned about the bottom line. In business, the first question they’ll ask is “What will this cost me, and what return will I see on this?”. This is their primary focus and women need to be prepared to answer with exact figures and timelines.
  3. When connecting with a man, women need to remove emotion from their exchange. Men aren’t interested in hearing the ‘fluff’ around proposals e.g. the lengthy thought process behind making a particular decision. Men will not hesitate to ask for more information if needed, although they rarely will. In 2008, Forbes sat down with the author of ‘Leadership and the Sexes: Using Gender Science to Create Success in Business’ Michael Gurian and summarised how men operate “the conversations will be a little shorter, the meetings with be a little shorter. We’re going to cut to the chase a little quicker. So some things won’t get discussed, but we’re going to go for the end product more quickly.”
  4. There are appropriate times to approach a man, and certain lengths. Men can easily feel cornered and smothered if a woman commands their time and attention for a long period of time in their first meeting. Be brief, succinct and adopt the ‘get in and get out’ approach. Try and leave them with a short sharp version of yourself.
  5. Women will never be a part of the ‘Boys Club’, nor should they try. In a formal situation, men tend to gather in packs and speak their own language. A woman is well within her right to approach the herd, but shouldn’t stay around to join in with the banter. Using Hilary Clinton as an example, Gurian explained how a woman being “competitive like a guy” can actually work against her. “Men and women both compete and bond, they just do it differently…she (Clinton) is authentic, but she’s cutting off from herself some assets because she’s trying to compete like a man.”

Tips for men approaching women:

  1. Most women enjoy connecting, and their worth is built around the quality of the relationships they form. Men can demonstrate the respect he has for a woman by taking the time to listen to her ideas, and following up on the conversation. While men are motivated by material/measurable rewards, women consider acknowledgement one of the most valuable rewards.
  2. Although business women are told constantly to be thick-skinned and unemotional, they do not react well to being treated like a ‘little lady’. Calling a female ‘sweetheart’ or ‘darling’ is not only outdated, but unprofessional and to most, offensive.
  3. Historically, men prefer to deal with other men and some of the biggest business deals where millions are exchanged can take them only a few words. Women need more reassurance and have a different process entirely. Men must allow women to ask questions, test the waters and deliberate. Conversations with a women will probably be longer, as she will take the time to deliberate the scenario in her head, whereas men will speak fewer words and attempt to arrive at a decision in the quickest possible time.
  4. Men should never underestimate the ability of the woman to get the job done. When connecting with a female, it is wise to assume that she is capable beyond initial assessment. Being undermined or ‘babied’ during this phase is connection suicide.
  5. Women rely on clear communication. When they don’t hear back from a man they automatically assume “He’s not interested in my project” or “We didn’t connect”. This could lead to unnecessary overreactions. Therefore make sure you let them know what you know when you know! Truth is, most men aren’t masterful communicators. Men (and women) are sometimes late for meetings, delayed in replying to emails and lose memos.

The good news is that women and men can work together in an effective and productive way. Despite their differences, both sexes share the same end-goals; they want to succeed in their careers and in business. This common ground is worth keeping in mind when doing business with the opposite sex. And only through respecting and appreciating each other’s differences can men and women work together as a team.

About Amanda Rose

Founder and CEO of The Business Woman Media. Amanda Rose is also the only 'strategic connector', a brand strategist, keynote speaker and host of Amanda Rose TV. Connect with Amanda Rose on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or visit www.amandaroseofficial.com.

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