Archive for September, 2012

Equality in the workplace

Are women really equals in the workplace?  No.  Have women made progress?  Absolutely.  Women have achieved significant advances since the discrimination they faced two decades ago; however, the struggles continue.  Women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man with equal qualifications earns.  Even though women now comprise 46% of the total U.S. labor force as contrasted with 20% in 1900, the wage disparity continues.  “The more education a woman has, the greater the disparity in her wages,” according to Progress, yes, but equality is still a dream for the future.

“In our civilization, men are afraid that they will not be men enough and women are afraid that they might be considered only women,”  This quotation by Theodore Reik in Esquire magazine (Reik cited in Merriam-Webster, 1992, p. 268) still depicts the role of men and women in the workplace today.  Females look, think, listen and communicate differently from males.  Business would run much more smoothly if success were based on the job performed and not on the sex of the performer.  However, the interaction between the genders is no so simple.  Gender contrasts in communication styles, attitudes, experiences and behavior automatically bring the propensity for conflict into the workplace.

The conflict, intentional or unintentional, is exacerbated when the individuals interact with sex-trait stereotypes firmly in place.  Conflicts do not exist in the abstract, they exist between people.  Neither the male nor the female management style is always appropriate.  The situation may intensify when one person misinterprets the intention of the other.  “What you heard is not what I meant.”  We each interpret words and situations through our own experience and psychological filters.  Men and women do not think or act exactly the same; hence, the inevitable misunderstandings.  Effective conflict management depends on shared communication.  Sharing information will be more successful if he understands what she said in precisely the way she meant it and she understands his intent in his words and actions.  Rarely does a high level of understanding occur even with the same gender.  Add the complexity of sex-trait stereotypes and the situation intensifies.

If a man declared, “David, you’re first,” he would be commended for his direct authoritarian manner. His declaration would be an exhibition of decisive leadership.  If a woman said, “You’re fired,” she would be described as heartless or worse.  Add the complexity of a man firing a woman or a woman firing a man and sex discrimination rears its ugly head.  Each situation now becomes more complex.  Why?  Women have progressed from the television days of “Father Knows Best” and “Leave it to Beaver” in the 1960s; however women are still described as emotional and sentimental.  Women would be expected to deliver the message in a gentler, caring manner; men would be expected to be more direct.

Gender expectations may be partially responsible for the male view of the effectiveness of women in management.  Even though women have made significant progress since Arliss (1991) said the several studies indicate that women are seen as less competent managers, particularly in the judgment of male subordinates.  Are women truly less competent?  I think not.  The male perception may remain firmly ingrained in corporations; however, that does not make it a fact.  Women are fully as capable as men.  Women simply exercise their own style.  Margaret Thatcher’ quote in People magazine saying, “If you want anything said, ask a man.  If you want anything done, ask a woman” still resonates with many women today.  (Thatcher cited in Neely, 1981). Asa Baber echoed Margaret Thatcher’s sentiments with her own endorsement of female capability.  “Every female executive I know works hard. Look, it’s simple.  They’re on trial.  They know they’re setting a precedent.  It’s a lot of pressure” (Baber, 1992, p. 125).  Take a serious look at the accomplishments of Elizabeth Dole as Director of the Red Cross, Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice.  Male and female management styles, conflict resolution styles and personalities may be vastly different; however, each has an important place in the modern workplace.  Each gender has the opportunity and yes, obligation to learn the strength and effectiveness of each other’s style.

For more information on conflict management, management styles and gender differences, stay tuned to  Also inquire about hiring Elaine Love for your next sales training, executive meeting or personal growth presentation coaching.  Go to or

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