It has been said that Men are from Mars, women are from Venus, but it doesn’t take a cosmic genius to ensure men and women in the workforce gain each other’s respect.
That is not to say all men do not treat women in an equal and fair manner. In fact, many men work successfully for women bosses. However male professionals can sometimes misread the female psyche — to the detriment of their company culture.
Companies with more women leaders are more profitable according to research that analyzed results from 21,980 global, publicly traded companies. As rates of women contributing in the workforce steadily rise, knowing how to navigate interpersonal professional relationships becomes increasingly important.
Here’s a look at 7 tips to keep in mind.
1. Recognize and reward
If a woman is doing a great job she will feel that she deserves an increase in salary, but often she won’t ask. Men are more likely on average to ask for a raise, and if a female does ask, she will request around 30% less than her male co-worker. As the leader of your organization, it’s important to recognize and reward the women working for you and drive a culture change to reinforce parity.
2. Ensure the company culture is merit based
This is a pretty big deal to professional women. When a man walks into a job the assumption is he can carry out the work until proven otherwise. However, many women feel they have to prove themselves first, and this is a big hurdle to overcome. If a male boss can make it very clear that the women in their company are there due to their own merit (i.e., skills and expertise are paramount), then both parties are off to a good start.
3. Listen to her
It is a fact that men’s voices are deeper and louder. As a consequence a man’s can come across as more authoritative. On the playground, that is why female teachers grab the whistle to blow in order to bring children to attention, but a male teacher can stop them in their tracks with one loud bellow.
Some men find it admittedly difficult to follow the pattern of female speech patterns. This is because she will often add what is known as a qualifier to a sentence.
For example, she might say, “I am sorry to disagree,” or “Sorry to interrupt but…” This doesn’t mean she is apologetic about what she is going to say next. It goes back to when, as children, girls learned to play by collaboration with each other. In contrast, boys went head to head to assert their position in the group.
4. Encourage her to grab the brass ring
Generally, a woman will not apply for a higher position until she feels confident that she is 100% suitable for the post. Men, in comparison, will go for the position if they feel that they can tick at least 7 out of 10 boxes.
This means there are often a number of highly suitable and experienced females in the workforce that are not promoted simply because they don’t raise their hand.
In this case, it’s essential to cultivate a “green light culture” for women to aspire to rise through the ranks. Studies confirm, “25% of women feel their gender has hindered their progress, a perception that grows more acute once women reach senior levels.” Therefore, it’s important to encourage women to raise their hand and support them when they do.
Establish promotion guidelines that are clearly communicated to everyone. Create a culture where women can be comfortable reaching for the brass ring.
5. Avoid benevolent sexism
It may not be intentional, but in passing if you refer to female colleagues either internally or externally, as “girls” then that is benevolent sexism. Other examples include sharing unsolicited compliments or discussing women to others in the office… sharing comments that would cause other women to roll their eyes and think, “Here he goes again.”
Innocuous comments can remind women of stereotypes they have worked hard to overcome. It can even make women feel their struggle for parity in the workplace has taken a step backwards.
6. Give empathic feedback
If you intend to gain respect from female colleagues, be honest and empathetic in your approach. If you have to deliver a harsh message around performance, then consider how you would like to be treated in the same situation.
Some men worry they will have to deal with an “emotional” rebuttle, but if they follow the correct HR process and treat women equally they will be seen as fair and transparent.
7. Support work-life integration goals of working moms
Encourage women in the office to seek promotions even with all the responsibilities on their plate, and give her the flexibility to make it work. It’s important to communicate that getting the job done is paramount and giving women with children the flexibility to do so in a way that is sustainable for them.
Male employers may feel they are being helpful and supportive by assigning roles and work to others given a female colleagues’ family commitment. However, it is important to keep the lines of communication open and negotiate family-friendly parameters.
Showing women in the workplace that you won’t overlook their capabilities by default instills trust. The result is more dedicated employees who won’t feel overlooked and search for greener pastures from your competition.
This article has been edited.
Virginia Riddle-Cross is the Managing Director of Somnio Medical, an Australia-based plastic surgery business specialising in cosmetic and dental holidays both locally and abroad. Virginia’s international experience has taught her a lot about doing business overseas, especially in Asia, and she certainly knows what it takes to earn the respect of her employees, peers and business partners alike. Connect with @Somnio_Medical on Twitter.
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