The Difference Between Girls And Boys
Oct 8 2009
Some of you may recall that I accidentally published a version of this post a while back. In my blurry eyed state of doing too many things I hit the little blue button that said Publish instead of the black and white button that says Save Draft inside WordPress. So here’s my next attempt to try to have it make more sense.
Everyone knows there is a physical difference between boys and girls, but I think not many (especially in the business world) understand the mental and emotional differences. Many studies have been done on the subject including ones done on the differences between male and female brains mentioned HERE, HERE, a psychological overview called Understanding The Difference Between Men and Women, and a 2007 one done by McKinsey & Company called Women Matter (pdf) that suggests that companies where women are strongly represented in senior management and on the board perform better than others.
McKinsey also did a report called Centered Leadership: How talented women thrive (you have to register to read the full report). My boss at ATI, who use to work at McKinsey, gave me a copy of that report late last year and a good overview is on a post on the glass hammer blog at Factors that Sustain Successful Women Leaders. When I first read the report I have to admit I was pretty cynical and felt like it was mostly taking a man’s perspective’s (i.e., researchers) to try to ‘explain women and their emotions.’ But a series of unexpected events happened in my life, combined with working at ATI, which was my first steady office job since having kids, that changed my mind. I happen to think men are just as emotional as women, they just express it differently which, of course, is more acceptable among other men.
As a woman who got her MBA and was founding CEO of a venture capital backed tech company, there always seemed to be an expectation that one had to be like a man to succeed, which was mentioned in the Women Matter report. Only 20% of my MBA class were women and I daresay less than 5% (that may be 1%) of technology company founding CEO’s are women. Many of those women dropped out of their careers for several years to have and rear children. I took years off from a high-paced job too but at the same time attempted to keep my knowledge up to date by teaching entrepreneurship at UT Austin and founding Babble Soft from my home office. My first company was a business-to-business company where you sell directly to businesses. Babble Soft is a business-to-consumer business where you sell directly to consumers. I now know a dangerous amount of how things work (or don’t work) in those vastly different kinds of business models.
From my perspective, the more you could act like a man without being too confrontational/aggressive the easier it was to navigate the world of high tech business. More than 90% of the time I was the only women in a room full of older, White men. Gail Evans, former VP at CNN, and author of Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman: What Men Know About Success that Women Need to Learn mentions that many men put women into one of 4 categories: Wife, Daughter, Mistress, or Mother. The best of these categories is, according to her is Daughter because men take on a more mentoring role. She also says there is no such thing as work/life balance. It’s all one life that you work and play in so trying to balance those two doesn’t really make sense!
I really enjoy working with men and women so I think that’s helped me break some barriers and fortunately 99% of the older, experienced men and women I’ve been around in business have been helpful. I have avoided most of the horror stories. I remember being amused at what some of the good ‘ole boys I ran across when I worked for an oil & gas company would say and do. I could usually tell if a guy was being malicious, sexist , disrespectful, or just joking around. It helps that I’ve had a lot of guy friends.
As I watch my two kids, an older boy and younger girl, the differences are fascinating and have been noticeable since birth. They are both wonderful in their own ways and some of the differences I’ve noticed is how they show their affection as well as how they assimilate information, hear you, and how they want to be heard.
I’ve noticed that boys in general like to show their affection in a more physical way by running in to you, talking about their bodily functions, wrestling, and being overall less aware that sitting on you is not always comfortable. But my son also wants his cuddle time and hopefully he’ll still want it for a few more years. He’ll sit close to me when he’s watching TV, give me a hug, or if he wakes up at night, he’ll want to lay in bed next to me for a little while. He much prefers throwing a football, playing soccer, playing video games, or watching TV than engaging in long conversations. I end up turning the TV or Wii game off when I really need him to listen to me though, which frustrates him.
My daughter shows her affection more through drawing things, sitting next to you, talking to you, hugs, saying she loves you, and generally being calmer. I think she’s a little bit more active than she would be because she has to keep up with her older brother, who encourages her to talk about bodily functions! But she wants you to be generally softer with her. Certain things seem to affect her much more strongly and she’ll get a bit more emotional and require much more talking with to get her out of a funk. But once you explain things to her and help her express her thoughts she’s usually fine. She’s still not big into long conversations either.
I’ve always found the world of human dynamics fascinating and have enjoyed the complexities of both men and women. Both genders have such great things to contribute to humanity and I think the best leaders take the time to understand that and play to the strengths of each gender and each person in particular. The greatest, well known leaders (political, military, and business) of the past had teams of 99% men on their team. The great leaders of the future should be aiming for a balance of men and women on their team, and they will hopefully take the extra time and effort to make sure each is supported to meet his/her goals.
Aren’t people wonderful?Author: Aruni | Filed under: babble soft, diversity | Tags: gail evans, how talented women thrive, leadership, mickinsey, women in the workplace, women matter | 3 Comments »