Communication key to bridging workplace gender gap
VAIL – Sex in the workplace?Sex, or more correctly gender and the difference between men and women, makes communicating effectively in the workplace more important than it’s ever been – particularly as the number of working women continues to increase, said Linda Spillane. In her lecture – “Bridging the Gender Gap” – to members of the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau Wednesday in Vail, she underscored how difficult she thinks inter-gender communication can be.”How easy it is for men and women to misunderstand each other,” said Spillane of the Spillane Institute, which coaches people on communications and other skills. “You would have thought we would have worked it out by now.”Spillane quoted statistics showing that women entered the work force in this country as early as 1791. The increasing prevalence of women in the workplace has changed the game, she said. The problem is in the differences in how men and women communicate. That’s a dynamic compounded by the societal expectations and roles men and women are raised to play. “If all we needed to do was to learn how to argue logically it would all be so easy,” Spillane said. “It’s about negotiating and making decisions. Men and women can benefit from using each other’s communication style in moderation.”
That style varies from individual to individual irrespective of gender, Spillane said. Men aren’t always assertive, dominating and confident and women aren’t always collaborative, submissive, or emotional, she said.”To perform well in business both men and women have communication challenges,” she said.Approval and powerMany people have differing needs and desires – some seek approval while others want power, she said.”Men often seek approval of themselves by what they achieve,” she said. “Women find other ways to gain power.”She suggested women get rid of their need for approval and that they make judgments without first asking what’s the right thing to do.
“Successful women overcome their dependence,” she said. Both men and women benefit from understanding the motivation behind an individual, she said. It boils down to being able to listen effectively, and that’s something that simply isn’t happening often enough, Spillane said. She quoted a study that suggested only 25 percent of U.S. workers felt their managers were listening effectively. “You tend to get so exited about your point of view that you push, push,” she said.Also, people accentuate differences rather than embrace them, she said. “Instead of attacking each other, get together and use those differences,” she said. “It’s not a gender thing.”Valuable partners
In closing, Spillane made the following suggestions and generalizations:• Women must overcome the need for approval, control emotional outburst, refuse subservient positions, shed the stereotypical view of working with men, and become comfortable with power.• Men should celebrate the difference that women can make in the workplace, resist the urge to dominate and see women as valuable partners.”Women are in the workplace to stay,” Spillane said. “Celebrate the differences, don’t criticize them.”Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado