Friday, December 29, 2006

How Women can be More Successful in a Male World

Are the differences between men and women the result of socialisation, or are we born different? If we are entirely socialised different then women can learn how to be like men compete with them, but if as I believe the underlying difference is something we are born with, a different strategy needs to be used to succeed in a male dominated culture.

I was born transgender and have studied gender differences all my life from a totally different perspective to most people. Crossing the gender divide and living as women I started to see things that I simply could not see as a man, and of course I was already aware of differences that women never see because men have a side to them that they seldom, if ever, show to women. The book that most helped me to start understanding what was going on was Talking from 9 to 5 by Deborah Tannen.

Let me clarify one thing first. I am talking about masculinity and femininity, not male and female. Our behaviour differences exist along a continuum - we are all different but research suggests that certain behaviours tend to be exhibited more by men and others by women. However some men have very feminine behaviours, some women have very masculine behaviours - that's the joy of diversity and difference.

There is one big gender difference that impacts almost everything we do.

The dominate strategy in masculine social behaviour and therefore used by most men is about positioning in a hierarchy of dominance. We see this from early childhood behaviour. People exhibiting masculine behaviour constantly try to position themselves as one up against everyone. When this is done with other men then there is no problem because it's all part of the masculine positioning game.

Social conditions determine how the positioning is done. Sometimes it's through physical dominance, sometimes it is wealth and power, telling a joke (most male jokes are put downs), buying a bigger house or car or new toy, getting a prettier wife or mistress. It's not a problem for men. They adapt to it quickly and learn to play the positioning game; they use physical presence, voice, intelligence, money or any other advantage to position themselves one up, or put the other person one down. This is the foundation of men's competitive nature.

The primary strategy in feminine social behaviour and therefore the approach used by most women it to try to equalise things all the time. Women constantly try to bring everyone to the same level totally counter to the male behaviour. Women tend to put themselves down and then allow others to bring them back up to the equal position. That's why women are forever apologising.

Women prefer not to promote themselves and boast about their achievements because it positions them above people and that is uncomfortable. Women bond though a network of social connections rather than though a hierarchy of performance; they develop skills in listening and collaborating rather than command and control.

I am sure you can see the problem. To secure equal rights in the eyes of men, women need to appear more assertive and to promote themselves more but if they do they will upset the delicate balance of feminine network relationships. Increasingly those feminine skills of networking and communication are becoming essential in a workplace where, at the lower levels of the corporate hierarchies, women are the majority. But those feminine behaviours are a disadvantage in management where men still dominate.

We are beginning to see different organisation structures emerging as a result of the feminine influence. Women leaders don't want to be at the top of a hierarchical organisation, they want to be at the centre of a networked organisation. It’s a totally different structure and approach; however until this GenderShift is more universal, women need strategies now to survive and prosper in a male dominated business culture while retaining their natural feminine strengths?

Most importantly women must position themselves as being good at what they do and they have to make sure that everyone knows that they are good at what they do. So here are five top tips to positioning yourself.

  1. Wherever possible get certificates and accolades to your expertise and display and publicise them.
  2. Write promotional materials and biographies in the third person as if someone else is writing it about you and strongly highlight your successes and achievements. Get a professional to write them for you because they will say things you wouldn't dare say.
  3. Instead of blowing your own trumpet, get testimonials from clients and contacts blowing your trumpet for you.
  4. Learn to be an "Outstanding Public Speaker." Average is just not good enough. This is the most powerful way to establish presence.
  5. Stop apologising when you don't need to. Say sorry when it is necessary not when it's just a way of putting yourself down or a conversation ritual.
Rikki ArundelFree Articles from Articles Biz
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