Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 24
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
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The “Mars and Venus” Gender Differences Play an Important Role in the Workplace

Anne Levin

Men speak one way; women speak another. Males of the species miss verbal cues; females pick up on them. These key differences in behavior were among several cited by speaker Terry Adams in “Mars & Venus: Bridging the Communication Gap,” a talk held at the opening event of the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Women in Business Alliance on May 25. With this new program, the Chamber aims to foster connections and collaborations between business women and community leaders, and provide advocacy for women’s issues.

“I’m not here to bash men,” Ms. Adams told the almost overwhelmingly female audience gathered at PNC Bank to hear her talk. “But we’re working in an environment still dominated by men. And we have to learn more about them in order to be successful.”

Ms. Adams, who runs the Adams Consulting Group, started off with some statistics. Women own 29 percent of small businesses in the United States, she said. Forty-six percent of the workforce is female, and 15 percent of the board of directors’ seats at Fortune 500 companies are held by women. In general, strides for women have been bigger in the business world than in the corporate world, she added.

Acknowledging that many of her statements were based upon stereotypes, Ms. Adams offered some observations about the differences in male/female behavior. “Men prefer to talk side-by-side, while women talk face-to-face,” she said. “Women nod a lot. Men only nod when they’re in agreement with what is being said. We have to be mindful of this. Just because they are not nodding doesn’t mean they are not listening.”

Speech patterns differ between the sexes. “Women put in disclaimers like ‘maybe’ or ‘perhaps.’ This can eat away at the power of the message,” she said. “Men banter and joke around, and may even cut each other down a bit as a way of jockeying for position. Women speak more softly than men do. Make sure you pump up the volume a bit in order to be taken seriously.”

While many women tend to disclose a lot of personal information about themselves, men do not. “Sometimes that can be very annoying for men, and they tend to interrupt,” Ms. Adams said. “Don’t take it personally. Take a step back, regroup, and focus on what you wanted to say.”

Many of the traits that distinguish male and female behavior stem from childhood, Ms. Adams said. “Most of us [women] were brought up to be nice and play in clusters, while boys tend to parallel play, be aggressive, and be winners,” she said. “Girls tend to avoid risk, while boys go after it. Girls are brought up to bend the rules and include those who maybe weren’t that good at sports, while boys are not.”

Perhaps as a result, women in leadership positions tend to favor more “flattened” organizations, while men prefer more hierarchal structures. “Women share more power. We are drawn to small business ownership, while men are drawn to the corporate world,” she said. “In problem solving, women want to hear input while men tend to come up with a solution on their own.”

“One thing I love about men is that they will have the meeting before the meeting,” Ms. Adams said. “When they come to the meeting it’s pretty much done. Women don’t work that way. And when women have a success, we tend to acknowledge others and downplay it. Men totally own it and really accept that success. I envy that.”

Ms. Adams concluded by advising women to be aware of differences and make use of them. “We have a big advantage because we are more aware than the average guy,” she said. “We should be willing to change our behavior to match theirs in order to be successful in the business environment.”

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