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Survey says: Gender difference can be parlayed into effective company performance

November 11th, 2009  |  Connie Eyer

>Is ability more important than personality in the workplace? How is conflict dealt with by co-workers? Do employees prefer to work in teams of mostly men or mostly women? These questions were part of a new “Style of the Sexes” survey, commissioned by an independent research agency on behalf of Cisco and Gender IQ, in an attempt to discover how men and women differ in various aspects of their work. While the results indicate that real differences do exist, they posited, organizations that seek to better understand and respect differences in the workplace get the best out of their employees and teams.

Some of their findings:

With regard to the gender makeup of teams, the majority of both men and women (88 per cent) prefer to work in roughly equally mixed teams. However, both men and women preferred working in mostly male teams (21.6 per cent) rather than mainly female teams (8.1 per cent).

Ranking the important aspects of a job, 79 per cent of women indicated that getting training is important, compared with 73 per cent of men, and 75 per cent seeking flexible hours, compared with 69 per cent of the men. The only areas that more men than women find important are chances of promotion and benefits beyond pay. Interestingly, having a role model was least important for both men and women.

How do men and women deal with workplace conflict? According to the survey, women are far more likely to have experienced conflict in the workplace: 55 per cent stated they’ve faced conflict compared with 46 per cent of men. In a conflict situation, men and women also respond differently: 73 per cent of the men said they would confront the situation face to face, compared with 63 per cent of the women. Women are also more likely to ask for intervention, with 59 per cent likely to talk to their manager and 39 per cent likely to report the situation to HR, compared with 52 per cent and 35 per cent of the men, respectively.

A common perception is that “women have to be better than men to succeed in the workplace.” Forty-five percent of women agreed with this statement while, in contrast, only 26 per cent of the men questioned believe this to be true. The survey also found that more than half of the men (53 per cent) view ability as more important than personality in the workplace, while only 39 per cent of women rate ability in the workplace higher than personality.

So, what are the conclusions of this survey? According to Tracy Carr, CEO, Gender IQ, “the importance of understanding differences is not to say one way is more right than another; it is about widening the acceptable range of leadership styles to create an environment where all men and all women enjoy working together and get better results.”

“While the perception still may be that women have to work harder to succeed,” Carr added, “ the good news is that the study also showed that both men and women prefer to work in mixed teams of equal proportions, so we also instinctively understand the power that both parties bring for team success.”