We enter the workplace not only as a human being, but as a woman or a man. Each workday is a meeting of gender-different styles, modes of operating and leadership skills. The corporation that utilizes the principles of gender science is the corporation that discovers significant competitive advantage. The corporation that helps both genders understand each other has committed to maximum success.
Equal but different intelligence
Brain science study consistently indicate that although men and women produce equivalent intellectual performance, their brain do it differently.
We are different in the following ways:
- How and what we remember: Women take in more information through each of their five senses than men do, on average, and store more of this material in the brain for later use.
- How we process words (and how many and what kind we use): Women use more words than men, on average, when reading, writing and speaking are computed together.
- How we experience the world: New studies indicating that even the cells in our retina may well be different, with female retinas tending to have more P ganglion cells (which see colour and fine detail) and male retinas tending toward more M ganglion cells (which more easily see physical motion of objects moving in space around them).
- How we buy and why we buy it: Because f sensory differences, women’s buying is often more linked to immediate complex sensory experience than mens. For example, women more readily enjoy walking through a store and touching and feeling objects, while men will get less pleasure from this.
- The ways our midbrain (limbic system) and emotional processing works: The approach to developing self-esteem and emotional intelligence can be quite different in women and men, especially because women’s brains tend to link more of the emotional activity that is going on in the middle of the brain with thoughts and words in the top of the brain ( the cerebral cortex). Thus a man might need many hours to process a major emotion-laden experience, whereas a woman may be able to process it quite quickly. This often creates a lot of tension between women and men.
- The amount of white matter and grey matter in the brain: Women have more white matter and men have more grey matter related to cognitive functioning in the brain. White matter connects brain centres in the neural network, whereas grey matter tends to localize brain activity into a single active brain centre. The white/grey brain matter is one reason the genders bring different perspectives to the same problem or design.
Understanding How the Male and Female Brain Work Differently
There are three major categories of brain differences between male and female brains that ultimately impact every aspect of our workplaces:
- Differences in neural blood flow patterns. Blood flow represents the neural activity in a brain at any given time. In the female brain, more neural activity occurs in the parts that think in and create words and in the parts that connect those words to memories, emotions and sensory cues. In the male brain, more neural activity occurs in the parts that use physical and kinaesthetic intelligence, as well as spatial mechanics and abstraction.
- Differences in particular structures in the brain.The hippocampus, a significant memory centre in the brain, plays a key role in women, as women often test out better than men at remembering the specific and minute details of interactive situations and events. Men tend to get more “physically expressive” when they get angry. The male amygdala is larger than the female amygdala. This structure stimulates more activity downward in the male brain toward the brain stem and quickly into the physical body wheres in the female brain it stimulated upwards toward talking centres. That is why men and women tend to differ in their angry behaviour.
- Difference in brain chemistry. Male and female brain secrete their chemicals differently. This chemistry difference profoundly affects leadership and everyday life. Men secrete more testosterone and vasopressin ( aggression and territoriality chemicals) than women. Women secrete more estrogen, progesterone, serotonin and oxytocin. Serotonin calm impulses whereas oxytocin is a bonding chemical.
Understanding How Men and Women Lead Differently
Research shows that females, by nature embody senior leadership status differently from the way males do. This difference is hard-wired, and it’s part of gender intelligence, balanced leadership and gender evolution as a whole.
Men leaders tend to:
- Bond with co-workers in short burst of connection, both physical ( a pat on the back) and emotional (a word of praise) or through goal achievement that is less tied to words and emotions and more to action and competition than that of female leaders.
- Focus on leading workplaces and hierarchies through order assessment, pattern thinking and ritualized action.
- Downplay emotion, even at the risk of hurt feeling, in order to play up performance.
- Promote risk-taking and independence of the employee as long as that risk-taking and independence fits the ultimate goals of the corporation.
Female leaders tend to:
- Bond with co-workers in extended conversations, both physical and emotional. Women tend to interconnect data and share common experiences.
- Provide as much hands-on connection to the co-worker as possible.
- Emphasize complex and multitasking activities, actions, team development- expanding leadership into various tasks and away from dominance by one task.
- Search for method of direct empathy when someone’s feelings are hurt, even at the expense of other current goals.
- Relinquish personal, daily independence in order to be cognizant of other’s needs.
Leadership and the Sexes by Michael Gurian with Barbara Annis