Are women the same or different as men? They’re different, without a doubt, and I have very much enjoyed reading the thoughts of a few women that I greatly respect this week in our guest editorials. Each of these ladies has eloquently expressed their views on women in the workplace and today I am looking to wrap up this week of focusing on women in technology with my own thoughts on the topic.
Women are different than men. I think it’s wonderful and I am thankful that we are different. The synergies that make this an amazing world come from the variety of people in it. It doesn’t matter if they’re men or women, having white or brown skin, speaking English or Chinese, or whether they like chocolate or cheese. It’s the infinite variety of people that make this a better world.
We have to learn to embrace that. Despite our prejudices, we have to extend that tolerance to see the advantages of working alongside that different than yourself. As pointed out in one of Jen McCown’s references, studies have shown that diverse teams of men and women perform better. They are more productive, and they develop ideas that are more often used by others.
Cultures around the world treat women differently than men. We view them differently and we often separate them out. Look at sports, where so many of us bond in our youth. Men are often physically superior, and participate in different, often more violent sports. That seems to have carried over into business at times. We mistake physical superiority at a game implying that a person better able to handle business. I don’t think that’s true, and I think it takes time, discussion, and awareness to combat that.
Then there’s sex. No one touched on it this week, but sex, love, emotions evoked by others are a part of our workplace. They shouldn’t be, but how can you get away from it? We can’t help being attracted to whoever we are attracted to, and we often don’t handle that well. It doesn’t matter if our feelings are reciprocated or rebuffed; we seem to struggle with them. Even if we don’t act on it, the locker room jokes and attitudes that many men display can carry over into their interactions with women. I have no idea how to get past this, and I think it’s something that we have to somehow learn to live with, and try not to let it interfere with our professional attitudes.
We don’t hire someone just based on their skill at a job. If we did, we could just devise some test and hire the person with the best score, or the score above some level. We are hiring someone to do more than just write code; we’re hiring them to work with others, interact with them, and get along. The means that we will subjectively make decisions about who we’d like to work with.
Which means getting past our prejudices. Understanding our human frailty in judging people and embracing our diversity.