Men and women have been talking to each other, side by side and to each other since Adam broke away from his rib and the first gender gap was opened.
Our earliest ancestors settled on a division of labor, dictated in large part by biological necessity: women gave birth to children and carried their babies’ first food supply on their chests. So Mom stayed home with the kids while Dad hunted mastodons and fought bad guys from other tribes.
Mom dug up roots and picked berries to go with the meaty foods Dad brought home, but outside of the Cave Bear Clan, she was an observer, not a participant in the hunt.
From the beginning of history, boys and girls grew up in separate cultures, brought up in separate roles. Not surprisingly, then, men and women developed identifiable communication styles. Papa’s language was the language of hunting and fighting; the language of the competition. Mom’s language was the home and home language; of nurturing and cooperation. It should come as no surprise that men and women are often misunderstood, even in everyday communication.
Even in modern times, girls were expected to learn the arts of home cleaning (cooking, sewing, raising children), while boys were expected to learn trades or enter professions. The men were strong and assertive, while the women were beautiful and submissive.
Some women embarked on careers, but only those reserved for the “fair sex”: teaching, nursing, and occasionally writing.
But whatever role they chose, they were expected to be women first: virtuous, submissive, delicate, and pretty.
Throughout history, the strongest have made the rules, and until modern times, the strongest were people with muscles and agility, that is, men.
Women can negotiate, but only from positions of weakness, since men make the laws and have the strength to enforce them.
Today strength still prevails, but power is no longer measured by the size of your biceps. Technology has leveled the playing field for women to fly airplanes, drive 18-wheelers, and operate construction cranes as skillfully as men.
They can also program computers, chart market trends, and map corporate strategies with all the finesse men can muster. They are joining the men in the hunt, and when the men try to drive them out, they don’t have to defend their status with a club; instead, they can exercise the law.
Increasingly, women are taking their place at corporate tables as fully participatory executives. They are interacting with men as equals, not subordinates.
The “men’s world” that used to exist has evaporated, sometimes slowly, no doubt, since women won the right to vote.
Women have more than doubled their representation in non-managerial jobs in American companies since the 1960s, and now hold nearly half of these positions. But a 1994 Wall Street Journal poll showed that women still held less than a third of managerial positions in the 38,059 companies that reported to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In 1992, the last year for which data were available. And among 200 of the nation’s largest companies analyzed by the Journal, women held only a quarter of the positions classified by the EEOC as “civil servants and managers,” a broad category that includes a wide variety of supervisory positions, from the manager of the cleaning service to the CEO of the company.
At the vice presidential level, women made up an even smaller percentage, less than 5% in 1990, according to Catalyst, a nonprofit research group in New York that studies women in business.
Many women feel that this preponderance of men in senior positions creates a management culture that is hostile to women.
Companies that are successful in populating their executive suites with a sizeable female contingent find that it is easier to attract capable women.
The Sara Lee Corp. began hiring women for high-level jobs during the 1980s and, as The Journal put it, “saw cultural changes creep in.” The newspaper quoted Gary Grom, senior vice president of human resources, “The more women in senior management positions, the more women are attracted to them.” The reason this is true is that women find it easier to relate to other women and men find it easier to relate to other men.
Women often don’t fit into corporate culture, which was developed by and for men.
Wells Fargo is a company that has succeeded in transforming its corporate cultures into a mix of genres. In the early 1990s, about two-thirds of its management staff were women. In 1992, seven of the 38 executive vice presidents and 19 of the 108 senior vice presidents were women.
Companies like Sara Lee and Wells Fargo show that when a certain critical mass is reached, genres can form a successful mix.
The ideal situation, towards which we hope to move forward, would be a workforce equally populated by men and women at all levels, with equal opportunities for all.
In such an environment, men and women would develop a common language based on common activities. A language in which the best characteristics of both are combined.
This gender mixing language will allow men and women to communicate accurately and comfortably with each other, across the conference table and across the dinner table … and gender mixing is already a job at hand. progress.