How Women "See" (really "Feel") the Work World


Jillian Eichel, our Chicago friend at the The Wright Institute sent us this item.  Useful.

Our understanding is that most of these perceptions take place in milliseconds and largely unconsciously.  It’s not that individual women “decide” consciously to do these things or act these ways but instinctively their brains evolved to react these ways.   All of this, of course, in the service of raising highly dependent young children. 

Comments in (….).

“What Women See, and Why It’s Important
Women see the world through a distinctive lens and can use their vision to their advantage. Author Sally Helgesen provides this posting’s list of The Five Things Women Notice — and What Organizations (and Men) Can Learn From Them.

1. Women take a robust scan of the emotional temperature in a room. Women employ their capacity for broad-scale notice in order to read what people in a meeting are feeling.   Are they present and engaged, or do they feel isolated and awkward? Example: One woman in our book was asked by her employer to “just notice what goes on in a meeting” She came back with vital observations about a key partnership in jeopardy. Her employer dismissed the information, saying that “by notice I meant notice if the numbers add up.”

(Guys actually are equally attuned to dominance ranking and signals in meetings.  NOT individual feelings.  Taken to an extreme, this tendency in women is called “vacuuming up feelings.”)

2. Women employ multiple senses when summing up a situation.
Notice isn’t just about what we see—it derives from multisensory impressions.

Example: Details matter. An otherwise powerful conference will not make as positive impression if the sensory aspects of it are unpleasant.  Sound, smell, temperature and feel affect our judgment and how we remember. Yet most organizations don’t know how to use sensory information.

(Since women were “gathers” vs “hunters,”  being able to use all the senses in finding food and resources was critical.)

3. Women notice if the daily experience of work is rewarding. This sounds like a no-brainer, but many organizations tend to emphasize abstractions when offering incentives and rewards rather than supporting an employee’s ability to enjoy the daily practice of work.

Example: In our survey on differences in how men and women perceive, define and pursue satisfaction in the workplace, we found that women are less likely to be motivated by what a job might lead to in the future if they also perceive that job as offering a low quality of life in the present.

(Similar to the movie The Hurt Locker on a bomb-disposal team in Iraq, we recently watched a great documentary on a crack and experienced national guard team in Iraq.  The mind-numbing repetition, discomfort, danger, stress and physical exhaustion of their day-to-day jobs was surprising.  But the Type-A, “warrior” male brain goes through this terrible experiences with equanimity even finding humor, friendship and enjoyment in the work!!  A wholly other kind of brain is needed to nurture and raise young children.)

4. Women notice when collegiality is not valued. Many companies have learned to speak the language of teamwork and collaboration, but their policies do nothing to support it.

Example: In most sales units, providing support to help a team member meet a goal is neither recognized nor rewarded. People are instead graded and ranked on their individual achievements.

5. Women notice when other women’s suggestions get overlooked in a meeting. They see it as a sign of disrespect to women in general.

Example: Jill offers an idea at a sales conference. No one responds. Ten minutes later, Jim makes the same suggestion, using different words. This happens all the time. Men who notice this have a great opportunity to show their support for women by speaking up: “Great idea, Jim! I see you’re building on what Jill suggested.”

(On these last two points, the male brain is 110% focused on dominance hierarchy – who gets the most “meat” from the “hunt?”  Women usually find this silly, “bad” and anti-social.  What women often miss is that the “fights” and dominance negotiating among men are all to support their families, loved ones, co-workers, team, leaders-“kings.”  Most other social animals do the same.)  

Why Read It? While we all know the skills  women bring to the workplace, Sally Helgesen (author of the bestselling title The Female Advantage) and Julie Johnson have written a book to show us that women don’t just do things differently, they also see things differently.

The Bottom Line: In this work, Helgesen and Johnson present the three core elements of female vision: a capacity for broad-spectrum notice, a  focus on the quality of day-to-day experiences rather than abstract measures of achievement, and the penchant for viewing work in a larger social context. Recognizing these factors will grant everyone, regardless of gender, a powerful new way of thinking, seeing, and acting in the workplace.

“Men are taught to apologize for their weaknesses, women, for their strengths.”