The Gender Blenders – How Successful Men and Women Mix-It-Up in Negotiation

Men and women have been talking to each other, past each other and at each other ever since Adam became separated from his rib and the first gender gap was opened.

Our early ancestors settled on a division of labor, dictated largely by biological necessity: The women bore the children and carried within their bosoms their infants’ first food supply. Hence, Mama stayed home with the kids while Papa went hunting Mastodons and fighting bad guys from other tribes.

Mama dug up roots and picked berries to go with the meaty victuals Papa brought home, but outside the Clan of the Cave Bear, she was an observer, not a participant in the hunt.

From early history, boys and girls grew up in separate cultures, schooled in separate roles. Not surprisingly, then, men and women developed identifiable styles of communication. Papa’s language was the language of the hunt and the fight; the language of competition. Mama’s language was the language of hearth and home; of nurturing and cooperation. It should not surprise us that men and women frequently misunderstand one another, even in everyday communications.

Even into modern times, girls were expected to learn the arts of housekeeping—cooking, sewing, child-rearing—while boys were expected to learn trades or enter the professions. Men were strong and assertive while women were beautiful and submissive.

Some women did embark on careers, but only those reserved for the “fairer sex”: teaching, nursing, and occasionally writing.

But whatever role they chose, they were expected to be women first—virtuous, yielding, dainty and pretty.

Throughout history, the strongest have made the rules, and until modern times the strong were the people with the muscles and agility—which meant the men.

Women could negotiate, but only from positions of weakness, since men made the laws and had the brawn 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 so that women can fly airplanes, drive 18-wheelers, and operate construction cranes as skillfully as men.

They can also program computers, chart market trends and plot corporate strategies with all the finesse that men can muster. They are joining the men in the hunt, and when the men try to force them away, they don’t have to defend their status with a club; they can wield the law instead.

Increasingly, women are taking their places at corporate tables as fully participating executives. They are interacting with men as equals, not as subordinates.

The “man’s world” that used to exist has been evaporating – sometimes slowly, to be sure—ever since women won the right to vote.

Women have more than doubled their representation in non-clerical white-collar jobs in American companies since the 1960’s, and now occupy almost half these positions. But a 1994 survey by the Wall Street Journal showed that women still held less than a third of the managerial jobs in the 38,059 companies that reported to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1992, the latest year for which data were available. And among 200 of the nation’s biggest companies analyzed by the Journal, women held just one-fourth of the jobs classified by the EEOC as “officials and managers” – a broad category that includes a wide variety of supervisory posts, from the manager of the janitorial 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 get the feeling that this preponderance of males in top positions creates a management culture that is hostile to females.

Companies that do succeed in populating their executive suites with a sizable female contingent find that it becomes easier to attract able women.

The Sara Lee Corp. began hiring women into high-level jobs during the 1980’s and, as The Journal put it, “watched the cultural changes trickle down.” The newspaper quoted Gary Grom, senior vice president of human resources: “The more women in top management jobs, 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 the corporate culture—which was developed by and for men.

Wells Fargo is a company that has succeeded in changing their corporate cultures into a blend of genders. By the early ’90’s, about two-thirds of its management people were women. By 1992, seven of the 38 executive vice presidents and 19 of the 108 senior vice presidents were women.

Companies such as Sara Lee and Wells Fargo demonstrate that when a certain critical mass is achieved, the genders can form a successful blend.

The ideal situation—the one toward which we hope we are moving—would be a work force populated equally by men and women at all levels, with equal opportunity for all.

In such an environment, men and women would develop a common language based upon common activities. A language in which the best features of both are blended.

This gender-blended language will enable men and women to communicate precisely and comfortably with one another-across the conference table, and across the dinner table… and gender-blending is already a work in progress.

John Patrick Dolan, Attorney at Law, Certified Specialist Criminal Law, CSP, CPAE is a recognized expert in the field of negotiation. He travels throughout the world presenting lively keynote speeches and in-depth training programs for business and legal professionals. Call 1-800-859-0888 for more information.

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