The Happy Marriage of Genders: What is a Balanced Workplace?

23 Oct

I believe the essence of balance in the workplace is achieved when both masculine and feminine qualities are represented and utilized to a certain degree. This doesn’t necessarily mean however that an even team of 10 men and 10 women is balanced.

A recent Forbes article (Can Women Create Companies Worth Hundreds of Millions?) highlighted the lack of women founders in the start-up world. Data compiled from the last decade and half revealed that only 1.3% of privately held companies had a female founder, 6.5% have a female CEO, and 20% had one or more female C-level executives. 

Tracy DiNunzio, Founder and CEO of Tradesy theorizes why women are so under-represented:

 “Perhaps it’s because investors are (consciously or subconsciously) pattern-matching: betting on the people who look and behave like those they’ve seen succeed before, who are mostly male. As more female CEOs build successful companies with great outcomes, this should change. Making access to capital easier for women founders is part of what inspires and motivates me to win big with Tradesy.”

The problem is only more exacerbated by the media, which tends to focus on the same female success stories (Oprah, Sara Blakely, etc.). This not only limits the number of role models young women have to look up to, but also diminishes the perceived number of accomplished women entrepreneurs.

Contributing editor John Greathouse believes women can “level the playing field by solving their customers’ problems within the bounds of the resources available to them.”

Although I agree with Greathouse’s article, which pushes for more female investors, I think the reason men exceed in entrepreneurial pursuits lies whether we like it or not in the differences between men’s and women’s professional attributes.

These are NOT gender stereotypes, but behavioral observations supported by research. Women tend to excel in some areas and men excel in others. While today’s business culture more often associates masculine attributes with success, there’s no evidence to suggest that hiring more men or more women will drive a company’s bottom line.


  • They’re early adopters of technology. The Accenture study found that men were more likely to be early adopters of technology and tended to rely on technology more than their female counterparts.
  • They’ll ask for what they want. Men demonstrate strengths in negotiation. In 2003, a study looking at students graduating from Carnegie Melon with master’s degrees and found that the male students attained salaries 7.6 percent higher than their female counterparts, thanks to negotiation. More than half of the male students negotiated higher salaries, while only 7 percent of female students did so. Other research by Accenture shows that only 45 percent of women would be willing to ask for a raise, compared to 61 percent of men.
  • When in doubt, they’ll ‘wing it.’ “Males tend to convey more confidence than women in performance-oriented settings,” writes George Washington University law professor Charles Craver in an essay titled The Impact of Gender on Bargaining Interactions, based on experiences in his classroom. “Even when minimally prepared, men believe they can ‘wing it’ and get through successfully. On the other hand, no matter how thoroughly prepared women are, they tend to feel unprepared.” 
  • They make friends in high places. Men score more promotions than women, and that may be explained by who they mingle with in the office. Among participants of a 2008 Catalyst survey on mentorship, 72 percent of men received promotions by 2010 compared to 65 percent of women. According to a Harvard Business Review paper, Why Men Still Get More Promotions than Women, this is because men are more likely to be mentored by senior executives, whereas women are more likely to have junior-level mentors. This difference is an issue of access. Sociology researchers Lisa Torres and Matt L. Huffman found in a 2002 study that both men and women build social networks comprised of people of the same gender. As upper management still tends to be male dominated, this places men in a better position to receive promotions from their mentors.


  • They’re honest, hard workers. As women ask for more to do, they are likely to work longer hours than their male counterparts. Polls by career site theFit showed that 54 percent of women worked 9 to 11 hour days compared to 41 percent of men. Women more than men also expressed a willingness to do some work on vacation, and were less likely to spend their sick days “playing hooky, taking a mental health day, suffering from a hangover, or interviewing for another job.
  • They like a challenge. A 2009 international study by Accenture found that 70 percent of businesswomen asked their bosses for new challenges at work, compared to less than half of businessmen polled.
  • They’re persuasive. Women leaders scored significantly higher than male leaders in persuasiveness and assertiveness, according to the Caliper study. They were able to “read situations accurately and take information from all sides,” write the authors. “This willingness to see all sides of a situation enhanced their persuasive ability.”
  • They’re team players. A 2005 study on gender bias by New York research group Catalyst found that women leaders are typically judged as more supportive and rewarding, whereas men are judged better at behaviors such as delegating and managing  up. In another 2005 study by Caliper, a professional services consulting company, women demonstrated higher levels of compassion and team-building skills.

So when questioning why women are undermined by men in professional settings, it should be noted that more often than women, men demonstrate the abilities of an entrepreneur. This is not to say that women should be discounted, or the lack of women CEOs exists solely because investors rely on pattern matching. I would love to see more women at the top. But just because they aren’t there doesn’t mean they are less able. Women have an equal ability for success, and gender diversity is not simply a numbers game; It’s about ability to understand the different strengths individuals bring to the table. I’m not telling you to hang up your power suit. If most men are better leaders than women by nature, then let them be. I think society over thinks gender inequality too much in some cases. Businesses are all about results, and I don’t think investors care about gender as much as they do about their money.

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