One of the biggest societal changes that has occurred in the past fifty years has been the enhanced visibility and profile of women.  There is no denying that women now exert far more power and influence than at any time in history.  Their presence in the workplace not only has re-focused corporate agendas, but has had a decided impact upon the way in which businesses operate.

What is it about the women in the workforce that has made such a difference?  The answer, I would submit, has a lot to do with not only the way women think, but more importantly, the way they approach relationships and communicate.  My experience has led me to believe that men have a lot to learn from them.

It’s Not Just About Communication

For many years I took the train to work in downtown Toronto.  In between the time I spent reading the newspaper, napping and working on my laptop I had ample opportunity to observe my fellow passengers.  I was always intrigued by those around me, particularly those who were engaged in conversations.

Listen to a group comprised entirely of men or women and you begin to notice some striking differences in not just their speech patterns, words and expressions, but also, in their emotional engagement.  I’m a firm believer that women are much better communicators than men.  Not only are they more expressive, but the syntax, emphasis and imagery of their language is much more vivid and engaging.

Women understand the importance of being authentic. They demonstrate a willingness to express feelings of warmth, affection and empathy.  But language is only the outward manifestation of some much deeper and more fundamental differences.  Those differences go to the very heart of how the sexes think, act and process information.


Women and men communicate and interact with others differently. (Photo courtesy of rfstudio and Pixels).

Women and men communicate and interact with others differently. (Photo courtesy of rfstudio and Pixels).

What Women Understand Much Better than Men

Women have succeeded in the workplace not strictly on the basis of their gender, but because they have learned and understood some important concepts that have often eluded men.  Here, I believe, are some of those important differences:

1. The Importance of Empathy:

Women have an almost innate ability to connect with others.  They understand nuances, and they are far more sensitive to the underlying tone of conversations and relationships.  They are sensitive to changes in body language, and they pick up social cues, symbols and tones more quickly than men.  Where they really excel is their ability to forge a personal connection with others.

2. The Ability to Disagree Without Being Disagreeable:

Because women place greater emphasis upon relationships they are more attuned to the need to maintain and preserve relationships even when there is a fundamental disagreement.

Men, by contrast, are focused on the competitive aspects of a transaction.  They have an almost innate desire to compete and win.  Their focus is on the short-term.  Succeeding and getting their way is a paramount concern. 

On the other hand, while women understand the importance of winning, they also comprehend the need to preserve the relationship with their adversary.   Women are more likely to invest in long-term relationships because they recognize the inherent value in making and sustaining meaningful personal and professional connections.

3. The Value of Emotional Connection:

Women are more emotionally attuned and aware to the needs of others.  I don’t mean that women are emotional. Rather, they understand the impact that emotions have on relationships.

4. The Importance of Bonding and Networking:

Women seem more open to connecting with other business professionals, particularly other women.  Over the past few years there has been a proliferation of business and networking associations geared to women professionals.  Women are increasingly invested in the process, and recognize the inherent value of networking not solely for immediate professional gain, but also, as a means of acquiring insights, making connections, and building a solid career foundation.

Men network too, but differently.  More often than not it is sporadic, ad hoc and haphazard.  Their focus is largely on the social aspects of the event. There is a spontaneity to their interactions, but it often seems superficial and lacking in purpose and direction.

5. The Value of Friendship:

Most women I know have more than one friend.  I can only think of one women I know who I would consider a loner in the purest sense of the word. 

Conversely, I know of several men who have told me, candidly, that the breadth and depth of their relationship with other men is extremely limited.  Most men will admit to having work relationships, but very few will tell you they have at least three to five true and lasting friendships with other men.  Moreover, the older the man the more likely it is that their circle of friends has been or is being diminished.

Why is friendship important?  Because in times of trouble or hardship having someone there for emotional support and encouragement is critical to overcoming obstacles.  Women expect obstacles, and they aren’t overwhelmed when they encounter them.  Having a friend who provides solace, empathy and support is inspiring. Too often, men subscribe to the antiquated and naïve notion that career growth is a linear progression devoid of potholes, misfortune and roadblocks.  The absence of friendships often means that problems and upheavals are faced in isolation.

A Final Thought….

The fact that men and women are unique, and that they often approach their work and human interactions differently, isn’t revelatory. However, understanding those differences, and determining what is contributing to it, is a topic worthy of much more research and investigation.

The ascendancy of women in business, politics and other fields of endeavour isn’t solely due to changing legislation, evolving social norms, a belated recognition of the value women bring to organizations, or employment equity programs.  Simply, women have done a much better job of adapting to the changing values and mores of our society than have men. That adaptation is not only a reflection of women’s unique insights and skills, but also, a roadmap that men should consider emulating if they wish to become more fulfilled and successful.