Thursday, March 7, 2013

Fight like a man or fight like a girl?

For many, many years I have worked in IT – and as a women, you would know just “how alone” you are if you attempted to use the restrooms at breaks during conferences – long lines to men’s but nearly empty women’s bathrooms. Yeah, it had its good sides. I guess.

Most of the female coworkers in that environment you might describe as “Tom boys” – in conversations with many I found out that they grew up with a bunch of brothers, or their father always wanted a boy and tried to bring them up as one, or they came from a foreign land and were simply fighters to start with. All three apply to me, sadly.

Consider the words from the song “Fight Like a Girl” by Bomshel: 

“I'll hold my head high
I'll never let this define
The light in my eyes
Love myself, give it hell
I'll take on this world”

Seriously, and I realize it is an inflammatory subject, there is a huge difference between managing teams made up mostly of men versus those made up of women.

The biggest difference, in my experience, is what supplies you keep in your office. When dealing with “the boys” you may have a little fridge with beer for Friday’s “end of the day” discussions. You might even keep a car model on the shelf to break the ice just as you might scatter a few car or airplane magazines on your conference table.

When managing “the girls” you absolutely need to have a supply of Kleenex tissues – I found that you need them even if you offer praise, and you sure need them when you want to offer a critique or expect to disagree on any topic. The cultural differences between the genders are mind blowing in the work environment.

Have you ever been to a meeting that turned hostile? I have on several occasions, and I’ve seen my female co-workers just storm out the door, eyes full of tears. I’ve seen my male co-workers get red in the face and pound the table. I have never seen a man, on the verge of crying, just leave a room. I have never seen a woman get up, use profanity to make her point, and spill everyone’s coffee by hitting the table with her fist!

Returning to the words of the song “Fight Like a Girl” I particularly like these lines:

Yes, I'll stand and be strong
No I'll never give up”
I will conquer with love
And I'll fight like a girl

When it comes to assignments, tasks, and creative thinking both genders perform about equally, in my experience. Expressing opinions, though, is another story. I don’t recall a male co-worker starting with “I may be wrong, and it is probably a stupid idea…” and yet I have heard many smart women preceding their statement with something similar. Also, my personal favorite, “I am sorry, but I have to disagree!" A male would have said “I disagree, here is why, and you are wrong!”

As I was writing this post Richard sent me an article he found in the Australian paper, Business Review Weekly (BRW) , published March 6, 2013, “Brain game: Why women are better marketers than men”.

I found this paragraph to illustrate my point particularly well:

“We all start out with a female brain, at least for the first eight weeks of our pre-birth existence. It is only then that our genes and sex hormones take over. In the case of boys, a huge surge in foetal testosterone in the womb results in the destruction of cells in the communication centres of the brain and growth in the sex and aggression centres. Devoid of this surge in male hormones, the female brain continues to grow unaltered. The result is a brain far superior in its ability to communicate and, crucially, understand others”

Now, Gentlemen, you understand why Richard is hiding behind the disguise as well!

In literature, films, and plays you see gender cultural differences. Likewise, even as women join the workforce at a rate greater than ever maybe it will change, but today, as I am working in the world of nonprofit associations, I carry a box of tissues whenever I expect to meet with my co-workers face-to-face. I also work on dropping my training from the world of IT of being direct; just the facts ma’am, and try to be more like a girl. I feel at times like I am wearing a mask. I just want to get to the topic at hand and have it discussed, and no, I am not wrong, and I disagree, %@#%&!

Lately I have been spending more time back in IT as I re-engage with friends and former colleagues. I am working once again in an area that really interests me and where I see great potential for NonStop participation. And I am going to be fighting a lot harder than ever before. Perhaps in closing it is the words from another song that resonate so clearly for me these days. From the Petra song,
“Fight Like a Man”:

“Get on your knees and fight like a man
You'll pull down strongholds if you just believe you can
Your enemy will tuck his tail and flee
Get on your knees and fight like a man”

No love mentioned here, is there?


No comments: