8 Gender ‘Blind Spots’ That Could Sabotage Your Career

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work with meHave you ever looked at your co-workers and wondered, “What are they thinking?”

Well, a new book may just shed some light.

John Gray, author of the best-selling “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus,” and Barbara Annis, an expert on gender issues in the workplace, teamed up to write ”Work with Me: The 8 Blind Spots Between Men and Women in Business.” Their goal? Teach all of us about the gender differences that can lead to misunderstandings on the job.

In spite of company quotas and initiatives to create greater gender equality in the workplace, relations between men and women remain tricky (see: male executives who refuse to mentor younger women because of “how it might look”).

Gray and Annis use personal stories, science and the findings from more than 100,000 interviews to narrow down the key pain points—and suggest solutions that could help break down communication barriers. So LearnVest spoke with the duo to dig deeper into how “gender blind spots” could hinder your career climb.

LearnVest: What inspired you to collaborate on this book?

John Gray: I’ve been teaching about gender differences in the home for over 30 years. But, nowadays, people spend most of their lives in the workplace—and that’s where we need to look at the effects of gender differences the most.

Barbara Annis: I’ve been working on gender intelligence for almost 30 years too, although my previous books were very business-focused. So even though John and I are on separate tracks, this book was a nice way to bring our expertise together.

So what are gender blind spots, anyway?

Annis: They are the things we don’t actually know that we don’t know. It’s like when you’re driving a car, and you have blind spots—that’s why we have to use mirrors and turn our heads.

Gray: Men don’t see certain things about women, and women don’t see certain things about men.

RELATED: A Guy Confides: I Get Paid More Than My Female Coworker

  • Marc Anders

    andersm223@gmail.com

    The biggest office challenge I deal with is the fact that I am the youngest engineer at a consulting firm. Many of the engineers have been working as long as I have been alive. This doesn’t mean that they know more than me on all subjects though, especially when it comes to new technologies and ways to implement that software. My biggest challenge is getting senior engineers to take me seriously and listen to me.

  • Crystal Paquette

    My biggest challenge is that as a passionate person about my work I’ve
    become labeled as intense which as a woman I am concerned that others
    see me as aggressive instead of loving what I do. What I am
    interested in knowing is if a male would be considered the same or if
    I’ve swung too far from being the stereotypical female “nurturer” in the
    workforce instead of a celebrated successful individual. I’m working on
    finding a balance to show that a passionate female doesn’t equal an
    unapproachable leader.

  • Kay

    My biggest challenge is being true to myself as I try to navigate a highly male doninated industry. Being a working mum, I am currently finding it difficult to balance being my definition of a “good” mum and maintaining a certain “driven” image at work

  • Anna

    My biggest challenge is dealing with ego-driven men who put me down to lift themselves up. This within a context of trying to recover from issues in my past dealing with men and power dynamics. It has been helpful to know that their issues are NOT about me and that I need to build my confidence and stop saying I’m sorry for every little thing! I am just starting out in my career so I think it is a good time for me to tackle my strategies for this issues. Thanks for this article, it resonated with me!

  • Courtney Duran

    I’m in my last year of undergrad, so I’m not quite navigating work place dynamicdynamicss in the usual sense. However, I’m beginning to work on my senior thesis. I am very interested in focusing on gener and work place for the millennial generation and what to expect as e rise through the ranks, start our ventures, or committ to the service industry. I also think exploring how sucessful leaders in their field achieved their position to offer a historically based perspective would allow for a greater appreciation for the progress that has been made.
    However, within my working context as communication studies major, I’m finding that men often don’t speak up even if they have an idea while womn dominate discussion. I would hypothesize this is because the major is dominated by women and that can be more intimidating for the men at this point in their lives. I’m also curious to what extend you all considered biological factors versus observable behaviors and socially constructed identity patterns.

  • Rachel

    My biggest office challenge is integrating into social chitchat with the men in my office. They default to talking about sports when there are more than two men in a group. As a woman that doesn’t care about professional/college sports, it immediately excludes me from the conversation. This keeps me from forming closer relationships at work, which I feel hampers my chances of being considered for an assignment by upper management.

    • John

      I have seen situations where one male works with all females and even with this no inappropriate sexist or any other behavior gender wise must come into place from the predominant females.

  • Kait

    I was hired as a Marketing Assistant at my current job, but because I answer the phones as one of my duties and because I’m a woman, I feel the men of the company (my superiors) see me as a secretary. There is nothing wrong with being a secretary, if that’s your job. My problem comes when I have worked so hard creating a database program form scratch to benefit the company, increased proposal output by 40%, and offer up some great ideas for streamlining the company, but all I’m recognized for is “doing a good job answering the phones” (direct quote form my boss, he may as well have added “young lady.” I’m pushing 30). After a few years here, I’m starting to ask myself “what’s the point?” It’s discouraging. If I’m a “secretary” now, will I never be anything else? I’m still struggling to find a solution.

    • guest

      I’m in the recruiting industry (8 years of experience). My advice is to put those accomplishments on your resume and LinkedIn profile and start looking for another job. Every company has a corporate culture, and this does not sound like a long term fit for an ambitious woman like yourself. BUT keep your job until you find a job (you will be a more attractive candidate). Also, if you are open to relocating, it will improve your job prospects. You can always move back home once you’ve established your experience. Good luck!

      • Kait

        Sound advice. Thank you!

    • Amy

      Kait, I feel your pain!! I am a young attorney and was hired as an attorney. In my position I do a lot of research and discovery work and document preparation, but I do not answer phones. My boss called me his legal assistant in a client meeting and my jaw hit the floor.

  • Becki Iverson

    I am the youngest member (and one of only a few female members) of an engineering office. Anyone who has worked with engineers knows that they’re even sparser communicators than the typical office stereotype! They tend to be very technical/bookish, and have a hard time describing what they want help with and expressing themselves clearly. I’ve worked really hard to become friends with my coworkers, as I realized early on that the more they trusted me as a person the more they would open up about their work needs. My open communication style has helped me go from an administrative assistant to a mid level marketing coordinator in two years!

  • Victoria Kean

    My biggest office challenge is gathering the skills I need to advance. My bosses (both genders) are not always good at giving feedback to let me know whether or not I am on the right path. My strategy is just to keep asking for it, both verbally and in email.

  • Trezlen

    There are unspoken rules about how things are done. I only find out when I “break” these rules.

  • Rachel

    An issue I encounter as a young,female project manager is frequesntly being told by my colleagues (usually older, male) to “smile!” Often, they will interrupt a conversation I am having to tell me this, but it could be while walking down the hall in thought. It implies that my role is to be the continously peppy “cheerleader” and I must divert my energy from problem solving to make sure a “cheery disposition” is displayed. While many male colleague can express concern, displeasure, and even *gasp* anger at some situations at my aerospace employer, the moment I let the corners of my mouth relax, I’m clearly “upset” and need to “not take things so seriously.”
    I still struggle with how to handle these situtations. Usually the moment is so fleeting that I don’t have an opportuntity to respond. Although I have been giving myself permission to not reflex into a grin and try to remember that you can’t control what happens to you, only how you react to it.

    • mt

      Tell them this is America and you are entitled to your “Bitchy-Resting Face”. You know them well, so maybe try to find a clever way to get them to stop doing it. I wouldn’t allow it to keep happening. If it were me I would just say, “What am I, your effing cheerleader?”, and slap ‘em on the shoulder with a good-natured, good ‘ole boy laugh. That way you let ‘em know what you think and you give them that damn smile they want so effing badly!

  • sc

    The combination of my gender and age is an office challenge I most often face. As an early 30s female (who looks younger than that) in higher education I must constantly negotiate relationships with older men who are in positions of authority. This often looks like a very paternalistic management of my work. While I appreciate the support and investment these individuals have in my work, it is important to me that they also see and value me as an independent, grown-up employee who is not to be treated as they would treat their college-aged daughter. I attempt to tackle this challenge through a number of approaches – from attention to the way I dress to really pushing myself to speak from a role of authority around my work. Yet it is still a constant negotiation of being my authentic self in the workplace while also playing the role of how I want these men to perceive me.

  • Ilana125

    Ilanaggc@gmail.com being perceived as rough edges because I’m not as nice as upper mgmt thinks women should be.

  • Vicky Cantu

    My biggest office challenge is getting direction and feedback from my boss, who happens to also be the CEO of our small company. He’ll briefly ask me to do a project, and that’s all the direction I receive from him. I know it is just because he is truly busy and because he trusts my judgment and ability to think for myself, but I’m constantly worrying that I’m going to not meet his standards (because I dont really know what they are). On the flip side I’m afraid to ask for more direction becuase I don’t want to get the impression that I’m not capable of doing my job.

    • Rachel

      I’ve run into this a lot too – But I’ve learned that asking the right questions throughout the process are crucial to managing expectations and making sure you are delivering what your customer (aka the boss) wants. What I’ve found most helpful is that the type of question can really influence this perception. Asking my boss “Can you give me feedback on this?” can potenially sound like “Help me, I dont know if this is right!”. Where as, probing questions lead to a discussion and an opportunity for clarification. “Now that I’ve been running with this for a few days, how does this match with what you had in mind? How is it different than you expected?”

      • John

        Wish the best truly. I always wonder of a key formula to always ask for help when one’s direct boss is extremely one-sided and toxic and always raising the voice and snapping for no reason when asked? This shouldn’t go on and no reason he/she should snap and think of not to ask such when questions to understand and be on right track are to be expected and normal. Wonder how to take care of this immediately in any setting and get around the dysfunctional person?

  • Kassie

    Starting a consulting job fairly early in my career without a direct manager has me wondering how to direct my career whilst learning about myself (trying to figure out what I want) and how to build up my confidence and experience.

  • E

    This interview just made me say, “I want to read this book” out loud. Amazon.com here I come!

  • cienciasmedicasco

    I work at a very competitive bussiness, and my biggest challenge has translating recognition and appreciation into compensation. I know that my salary will not improve until I ask for it, but I have yet to find a way to do it where I am both comfortable and assertive.

  • Cj

    My issue is working in an environment where I have more experience and longevity than the individuals I supervise/manage/coordinate but they have a more advanced degree. Plus, I am the only female who is also a minority and I feel undervalued and have seen others in my same position in different departments with less experience and education advance quicker than I have. Working in an environment full of men some from other countries is quite taxing at best. So not only do I have to deal with the gender issue but also the cultural issue as well.

  • http://www.myslifeoflife.blogspot.com D’Rae

    My biggest challenge is that people think I am younger than what I appear. I do look young for my age and that can be a hindrance when trying to establish authority.

  • Shelli Krunic

    my challenge is that the men at my company view the women as a group. If one doesn’t speak up, the rest won’t either. I find that when I “jump” into the conversation, they immediately pay attention. So I work hard to always have something to say and make a point to say it.

  • Milasmatic

    Hey! I don´t live in the US so I won´t be winning the book :( (Un less they give me a ebook XD) But the most complicated gender blind spot, I guess is that when you send an email that is not nice, like, you say things for its name, but if you are a woman you are “hysterical”, but when men do, they are just saying what they have to say.

  • Amy

    I have the most difficulty with taking criticism. I work for a perfectionist and I am not a perfectionist, but a hard worker and do my very best. I am struggling with meeting his expectations, while standing up for my choices at work. I am tackling it by trying not to take his criticism personally, understanding his goals and objectives, and explaining myself when I find important sticking points. I am an attorney and need to balance respect for my boss, while at the same time telling him my concerns about the work.

  • Shannon Rosche

    I work in an all female office and I am young. When I go to meetings where men are present I am perceived as too young to know what I am talking about. The way I look at it is I know what I know and what I don’t know I am happy to learn. I try to not let how a man may view me unless it is going to directly influence my work.

  • Ca RN

    I am a RN with a social services company. We work very hard to get the neexs of our clients met. I am constantly being coached by my female supervisor to work on my “communication skills”. If I need or want something I ask for it. If I need feedback I ask. There are many women in mid level management but few in upper management. By communicating “like a man” I am upsetting the apple cart with my old school nurse supervisor. (Who is always upset she is not treated like an equal.)

  • LVSquared

    It’s interesting that women find they can’t speak up in the work place, because I think my office environment is exactly the opposite. The office is very social, sometimes overtaking the work that gets finished, and everyone is involved in the conversation. My challenge is trying to get my work finished without sacrificing too much team bridge building that happens while everyone is out chatting in the team areas.

  • balboasamoa

    My biggest work challenge is in communication – as a woman I tend to lilt (raise the pitch of) my voice at the end of a sentence in order to affirm that the person I am speaking to understands – when I lilt I am waiting for their head to nod or eye contact. However, that habit makes my statements sound like a question to men, who don’t need eye contact as much for social cues. Since I’ve become aware of it I have also realized other women I work with do it, too. Since we work in an operating room, we want to be clear with the surgeons, anesthesiologists, and fellow staff as to when we are ASKING something and when we are OBSERVING something. We discussed it and now we notify each other when we hear a statement lilting at the end.. and we point it out to each other. That feedback really helps put an end to the behavior.

  • John

    Irrespective of gender, one of the worst pressing issues that needs to dissolve is bullying, harassment, cliquishness or discrimination as totally unacceptable that could come from either gender at any level! Seriously, anybody of either gender at any level at an establishment must act decently as any human should with genuine kindness, no discrimination, gossip or backbiting. Seriously, why would any human dare to perpetrate this worst, unacceptable behavior when they surely wouldn’t like anybody doing against them?