8 Gender 'Blind Spots' That Could Sabotage Your Career

8 Gender 'Blind Spots' That Could Sabotage Your Career

Have 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.

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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

work with me

And gender equality versus gender intelligence? How do they differ?

Annis: When we think about gender equality, we tend to focus on equality for just women. Corporations around the world are still playing the numbers game, enforcing quotas to create balance at the top. But they’re going about it in the wrong way.

Gray: Gender intelligence allows us to not only acknowledge our differences in a positive light but appreciate them as well. With gender intelligence as a foundation, we can achieve gender equality—without denying our differences.

Less than 20% of execs in the U.S. are women, and only 3% of C.E.O.s—stats that haven't really budged since 1996. What gives?

Annis: We’ve made the wrong assumption about why women are leaving the workplace. Society thinks it’s because of work-life balance, but our research shows that's not the case.

RELATED: Does Work-Life Balance Actually Exist?

Gray: In fact, our surveys with women found that they’re leaving because they don’t feel valued—they feel excluded.

I met so many men who actually want women to advance. My “aha!” moment was learning about the incongruence between their intentions and behaviors.

So how do you propose we change the workplace?

Annis: Whether we like it or not, there’s a hierarchy in any work environment. The bottom line is that a cultural transformation has to start at the top. But what’s great about this conversation is that it opens people up. Men think, “We can talk about this?” And women finally feel more valued. It’s time to really understand that there’s a huge competitive advantage to acknowledging the differences between men and women, the strengths each gender brings—and how they can complement each other.

You identify eight blind spots in the book. Can you name a few?

Annis: In our surveys, we asked men if they appreciate women. The men said, "Of course!" But the women said no. We found that’s because men and women look for different types of recognition: Women want more feedback and transparency in communication during the course of a project, whereas men just want acknowledgement for the results.

Gray: Without this extra insight, men miss opportunities to give messages of appreciation to women, and women misinterpret men’s lack of communication as a lack of appreciation.

Another blind spot occurs when men engage in conversations: If they have something to say, they say it, whereas women wait to be invited in. For this reason, men tend to dominate conversations, leaving women feeling excluded and thinking that a male colleague doesn’t want to hear what she has to say. And men think that if a woman isn’t speaking up, she must have nothing to say—yet nothing could be further from the truth.

RELATED: 6 Coworkers Who Could Sabotage Your Career

What was the most surprising thing that you learned while working on this book?

Annis: The one thing that surprised me along the way is that men truly do care. I always thought, "Why would they care if it doesn’t relate to their top strategic priorities? It seems like men are always about the bottom line." But I met so many men who actually want women to advance. My “aha!” moment was learning about the incongruence between their intentions and their behaviors.

What do you hope that your book will teach readers?

Annis: We only picked the top eight blind spots for our book! So I hope that it will start a dialogue—and remove even more blind spots. If this book starts a journey of understanding that gender differences are hardwired, I think it could eventually change how we parent our children, how we teach our kids in school, and how we relate to one another in everyday life.

Gray: Another benefit that I hope people will take away from this book is an awareness of how other people are affected by our own behaviors. Awareness alone can help us make small shifts to adjust our behaviors compassionately—and truly appreciate each other’s offerings.

Giveaway Alert! LearnVest is giving away two copies of "Work With Me: The 8 Blind Spots Between Men and Women in Business." To enter, just tell us in the comments: What office challenge do you find most difficult to navigate—and how are you tackling it?

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