Understanding women…

Published on May 8, 2012 by in Uncategorized


When I was a lot younger and a student I was something of a feminist and wore badges that said things like ‘a women needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle’ (thanks Irina Dunn). I would not let men open doors for me, treat went Dutch and was generally convinced that men and women were equal. In those days we thought that meant the same. Well 30 odd years of research have identified that there are big neurobiological differences between genders and that our different hormones influence our behaviours. So not the same, pharmacy equal and very different.

What Allen and Reid do in their book (How to coach a woman)  is to set out very clearly how these differences impact on how we think and learn. Women learn best through discussion and have highly developed verbal skills. They use talking to find things out about themselves, search things they did not realise were true until the moment the words left their lips. The implication of this in the workplace is enormous. Task focused, impatient, ‘just get to the point’ type bosses (the drivers, the shapers, the reds.. whatever term you know) may just be in too much of a rush to allow the time required for a woman to gain a full understanding of what she should do and solve her own problems. Everyone knows that finishing someone else’s sentences is rude and undermining.. well maybe that is true of finishing someone else’s thoughts? Or not allowing them to finish their own. Generations of women have felt undermined in the workplace and maybe it is partly because we are not give the time to think and talk things through in the way we prefer?

But the good news is that women have the ability to fix several problems at the same time, even when they are talking about one thing. Have you ever had that experience of talking to a woman who suddenly goes ‘ah  ha’ and starts scribbling.. they just solved some other problem. It is not that they are not concentrating just doing more than one thought stream at once. But again it is easy to see how this talent could get a woman into trouble in the workplace; someone who is more linear could judge this behaviour as disrespectful or flakey or lacking in focus.

Women are much more emotionally literate, they understand and acknowledge their emotions. They express and explore how they feel about things. Again a double edged sword, a great talent for understanding others, showing emotional intelligence and judging situations but how often do women get condemned and criticised in the workplace for being ‘too emotional’?

Allen and Reid also suggest that women are able to use visualisation really effectively.  This trait can influence both the way they behave and the way they need to be managed. My husband hates the way I try to draw him diagrams and pictures (might help if I could draw!) when I’m explaining things, but I need to do that. On the other hand how positive is it for me to see things explained in mind maps (they really help me think about several things at once!) Diagrams and pictures help me understand. So maybe the flip chart in the office can really help productivity, thinking and understanding.

Altogether Allen and Reid have six key principles in coaching a woman but I thought that they were fascinating as ways of understanding how to get on with women, how to relate to her. We are not from another planet but just wired differently.  Let us talk, let us finish our own thinking, give us that space, allow us to draw, humour our tangents (we will come back) and build our confidence.


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