Are men really from Mars and women from Venus?
About this time last year, we were lucky enough to be delivering a programme for a client in a stunning hotel near Sitges, the coastal resort close to the wonderful city of Barcelona – I know, it’s a hard life but someone has to do it. During the course of the event, one of the delegates (a woman) asked if there was a difference between how men and women self-assess on the questionnaire for our Dimensions model. As we had not done the analysis, I could not answer the question but we all suspected that there would be a difference. We all anticipated that women would self-assess themselves at an inferior score to men completing the same questionnaire, given the widely held belief that women have lower self-confidence.
The question piqued our interest however, so we decided to do the breakdown and see if there was a material difference. Not only that, but we would run an ‘All Female’ event to see if the narrative around self-development and ambition varied from our mixed gender programmes. The answer to the first question surprised us all – there was no significant difference between the scores of men and women on any of the dimensions. In that case, what was really going on? We were eager to find out.
And so a number of delegates joined us in central London to work through our Runway programme. As ever, we were joined by a (female) Chair at dinner the evening before the programme, a headhunter and an HR Director during the course of the day, who gave some very specific and tailored insights for the women attending. Yet beyond that, three key themes recurred that really stood out at this all female event:
1. Don’t beat about the bush
Women need to say what they really mean or want. Both our guest Chair and head-hunter said that far too often, women preface a statement with an apology or conditional remark before making their point. Our guests were both self-confessed ‘straightforward’ individuals so considered this a development point for their gender in general. Our head-hunter in particular mentioned that when interviewing women, frequently what the interviewee said was not what the interviewer heard, so consequently the meaning was misinterpreted or misunderstood. This could be remedied simply by being more direct and using better language.
2. Don’t duck the difficult issues
In an all-female environment, gender specific subjects weren’t taboo. The very real issues of monthly cycles and menopause weren’t brushed under the carpet and ignored, but the problems and challenges of these were openly talked about without shame or embarrassment. In the same way that mental health is getting more and more airtime as it impacts the workplace, so should issues relating to gender so that these can be openly acknowledged and where necessary, accommodated.
3. Leverage your networks
The mutual support network that was immediately established was very apparent. During the course of the Runway programme participants work with each other in a safe, yet challenging way. However unlike with mixed programmes, the mutual support that emerged once the programme ended was very evident and it is easy to imagine how this might be sustained by this particular cohort of individuals well beyond the usual ‘expiry date’ of many new networks.
Of course there were other themes during the course of the day and the discussions were, as ever, full and flowing – indulging in a day for ‘you’ is always worth making the most of. Given the success of this event and the discussions that were had, we will almost certainly be running another programme like this again next year!
To view a brief video with highlights from the All-Female Runway programme see belowLinkedIn