Women and Men in Business – Competitors or Partners?

A gender driven world

When you talk to women about this topic you will hear all kinds of stories.  Some have to do with harassment, others with admiration or even deep affection.  “I love my boss, he is the best” or “he is a great guy, unfortunately he is married”.  In my interviews I wished to hear more about men’s job performance and how they cooperate with women, but it seems like women often see the man and his male qualities with regard to women more than his qualities as a manager, coworker or boss.  Why can’t women look at men without judging their male qualities always asking the question if they are suitable for their own needs?  We expect men to look at us as managers in a professional manner, but we are not able to do the same.  Why?  It does not work that way.  As much as you see the man in a man, a man sees the woman in a woman.  We are not neutral, we are gender driven and there is nothing wrong with that as long as you stay fair and open-minded.

Knowing we are gender driven, we have to find a way to work with men efficiently, which is a challenge for many women.  I would like to share a few episodes with you about how women have approached this topic.

Women and men in the workplace

I personally always liked to work with men.  My experience was mostly positive which made it easy for me to be around men at work.  I never felt hurtful competition between myself and other men, but occasionally I felt judgment, sometimes neglect which was an unpleasant encounter with the other gender.  I once had a boss who did not seem to be in tune with me.  He could not openly attack me, because my excellent job performance made me untouchable, but he tried to work behind the scene to pull business away from me.  I never found out why he did not like me, but after I realized that there was nothing I could do to change his mind about me, I just kept on doing what I could do best and let him fry in his own fat.  At the beginning I felt uncomfortable around him, but I got used to his annoying presence and I knew one day he could not bother me any longer.  I looked at the situation as good training for myself with the motto ”Working under observation.”  I dressed up for those occasions in every sense and this did not make it easier for him!

Other women have told me their stories.  One anecdote is rather entertaining.  A manager in my team suddenly found herself in a project group led by a former lover.  He was a nice guy and he did not play that card.  He was very private about the whole matter, but everybody knew and there was a certain tension in the group about what was going to happen between them.  She could not care less about what others were thinking and she wanted the bubble to burst.  One day in one of our weekly meetings it happened.  She looked at everybody with a victory smile, then she turned to her new boss or should I say former lover and said: “You know, I have always loved to work under you!” The group was bursting with laugh and the matter was solved.  The power of humor is sometimes irreplaceable.

The way out of the dilemma

In my upcoming book ‘Be a woman and act like one.  Succeeding in life and business’ I talk about this topic in more depth.  At this point I would like to summarize my thoughts and make a suggestion for getting out of the dilemma.

Men can become competitors in your struggle to climb the career ladder as much as women compete among each other.  Especially in lower and middle management, the competition for the next step is tough.  There are only a few promotions a year and the window seats are limited, which makes the struggle for those opportunities even harder.  No matter which gender, the ambitious manager is working hard for a promotion.  I don’t see a gender struggle, but a tough competition for a promotion.

If you are able to turn these struggles into challenges and the competition into striving for excellence, you are going to be so busy focusing on your job performance that you will forget about gender competition.  Suddenly it is not about you anymore, but about how you can deliver the best results for your company.  Don’t get lost in little battles, but focus on the big picture.  You are just a little piece of the puzzle like everybody else.  We all need to work together to create the big picture, which puts everything in the right perspective again.

Be a woman and act like one.

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About Hertha Wolff-Arend

I am a business coach and writer located in Paso Robles, California. I am the author of the book Be a woman and act like one. Succeeding in business and life’’ and I write a blog for women with the same title. I give motivational speeches and offer leadership and personality trainings to women. I also work with business owners and managers to support them in their leadership skills and personal development. As a strategic consultant, I also help companies with their communication and marketing strategy. Born and raised in Germany, I spent most of my adult life in Europe. I have a German university degree in languages and economics and I worked for many years in the advertising industry as one of the few female managing directors in Germany for major international advertising agencies such as Young&Rubicam, TBWA and Bates. My client list consisted of mainly blue chip clients, where I was responsible for their communications strategies and the development and execution of the advertising concepts. Just to name a few clients: Lufthansa, Danone, Kraft Foods, Bosch, Singapore Airlines, Ericsson, Campbells etc. In 2004 I relocated with my husband and son to California. I graduated from New Venture West in San Francisco as a Certified Integral Coach and started my own coaching practice in 2007. I am fluent in German and English and have conversational skills in Spanish. Aside from my dedication to work and family, I am a passionate dressage rider. I am devoted to supporting women in business, with a focus on women in the lower and middle management who are aiming at a career in the higher ranks or who want to develop their own business.
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