Men, Women and Professional Life

More often than not, one tends to classify professional colleagues in terms of gender, and develops different strategies for communicating/interacting with each gender. Also, the concept of male dominance in society has also seeped into professional culture to a great extent.Equality of Gender, in Professional Life
In the past 10 years of my professional life, I’ve had the opportunity of working with both genders, in various business relationships, including those of colleague/superior/subordinate, as well as client/service provider. Contrary to cultural expectations, I’ve found that women, on an average, tend to be more capable and professional in terms of their talent and skills, as compared to the average male individual, taken from the “army of men” dominating the “professional planet” (myself included).
My question – why does this gender bias exist? Why is it so difficult for males to realize that women can actually do a good job at stuff, being themselves, in their own way.
Similarly, this question can also be inverted – why is there a common perception (or misconception) that professional society is dominated by males, and that ‘a woman’s survival in professional life is far more difficult than that of a man’.
Ideally, merit should determine the progress capabilities of an individual in ones professional career, man or woman alike. Then why does gender come in the way, more often than not.
Please state your opinions with rationale – cause, effect and suggested remedy, sort of.
Looking forward to a constructive debate on this topic. Please refrain from biased/sexist remarks. Will add my opinion as a clarification, later down the road.


  • I think there is confusion about “Bias”. To me, bias is making business decisions for non business reasons. Underlying this is that it is bad business to break the fundamentals of ethics and morality.
    We are who we are. We each bring experience to work and this creates a special point of view that, in a spirit of team work and cooperation, yields better business observations and decisions. These differing experiences surely include our work and education but also our culture, nationality and personal experience of life. Make no mistake, all of this contributes to our unique and often valuable thoughts when we work in common business goals.
    The simple answer to your question though is “Habits die hard”. I also think that maintaining a kind of artificial blindness to our respective differences, whatever they may be, is foolish. It simply isn’t real and it is skipping the best part which is that differences in a group, of any kind, create strength for that group and forge a better class of thought and observation. The first step though is to recognize the difference and honor it.
    Incidentally, there was recently a story on CNN (I think) where the cost of household work was objectively analyzed. What is the “replacement cost” if that person were not available at all. In many regions of the US (typically with high paying jobs) a “housewife” is doing about $98,000 worth of work in contributing to the family. This work load must be paid for, taken up by husband, wife and children but it is a very significant amount of work.

  • People like to work with those they feel most comfortable with. Looks like men feel most comfortable in many situations — certainly where real power and money are in play — with…men. Look at the boards and C-suites of most major corporations in the U.S. and wonder why there are so few women. I do. Lack of talent and drive? I doubt it.
    I recently resigned from a board of 5 men and two women, totally fed up of being bullied or ignored by the men in the room — and this, after being invited to join that board. Every single meeting one, or several, of the men would raise their voice and or start berating me whenever I, however politely but firmly, challenged their ideas or questioned them. The only other woman sat there silent 95% of the time. I felt deeply unwelcome and left.
    I sit on another volunteer board of 15 people, 2/3 female, where the exchanges are consistently respectful and helpful, where gender isn’t relevant but good ideas are.
    The world is full of talented, smart women with much to offer. The men who include and rely on our talents very quickly grasp the value of doing so. The rest…it’s their loss. But it’s often much less about credentials and experience than comfort level. If or when a man can’t handle being challenged, directly or indirectly by a woman — and bright, ambitious women will do so as much as their male counterparts — I doubt you’ll find much success for the women in that company. When men are as comfortable with female assertiveness as they are with that of men, this won’t be a problem. In the meantime, men who loathe this sort of insubordination (as they see it) will do whatever they can to to make women deeply uncomfortable and leave. Some men expect women, de facto, to defer to them because of their gender. When we don’t, they’re offended or angry or frustrated — just as some women are when we meet such princely expectations.
    There are only so many good seats at any table — i.e. terrific jobs or opportunities — so the fight to get and keep one can mean playing very tough. Women, in many cultures, are heavily socialized to be nice, to stay quiet, to defer, to make sure everyone’s happy — least of all themselves. Elbows out isn’t necessarily a comfy posture for them.
    Read “Women Don’t Ask”, an excellent book on this subject, about why many women are still too scared to even negotiate better salaries than men, even fresh out of school.
    For every man who bullies or ignores women, there’s a woman whose own behavior, too aggressive or too passive, is sabotaging her chances as well.
    Remedy? Both genders bringing tremendous self-awareness of these issues, personally and culturally, to the table. Mentoring, in and across gender and age lines, so we know what works best and why.

  • Zohaib —
    I’m a born-and-raised American, and have had the unusual opportunity to work closely with several engineers who are Pakistani over the past couple of years.
    I took a moment to peruse your profile before answering and I’m glad I did. Your question seems simple on the surface, but in fact has some very complex cultural aspects. Your country is in the middle of several struggles we here in the States are for the most part unaware of, one of which is the accelerated social adjustments brought on by our 2 incredibly different worlds being brought into such close contact. I’m not talking politically, but in the workplace.
    I’m going to speak from my understanding of critical differences between our cultures, and may say some things some may hear as disrespectful or arrogant. I do not intend this, and expect to be corrected when my understanding is wrong or lacks substance. The conversation has to start somewhere, eh?
    Here in the States we have been working hard at reducing the distance between genders for a long time. Our core cultural ideal is that all are created equal and have the opportunity to make of themselves what they can, so women’s fundamental equality has been an issue pretty much from the beginning. How we have gone about the actualization has been a complicated road, and in fact has reached the point in some areas that there is now a movement in our public schools to rediscover our male children.
    My understanding of your culture is that you are struggling to overcome a very authoritarian, patriarchal social order where women are assumed as the “support staff” and serve at the mercy of the patriarch. This creates a conundrum in the workplace. As an authoritarian culture, the expectation is that those in charge do not accomodate those not in charge. This suits the hierarchial nature of the workplace in general, but by embracing a woman’s right to participate in the workplace you routinely ask those in charge to sit across the table as equals or even as subordinates to someone whose gender is permanently subordinate. The great riddle is how to elevate the subordinate without lowering the established authority, an unusually hard problem to solve since women lose face by being combative and men lose face by being accomodating (that’s true here also).
    From where I sit this will take a long time. The adult generation must show their children how to regard themselves and each other differently. While that is happening, women will alternately be accomodating and combative, and men will be confused.
    OK. That’s enough from me. Please respond when you can — getting my arms around this is as important to me as it is to you.

  • I treat men and women exactly alike because we are equals. That said, I am in perfect agreement with Caitlin. I know what it’s like to sit at a boardroom table surrounded by men and to be made to feel invisible. A strong, confident, outspoken women is often perceived as an adversary and therefore a threat to a man’s shaky sense of his own self-importance. Secure men are those who win my respect.

  • I’m happy to know you realize what is self-evident: that men and women can work together. I don’t know if I’d go as far as to say that women tend to be more capable and professional. I would definitely say, however, that we usually have had to work much harder for what we’ve gotten, that it’s been handed over either begrudgingly or as a bestowal, not as compensation for what we’ve earned or how we’ve qualified.
    This has been my experience, not just my opinion. “Oh that’s not so” is a reflex. No one can refute my experience as I perceive it. My perceptions may be flawed, but they’re mine, and over time, I have learned that when I’m calm and analytical, they’re usually on target.
    Why does this gender bias exist? Oh, a couple thousand years, at least, of society in which physical, specifically combat and upper body, strength meant far more than it does now and many avenues of intellectual achievement were closed to half the human race. Personally, I don’t consider that fair, but I live in the U.S., which at least pays lip service to “fair” and does enshrine inalienable rights in our Constitution. I think that recognition of ability and rewarding that ability should be inalienable: competent women would do a whole lot better.
    Why is there a commen perception that professional society is dominated by males, etc.? DUH. Because it is. Granted, we’ve made tremendous strides in the decades since I’ve passed adolescence, but they are not enough. Do not judge the work or political world by exceptions, who may or may not possess the ability they need, but do possess the advantages of class, wealth, and highly influential families.
    Why doesn’t merit determine things? Because no one gives up power willingly. Because merit, in the hands of people in power, wears the faces of people exactly like them.
    What do I offer as a rationale? Check my profile, please. I am a classic, Second-Wave Baby Boomer feminist from the Northeast, and I could tell you stories.
    I see nothing to debate. We’re making progress. We need to make more progress. Nothing is an either/or. And there is, frankly, a backlash going on, if you count the number of trolls all over the net.
    Here’s the differentiation. The distinction between assertive and aggressive. As the saying goes: I’m assertive, you’re aggressive, she’s a mouthy (supply improper noun). Aggressive is considered a Bad Word. And yet, I know perfectly well that at any one time, I can be any one of those three because I, not someone else, get to determine how I behave, how I learn, and what I earn.
    I mirror the behavior I encounter. It leads to some shocks.
    I am aware of culture differentials. I’m speaking from my own point of view. Courtesy and respect can help bridge the gap. What I like about the Internet is that no one sees my height or hears a soft soprano voice. They do see a first name, and sometimes they try. Only a few try more than once. I give respect in the measure in which I get it. And -I- make that determination.

  • Gender bias [sexism] exists because the structure of society we hold license to has changed over time. This change can be described as the “woman’s movement into the workplace”, among other things. Traditionalism has broken down, and over time, the expectation for a woman to tend to the home has lessened or disappeared entirely in some societies.
    Stating this, because this transition isn’t perfect, opinions are highly varied about how society should look in terms of what roles women and men have in the work place. It also is geared to how the culture perceives gender roles.
    By evaluating gender roles, analyzing the basis of sexism, and looking at how interactions between genders have changed and shaped society (as well as vice-versa), we can get a glimpse on how to approach this subject matter.

  • Gender bias exists coz we are the ones who created it….
    Men fail to recognise the powers of women and even if they do they fail to accept the fact….
    Since the have been the Supreme….for they were the ones to look at the Outer Fronts while the women were expected to see the Inner Backs….But now as women have progressed with the generations/technology…men are still lagging behind in their thinking….
    Sorry guys…but this is the fact and all of you know it….
    But I shall admit and do really Admire is ….guys are really good in the kitchen…otherwise how come most of the worldwide Chefs are Men ?

  • The woman for sure is a better manager than a man – of finances and operations. Which is precisely why she is chosen to manage Home and Family – the two most important and indispensible units in human life.

  • A similar problem exists for ageism, lack of industry experience, and other reasons to rule out a candidate. Unfortunately, companies ideally hire the person who did the job for their #1 competitor, and not the person best able to do the job.
    In a major software firm, three sales execs handle GE — including the person who handled GE for the #1 competitor. One was hugely successful and the other two failed. Which one was best? The one who, based on experience, was least likely to succeed.
    Bottom line. Experience does not predict future success.

  • None of the above
    If its a non issue there is never an issue so none of the above

  • The answer is quite simple. Women and men are TWO completely separate entities, with completely different brain composition and survival agendas. A man’s genome is completely different from a woman’s genome, their survival cues are also different in details, etc. Biases don’t come out of no where, they have existed for thousands of yrs and mostly are rooted in these major differences men and women are evolved physically and mentally to have ( also true in all other animals with the two sexes). Regarding professional attitude, perhaps you have missed to see a whole scope of women who are not at all present in the professional world. Apparently, fewer than 11% of women are known to poccess the ‘masculine’ brain, vs. the 67% of men who have it. Masculinity is not what I am referring to as an inferior or superior trait, but it is an indicator of handling certain things such as highly stressful professional settings MUCH better & more efficient than the femininity overall.Such women with masculine brain are known to be present in all walks of professional life and they do very well as you stated above in many regards in their career, in fact, much better than what women are evolved to do which is mainly breeding children and nurturing, etc, naturally speaking ( I only talk science as a scientist). I believe your experience may be partially correct, you have not seen the whole scope and you may never get to experience the entire range of women’s attitude in professional settings. Sexism and biases exist and have roots in these major common differences and the problem is that small fraction of women we actually see in professional settings are automatically discriminated against by many men as the ‘typical woman’ who is NOT going to handle the business world as well as you have defined above ( believe me, I am a woman and I have plenty of girl friends of all kinds) with the typical normal ‘baggages’ such as home, family, kids, emotional freak outs, hormonal imbalances of the month, etc.( and these baggages, like it or not, are nothing but what women as a gender are evolved to carry and therefore, many women in professional setting who prove to have all the merits do end up sacrificing plenty of their natural expectation as breeders, nurturers, etc.).

  • “Please state your opinions with rationale – cause, effect and suggested remedy, sort of.
    Looking forward to a constructive debate on this topic. Please refrain from biased/sexist remarks.”
    I couldn’t help but find humor in your thoughts……
    “I’ve found that women, on an average, tend to be more capable and professional in terms of their talent and skills, as compared to the average male individual, taken from the “army of men” dominating the “professional planet” (myself included). ”
    You should read that sentence again. Did you not just make a biased and sexist remark????? Basically women are more professional than men???? Are you kidding me?? Don’t make a blanket statement about who is more or less qualified than another. Male or Female regardless……character, skills, qualifications, and knowledge matter more than gender.
    If you want a more constructive debate I would recommend starting with a more constructive posting. I am a female but I know bs when I smell it.
    Un freakinbelievable!! I am offended!

  • Dear Zohaib,
    I think the cultural aspect plays an integral role. In India & Pakistan, girls or women working late in office is always an issue, due to which an opinion set is often formed.
    I work at a company where work hours often get longer than expected and have often come across my colleagues who would like to hire “men” as they can take the long working hours. But there is another aspect to this, when it comes to contributing to ideas, professionalism, work ethics, men and women are at par. I am yet to come across any client, colleague or anyone for that matter, who has discriminated with me when it comes to my work. That is also because I am a believer of equality, I do not leave early because of “issues at home”, and for me, the same rules apply for men and women alike, irrespective of gender.
    Also, culturally, in India & Pakistan, as compared to some of the other regions in the world, women tend to chose family affairs over a career. Though the percentage of career oriented women are on a rise, but we have a long way to go.
    I think if a person discriminates basis the gender without the valid reasons of poor quality of work, or lack of professionalism, its unfair. And society, anywhere across the world, should withstand it.

  • I’m impressed by your perspective – you’re a rare breed. I believe most men could care less about this issue, since they’re getting ahead anyway.
    My question in response to yours goes more to the pervasiveness of the culture, to the point where women who obtain higher positions often discriminate against other women under them. How can we be doing this to each other! I think most of those women who got where they are were given some kind of break, and they’re not willing to pay it forward to the next generation. That’s perhaps where it becomes most difficult for women to succeed (and it IS harder for women). When we are supposedly enlightened in our views, we are still holding each other down. I would love to see the day when any person is reguarded strictly on their own merit!

  • If there were 10 bags of money across a busy street, across a creek, and up a hill, and 10 men and 10 women noticing it, who would run for the bags of money?
    The answer to your question is this: Because we are animals.
    And it worked quite well. Women and our species were quite well served when men had to fight saber-toothed tigers, hunt woolly mammoths, and go into dark caves to kill the bears.
    Meanwhile the women had one child in the belly and one on the hips.
    The only real thing that changed this: Birth Control.
    Now, women and men are equal in creation. But even supposed “merit” is irrelevant: “Well I worked here 10 years and them only 2!”
    So what?
    What truly matters is the VALUE one provides society. Regardless of gender, age, race, or any other criteria.
    As we sow, so should we reap.
    Nature: Men are more aggressive, on average
    Nurture: Men are trained and expected to be more aggressive, and even nice women will be reluctant to mate with a passive man with a feminine aggression level.
    The Present: Men are bigger, stronger, more intimidating. Tall, strong men even intimidate other men, or get better promotions, or appear to be leaders.
    The Future: We need to simply reward people for providing value, realizing half of life is about being nurturing, and half of life about being strong and assertive.
    But as far as any male-bashing that accompanies such discussions, it would be as unwarranted as me bashing a pro basketball player for being taller. We simply need to facilitate people sowing, and reaping accordingly.
    But unfortunately, men in GENERAL will always be more aggressive, less likely to have higher priorities than work, more likely to put in extra hours, more perceived as dominant, and so on. Why? Because that is the nature of the beast.
    And I enthusiastically voted for Hillary for leader of the Free World, and am merely telling it like it is. So don’t kill the messenger.

  • Z,
    I think there is a bias. When I try to get a job I keep coming in as second choice. Part of the problem may be that I wasn’t what the interviewers were expecting. Some of my male friends told me I was too pretty. I assumed they were joking.
    I think people are most comfortable with others just like themselves and just like their friends. Someone who looks and sounds different is not what they had in mind. To remedy this will take time. We need to widen our circles of friends, get comfortable interacting with all sorts of people, and get used to the idea of wanting the best person for the job, not the person who meets our preconception.

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