Should a woman be more like a man?

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For those of you working in areas that are still very male dominated, engineering, science and Information Technology for example to name just a few areas, is this ever a question you ever ask yourself?

I recently attended a workshop run by “Women in Technology” and listened to a diverse group of women, both in ethnic background and age, talk about their experiences of working in a variety of male dominated corporate workplaces.  This seemed to be a question that came up quite a few times.

Do women feel that they are seen on a par with their male colleagues or do they still feel that they have to work even harder and be even better just to get the same level of recognition?

One thing I hear women quite often say is that in meetings they struggle to be heard.  Is this because they are patiently waiting for a suitable break point in the dialogue that never comes?  Or perhaps they get talked over and give up?  Or perhaps they were more worried about whether their statement or question was valid.  Interestingly none of the women that I have heard make these comments thought that any of their male colleagues could possibly feel the same way as they did and their perception was that men just don’t worry about the same things.

I was recently reading a summary research article in Psychologies magazine carried out by the Virginia Tech Carillion Research Institute that their research showed that “our mental activity can drop” when we are in small groups like a work meeting.  They also found that this is often due to our perceived social status within the group.  Their research also found that when staff were given feedback about how they were performing compared with their peers that their performance also declined, “an effect that was more marked in women”.  The article concludes that “If two heads (or more) are really better than one, we need to make sure that everyone in the group feels equal”.

If this is truly the case do those people who feel that they struggle to be heard in meetings have a valid compliant.  Should it be us women that need to change and be more like a man to be heard or should we be educating our male colleagues about how they should conduct themselves in meetings so that everyone feels equal?