Men and women have endeavored to understand each other for as long as the human race has been in existence. Although it has been decades since the women’s movement in the United States first kicked off, gender equality still seems to have a long way to go, including in the workforce.
According to Barbara Annis, founder of the Gender Intelligence Group (GIG; formerly known as Barbara Annis & Associates), it isn’t about equal numbers in order to level gender equality in an office, but about utilizing gender intelligence more. Gender intelligence is the understanding that there are natural differences between men and women.
She believes that by understanding more about gender intelligence, not only could professional relationships improve in American workforces between men and women, but also across various cultures.
Annis began her career as one of the first women in sales at the electronics conglomerate Sony Corporation. Her tenure with Sony earned her 14 sales awards and an MVP award.
GIG has introduced groundbreaking research on the practice and benefits of inclusive leadership and gender diversity, according to the group’s website.
“This isn’t really about tolerance, but about appreciating the differences and the newer sciences of that,” stated Annis as one of the most important parts of her presentation. “It’s about men and women working and winning together. It’s about men and women working and relating together, as well. Male and female clients are very different, and they want different things in a client relationship, and have different values. If we don’t know this, it’s a challenge.”
Throughout the session, Annis shared scientific research, statistics, and videos of different office scenarios. She showcased expert observations to illustrate the difference between men and women, and therefore the necessity of acquiring gender intelligence. Furthermore, she used her real-life experiences to further elaborate what happens when gender intelligence is and is not present in certain situations.
The presentation caused a great impact and the audience members were encouraged to break up into groups and engage in two-minute discussions about their reactions to the subtopics.
The main idea that Annis wanted to bring forward was that men and women have different ways of thinking, approaching problems, listening, and interacting with other people.
Annis addressed, “This is in spite of both genders possessing equal intelligence in quota, however, women usually have what’s called divergent thinking, in which they think outside the box regarding a situation they face. On the other hand, men tend to have convergent thinking, in which they give a straight forward answer to a problem. Men and women’s speeches and actions may be the same, but they convey different meanings. A woman saying yes tends to mean that she is listening, not agreeing; a man saying yes usually means he does agree with a statement. When women bring up ideas at a meeting, they suggest them; men, only speak their mind. Women view success as finding value while accomplishing; men, on the other hand, view it as achieving their goals."
In addition to practicing gender intelligence, Annis briefly highlighted other ways to improve workplace relationships between genders. For example, she stated that one shouldn’t make assumptions about the opposite sex during the interaction, one should be interested in what others have to say as opposed to thinking otherwise, and one should treat everyone like a client and pursue a healthy work relationship.
“Authentic strengths women have as leaders of a group are possessing expansive thinking and strategizing, connecting with others and being systemic, having emotional awareness, being able to build teams, and being passionate and committed to jobs,” concluded Annis.