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Thread: How gender composition affects dynamics of work interactions

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    How gender composition affects dynamics of work interactions

    Should women be entitled to equal pay and equal opportunities for advancement in the workplace? I think almost all of us would answer without reservation - absolutely! But to pretend that there aren't sometimes considerable differences between the way women interact at work and the way men typically do would be somewhat naïve.

    I recently heard a couple of women lamenting how female administrative assistants working for female bosses seemed to result in strained relationships. It was hardly the first time I'd heard such a thing, and it prompts the question - do women have any more challenges than men do functioning within a hierarchical organization when both superior and subordinate happen to be female (as opposed to men when both superior and subordinate are male)? Could it be that because females are encouraged from a young age to build relationships founded on mutual support (you know, be nice to each other) that it makes boss-subordinate relations a more bitter pill to swallow?

    Has it been your experience that claws are much more likely to come out in offices that are dominated by women?
    Do you think a harassment situation is more likely to occur if a woman is in a workplace where males predominate?
    Have you ever worked in an environment where only one gender was present, and if so what are your observations/experiences?

    How do you think gender composition affects the dynamics of work interactions?
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  2. #2
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    Should women be entitled to equal pay and equal opportunities for advancement in the workplace? I think almost all of us would answer without reservation - absolutely! But to pretend that there aren't sometimes considerable differences between the way women interact at work and the way men typically do would be somewhat naïve.

    I recently heard a couple of women lamenting how female administrative assistants working for female bosses seemed to result in strained relationships. It was hardly the first time I'd heard such a thing, and it prompts the question - do women have any more challenges than men do functioning within a hierarchical organization when both superior and subordinate happen to be female (as opposed to men when both superior and subordinate are male)? Could it be that because females are encouraged from a young age to build relationships founded on mutual support (you know, be nice to each other) that it makes boss-subordinate relations a more bitter pill to swallow?

    Has it been your experience that claws are much more likely to come out in offices that are dominated by women?
    Do you think a harassment situation is more likely to occur if a woman is in a workplace where males predominate?
    Have you ever worked in an environment where only one gender was present, and if so what are your observations/experiences?

    How do you think gender composition affects the dynamics of work interactions?
    It depends on the woman or women involved.

    My direct supervisor and the PD are both women, as is the administrative assistant, 3 other planners and one planning tech and while I have only been here 6 months, I have yet to see a situation that was anything other than professional. However, I know the situation that Maister is in. One of those woman is far from professional and the other does not deal with it well.

    I think that one bad egg can disrupt an entire office, but I don't think it is isolated to one gender or another.
    If you're not growing, you're dying. - Lou Holtz

  3. #3
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    I'm someone that subscribes to the belief that your office enters a danger zone when it is overrun with testosterone or estrogen. There must be balance.

    I have been the lone male in an office of females, and I've been in a "sausage fest" office. Neither of them were good environments. The all-male environment took on a lockerroom/frathouse mentality that was a sexual harassment hostile environment scenario waiting to happen, and the all-female devolved with hierarchical issues & undermining Maister described. And I do think he nailed it in how those results link back to nurture and gender stereotypes/patterns established through cultural impact & upbringing.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

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    Cyburbian Plus dvdneal's avatar
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    I'm in a department with nothing but women at all levels except me and my two sanitarians. The county admin, HR director, payroll, HR assistant, admin assistant, receptionist, my assistant are all women. We have no problems working together. Most of the people in other departments are women too. I should also point out that all the women are older so there is no drama like I've had at other work places about what's going on in their life. I'm saying it's an age thing that makes this place work well, men have their share of drama too.

    I can't say I've seen a lot of women pulling out claws against other women in my career, just generally bad employees that happened to be women (men too). Usual problems of being lazy, more interested in your phone than work, creating coffee clutches (men too) that make decisions or conspire against you. You know, the usual unprofessional behavior of slackers that know they have a decent job and won't get fired anytime soon and would rather bring you down than do the work it takes to get promoted.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  5. #5
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis View post
    It depends on the woman or women involved.
    of course individuals will vary in their behavior, what we're attempting to do here is to see if any trends emerge (admittedly based on anecdotal evidence).

    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis
    My direct supervisor and the PD are both women, as is the administrative assistant, 3 other planners and one planning tech and while I have only been here 6 months, I have yet to see a situation that was anything other than professional. However, I know the situation that Maister is in. One of those woman is far from professional and the other does not deal with it well.
    .
    I actually wasn't referring to that situation you know so well, but to another one (although as you noted that situation certainly fits the description too).

    Based on my own experiences/observation discord (tears, arguments over personal issues, insults, etc.) in the workplace is significantly more likely to occur in work environments where women predominate compared to environments where men predominate. I saw one exception that in my mind proved the rule.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  6. #6
    I have worked in a female majority office and all I'm going to say is never again. It was a circle of Hell that Dante didn't write about. I have never seen so much gossiping and backstabbing in all my days. Ultimately, there has to be a balance between the sexes. Each gender can bring strengths that the other does not have.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  7. #7
    Quote Originally posted by Whose Yur Planner View post
    I have worked in a female majority office and all I'm going to say is never again. It was a circle of Hell that Dante didn't write about. I have never seen so much gossiping and backstabbing in all my days. Ultimately, there has to be a balance between the sexes. Each gender can bring strengths that the other does not have.
    This, though fortunately it's not my office, but rather sewer billing. There's 7 or 8 of them down there and two guys (one gay). The stories the guys tell are epic.
    Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.
    Abraham Lincoln

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Plus
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    My office is evenly split M/F.

    3/4 of the office is over 50 years old.

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    I'm sure I've oversimplified the issue. There's undoubtedly other factors like age or even the profession that play into the dynamics. For instance I don't recall meeting many (well, any might be closer to the truth) 'girly girls' serving in the USMC. Similarly, I wonder if there's possibly a higher percentage of women in the planning field that are "one of the guys" than you'd find in the general population?
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    A man once told me that two women working together is fine, but add a third and two will gang up on one. I've seen it happen with the admins in my office, and the same one is always on the 2-woman team.

    The fact that women can be so nasty is one of the reasons I like making inspections and working around men. The professional women in our office aren't catty, but a few of the admins can be.

    I've never been harassed by a construction worker, but I was close to reporting a municipal engineer for sexual harassment.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Plus dvdneal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    I'm sure I've oversimplified the issue. There's undoubtedly other factors like age or even the profession that play into the dynamics. For instance I don't recall meeting many (well, any might be closer to the truth) 'girly girls' serving in the USMC. Similarly, I wonder if there's possibly a higher percentage of women in the planning field that are "one of the guys" than you'd find in the general population?
    My experience for the Navy was that there were typically 3 kinds of women on the ships (none on mine):

    1. I will prove that a woman can do this job like any man can. They were generally accepted, you just have to watch out in case you were in the way of their ambition, but that goes with any ambitious person.
    2. I'm just one of the guys. They were accepted and treated like any other person.
    3. Flirts and whores. They knew they were women and used what they had to either get ahead or not have to do as much work. They also felt like they should be treated better than others. That's where all the sexual harassment cases came in.

    Great example, we were tying up our ship and knew we could go home as soon as the ship was tied up. We threw the line down to some lady sailor (I should point out she was young and dumb) and when she slowly walked over to the bollard to throw the line over my senior chief yelled at her to hurry up. Nothing abusive, just demanding some speed which is normal in tying up a ship. Later we were on the pier and I was "supervising" the guys putting on rat guards and BSing with the senior chief when the girl walked by with another person and complained "I don't have to do what no chief says, I a woman and I don't take no shit from a man." Absolutely the wrong thing to say near an old school Navy chief. He went off on her about you're not a woman, you're a sailor and you'll follow every order and ranking person gives. It was not pretty. She did the next never to do thing, she accused him of sexual harassment for yelling at her. I have never seen his eyes light up like they did. Especially having me (also out ranking her) as a witness. I believe the last words after a long rant was, "Let's go talk to Bob." Bob being the girls Captain. You know you're in deep when the chief refers to your captain by first name and not by rank or last name. He walked her up onto her ship and I never heard back about her Captain's mast.

    Sorry, long story
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    I work in an engineering firm that has a fairly even 50/50 split. However, in the past two years, I have been treated terribly by two headstrong female coworkers (one planner, one non-licensed engineer) who are 7-10 years my junior (both in their mid to late 20s). Both of them want to climb the career ladder fast and bully the people slightly more senior to them to get what they want. It backfired, especially as I mastered better interpersonal skills/emotional intelligence as a manager over the past 1 1/2 years. However, my mom and my sister are two very career driven, successful women, and treat others of both genders with kindness, respect, and decency.

    Men...grow a beard or facial hair. You will be treated ALOT better in business by your peers and clients. I will be 35 soon but if I am clean shaven with a full head of thick hair I still look like I'm in my mid to late 20's and I am treated as such in my office. I still project a youthful image and stay physically fit, but I'm not fresh out of college. I've been in the trenches for over a decade and now earned an office with a door. When I grew out my first beard, I now look like a MAN not a boy. Not only do I get compliments from men and women, people start taking my word far more seriously. I talked with this with a few male friends who also have baby faces and they too experienced the same thing in business. Just my two cents.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

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    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    Current work environment is 70/30 women. It can get rather interesting and is very cliquish. I replaced a male program manager and two men and one woman report to me. The men have no issue with me because I am competent and understand what they do. The woman is a whole other situation.

    My former workplace was 90/10 women. It was not awesome.

    The state agency I worked at was about 55/45 tilted towards women, but it was a very professionally run organization from top to bottom and there was an equal distribution of men and women in all roles which likely helped create that environment.

    Too much of any one thing is never a good thing.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  14. #14
    Cyburbian HomerJ's avatar
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    I've worked in both male and female skewed office settings, and agree a good balance is most important. I've found that it's hard to get issues taken seriously in the mostly male setting, and that I was always walking on eggshells in the mostly female setting. Far more frustrating to me is how age can affect office politics. I always hear the line that I should be happy I have a baby face and look very young (also, I grow out a pretty uneven beard so it's not a great alternative). In a lot of settings, there's plenty of other young faces so it's no big deal and what I say is often taken seriously in the right context. But within one of our older divisions, for example where I might be dealing with a room full of engineers and PMs 20 years older than me, forget it. In one of my previous settings almost everyone was significantly older than me and, no matter how nice or personable they were, it could be a pretty miserable experience at times.
    Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

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