With International Women's Day being celebrated across the world this Friday, I thought I'd reflect on a few lessons I've learnt the past three years, having gone from a work environment that was almost entirely male-dominated to one where men only make for a bit more than 20% of the staff (women even make up two-fifths of our tech team). I spend nearly ten hours a day literally surrounded by women as I'm the only man in my side of the office - so I would like to think that I learnt something all this time.
Here are three things I've picked up from the "other side" that I think all men in any workplace could benefit from:
1) Being self-aware: I think it goes without saying that men tend to overvalue their strengths compared to women (if you don't believe me, you should have a look at our annual self-review forms) and to resist introspection - research by Tony Schwartz on the Harvard Business Review blog confirms this. If one refuses to acknowledge areas of improvement at work, how can one make any progress as a professional? Women, unlike men, don't view it as weakness to assess themselves in order to improve. They've taught me that it doesn't make you any less of a "man" to recognise your weaknesses - in fact, it makes you stronger, personally and professionally.
2) Considering other points of view: Women are simply better listeners than men. It probably stems from the fact that traditionally, women are caregivers and are often more empathic than men. At the office, this translates into being able to aggregate different viewpoints, thus making the final product that much richer because of it. And given that they tend to show more empathy, they are therefore better at motivating others as they are able to pinpoint and activate people's passions - a key skill in order to become a successful manager (which makes the fact that only 20% of all senior management positions are held by women an outrage).
3) Being able to multi-task: Sorry, but this is a no-brainer, guys. Since ancient times, when men only had to go hunting whilst women had to take care of children, tend to the house, watch out for potential threats and all the other activities of daily living, the fairer sex have shown to be better at multi-tasking. How does this translate in the workplace? Whilst we men prefer to work on one project and see it through before moving onto the next, women can work on multiple deliverables at the same time. They are not working simultaneously on several tasks at once, they are just able to put one task on hold whilst they perform the other - and then come back to finish the original task. In a world where to-dos tend to come in from all different directions, this is an important skill.
So gents, learn from your female co-workers, it will only make you that much better as a professional, and a person.
In the meantime, make sure to support International Women's Day this Friday March 8th. You can do so by supporting Women for Women International here and here (100 percent of the profits will go to WfWI).