6 Gender Differences Between Men and Women in the Work Environment

Do you ever wonder what the opposite sex is thinking?  Does your colleague, partner or boss baffle you?  I want to teach you 6 fascinating gender differences:

  • Why women remember everything
  • Women feel, while men use logic
  • Why equal is not the same!

I want to teach you 6 fascinating facts about gender intelligence based on the latest groundbreaking science.

Why women remember everything:

  • Women have a larger hippocampus.  This is where we store memories.  This is why women can recall Every. Single. Word. of an argument from 5 years ago.

Women feel, while men use logic:

  • Men take a more fact-based approach to their environment, often scanning for threats and challenges
  • Women tend to take a more intuitive approach because they perceive people and events more deeply and with greater memory capacity

We problem solve differently:

  • Men define and clarify the problem and begin by eliminating and isolating issues
  • Women often will define the problem in broader terms and examine a wider array of potential factors before going into solution mode
  • This is why women want to talk out problems and men want to dive right into solving them

Men and women in conflict:

  • Men tend to depersonalize and externalize issues or problems, giving them time to think through solutions, often in solitude
  • Women tend to personalize and are more inclined to talk through the issue to reach understanding
  • Men’s brains gravitate toward facts and logic, while women’s brains are geared toward intuition and emotions

This is why women tend to want to talk after a hard day, while men want to process in solitude.  Women want to talk it out, process and explore.

“Women will tend to want to interact with colleagues after a stressful meeting or interact with family, friends, and relatives at the end of a busy day.  These activities help women produce oxytocin, increase relaxation, and relieve stress, which in itself produces even more oxytocin, a critical stress-reducing hormone.”  (Annis & Nesbitt)
Men want to give their brain time to explore, unwind, and decide what to do next.
“After a long stressful meeting or at the end of a busy day, men tend to want to shut down and drift off–close off the world for a little while.  Men tend to retreat and seek solitude or engage in some low-involvement activity, such as watching the news or sports, or working on a small project.  It’s a natural tendency in a man to “turn off” to replenish testosterone, and that releases his stress, relaxes, and re-energizes him.”(Annis & Nesbitt)
Neither of these approaches is right or wrong, but it is important to acknowledge, that they are different.

Different is good!  It’s why we want to have both men and women on teams, to leverage each other’s strengths.  The following facts will blow your mind, and hopefully explain some of the behavior of the opposite sex.

Special Note: The facts below are tendencies – not rules.  There are always exceptions to findings, but these tendencies do help us understand how the two genders tend to think, behave and act.

Fascinating Fact #1: Details, Details, Details

Have you ever noticed that men and women typically share and present differently in meetings?  This might have to do with the prefrontal cortex, which is the decision center of the brain that controls social behavior, judgement, and consequential thinking.

Some interesting differences between men and women:

  • Women develop their PFC at a younger age, which is why they take fewer risks as teenagers than males of the same age
  • Women have a larger PFC and men have a larger amygdala, which means men have more processing power for threats, and women have more processing power for details

Women often will include more details in their decision making, and they’ll verbalize those details during meetings or in conversations.  This often is misinterpreted by male peers to mean that women’s deliberations take more time, when they actually do not.

We can use this knowledge to help us be more productive and efficient. Here’s how:

  • In meetings and brainstorming sessions, leverage women’s ability to think through details.  Save time for them to verbalize and explain their rationale.
  • Men are great in a crisis.  They constantly are scanning for potential threats and then solutions.  Bring them in when you need them most.

Fascinating Fact #2: Worry Warts

Do you know a woman who worries…a lot?  Don’t blame her!  It’s just her brain.  This all comes down to the worry center of the brain.

Anterior Cortex is where people process emotions, arrange memories, and ruminate.  Also known as the ‘worrywart’ center of the brain.

Some interesting differences between men and women:

  • Women have a larger anterior cortex, which means they spend more time ruminating, trying to process emotions and, well, worrying
  • Women have higher rates of anxiety than men.  Researchers think this might come down to the highly sensitized female anterior cortex.

In meetings, women are far more likely than men to read facial expressions of people around them, take the emotional temperature of the room, and be sensitive to people around them.  This can benefit them–they might notice more, or hinder them–they might notice too much.

A woman’s anterior cortex can give her great awareness and insight, but also bog down her decisions and distract from effectiveness.  A woman’s heightened sensitivity can be a gift and a curse.

  • To women who worry: Be patient with yourself, use it as a gift
  • To men around worrying women: Be patient with them and find a way to leverage it

Fascinating Fact #3: Webs vs. Lines

The brain is divided into 2 hemispheres: the right brain which uses more creative and intuitive thought, and the left brain, which is for linear and logical thinking. They are connected by something called Corpus Callosum.  A thick bundle of nerves connecting the right and left sides of the brain.

Some interesting differences between men and women:

  • Women’s corpus callosum is 25% larger than men’s.  This means women tend to bounce back and forth between feelings and facts very easily.
  • Men like to think in steps, processing one fact at a time.  In other words, men think in straight lines, whereas women think in webs, constantly connecting ideas.

Men’s linear thinking is not better or worse than women’s web-like thinking, but it is extremely helpful.  We should leverage a man’s smaller corpus callosum and a woman’s larger one.

Do you need to get focused on a project or get working on a deadline?  Leverage a man’s corpus callosum.  Do you need to think “big picture” and think through potential eventualities?  Leverage a woman’s corpus callosum.

  • Men are exceptionally good at focusing, getting rid of extraneous data, and pushing full steam ahead
  • Women are incredibly good at holistic thinking, contextualizing ideas, drawing new connections and identifying new factors

Fascinating Fact #4: Success and Failure

Testosterone is the principle male sex hormone.  Men have way more of it than women, but women have testosterone too!  In fact, the way testosterone acts in the body points to some interesting gender differences.

Some interesting differences between men and women:

  • Men produce 20 to 30 times more testosterone than women
  • Men need to replenish their testosterone levels to feel successful
  • Although women and men both have testosterone, it is processed differently when responding to stress

When men feel successful, they have lots of testosterone.  When they experience a setback, they lose testosterone.  This means they need time to replenish their stores after a loss or failure.

“Normal levels of testosterone are linked to feelings of success in men.  When men face difficulty or failure, their testosterone levels will begin to drop and they’ll experience lowered spirits or even feel depressed until their levels are replenished.” (Annis & Nesbitt)
This is why men tend to need space after a long, hard day.  Unlike women, they often do not immediately seek out social support or need to verbalize their thoughts.
“This dynamic also defines some of the reason why men will often ignore a difficult problem.  Avoiding the issue or shutting down gives them time to think through the issue, oftentimes in solitude.  This allows men to recoup and replenish their testosterone levels and gain the mental strength and drive to tackle the issue.” (Annis & Nesbitt)
Women might misinterpret a man’s ‘shutting down’ as avoidance or standoffishness, but actually they are getting their chemistry right so they can process the issue.

  • Men need to give themselves time to rebound
  • Women need to be patient with men who need time to process

Fascinating Fact #5: Effectiveness

Oxytocin is the chemical that helps us feel social attachment.  It is incredibly important for our social interactions.  Both men and women produce it and need it to connect.  A lot of oxytocin means there is more trust and rapport between people.

Some interesting differences between men and women:

  • In both men and women, oxytocin reduces blood pressure and feelings of fear
  • In women, oxytocin can increase during a relaxing conversation and decrease in response to feeling ignored or abandoned
  • Men also need oxytocin to reduce their stress level.  HOWEVER, too much oxytocin in men actually reduces their testosterone level and then increases their stress!

Men need a balance of oxytocin.  If they have had a stressful conversation, they often seek solitude or time alone to replenish and regroup.

Don’t force a man to ‘talk it out’ if he is not ready.  On the other hand, men can help a woman who is feeling stressed by talking her through the difficulty and letting her process her emotions.

Fascinating Fact #6: Stress Response

As humans, we produce cortisol when we are stressed–this is natural and good for us.  It helps stabilize glucose levels and regulates metabolism and blood pressure.  But too much cortisol for too long is bad for the body.  In fact, too much cortisol can slow down cognitive performance and make it difficult to think clearly.

Some interesting differences between men and women:

  • Studies have shown that women’s cortisol levels are two times higher than men’s at work
  • Women’s cortisol levels are four times higher than men’s at home!
  • When women are not able to process or collaborate with others, they do not produce enough oxytocin.  This makes it difficult for them to recover from stress.

Women get into bad stress cycles where they cannot recover.

“Oxytocin-producing activities in women work to lower cortisol levels and reduce stress. But when women aren’t able to collaborate at work, or there’s not enough time to attend to personal life events and needs, their stress and anxiety will increase beyond their ability to relax and collect themselves. That increase in stress is brought on by the rush of cortisol that stimulates the production of testosterone in women’s systems and inhibits their ability to produce oxytocin, thereby perpetuating the stress cycle.” (Annis & Nesbitt)
Women recover differently from men, but both genders need time to recoup after a cortisol-inducing event.  Men need time to help them process.  Women need someone to help them process.
“Elevated cortisol levels can have a draining effect on men as well, depleting their testosterone levels and increasing their blood pressure, anxiety, irritability and fatigue.  It can also cause weight gain in men.”(Annis & Nesbitt)

The Bottom Line…

The reason I wrote this article is to help you feel better about our differences.  They are good!  We want to have different strengths and weaknesses on a team, in a partnership, and in a friendship.  They also help us understand and predict the behaviour in our fellow human beings.

Just remember, we are wired differently and that’s GOOD!

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