Over nearly fifteen years, since deciding to specialise in helping people to become more influential, one of the most frequent questions I’ve been asked on the conference stage and in the conversations following a presentation is…
“How do men and women differ when it comes to influence?”
To be honest, this is usually asked by women. Women seem to be very curious about this topic and my research over the last few years has revealed why they ask this, and what the differences actually are.
The Differences Between Men and Women
Of course there are always exceptions but much of the data I have accumulated demonstrates striking differences in:
- Influencing Styles.
- Perceptions of Power.
- Use (and Abuse) of Power.
- Influencing Tactics.
Exploring How Women and Men Influence
In 2014, at the request of a very close (female) friend, I embarked on a more detailed exploration of these differences. This led to a series of articles, and also an extensive anthology. Not only was I able to detail exactly what the differences are, but also why, and more importantly, what can women do to improve their position.
As a man, this was an interesting task, and to avoid falling into any traps, I engaged extensively with my network of professional women to bounce the ideas around and arrive at some concrete conclusions that can help women to improve their success.
Below you will find the key articles, and also a link to download the full anthology. Before that, here is a summary of the key findings.
Women and Influence Key Messages
At the conclusion of my research, I’d like to share some personal views that have evolved through my writing, researching, talking and thinking on this topic.
They are my honest views and, as with the other articles produced this series, some of these views may be a little provocative. My primary aim is to stimulate and challenge your thinking and, ultimately, to enable you to develop your skills to become a more influential woman.
- Women have a much greater contribution to make to the world of work — and that world needs their greater contribution.
- It seems to me that many women take things too personally. Several people I’ve spoken to cite a key gender difference as being the early experience of team sports. Men are conditioned to work for the team win and, in the process, make fun of their team mates. It’s part of the game. Perhaps this lies behind the theme that some women take feedback and criticism as personal attacks. This damages confidence and creates a reluctance to engage in the same manner as men. The inspirational examples set recently in international sports (such as women’s cricket) clearly demonstrate what is possible.
- Generally, women are under-confident and men are over-confident. Confidence is such a vital component in influence that this automatically places women at a major disadvantage. There is no relationship between confidence and competence. When competence, experience and capability are equal, men will out-perform purely on the basis of their greater confidence. Is this related to the previous point? For women, are the stakes higher because they take things personally?
- People in minority positions are highly likely to reinforce their marginal status. Their self-perception of their marginal status can become even more real as they seek comfort from others in the same position. While this is natural and wholly understandable it is also, with care, avoidable. You cannot always remove the cause of your marginality, but you can act to reduce its prominence as covered in several of the earlier articles in this series.
- Related to this is a general human tendency to create problems which don’t exist or to exacerbate small challenges into major problems. Of course I cannot ignore the fact that many women face extremely difficult situations at work. However, stay alert to the possibility of blowing things out of proportion. We all have the inbuilt capability to create the circumstances which realise the beliefs we hold.
- Stepping up the controversy, I’d like to share a commonly cited reason why women are under-represented in senior roles, and one I’ve heard many times over the last few months. Women are under-represented because they have more opportunity to opt-out when the going gets tough (certainly in western cultures). It seems far more socially acceptable for a woman to restrict their career climb or opt out entirely, to spend more time with the family. If a man exits for that reason it is usually met with knowing smiles by their former colleagues. To what extent does the glass ceiling exist because it is convenient? There are plenty of examples of women who have adopted a positive approach and succeeded by developing the necessary influencing skills.
- Adopting a positive attitude is a choice. You can develop your skills to make this a choice. History is full of successful and powerful women who have overcome the cultural norms of their time to achieve great things.
My final point also serves as a fitting conclusion to this series of articles, and a heart-felt appeal. Know yourself and be yourself. As a woman you have tremendous advantages that the majority of men struggle to match. Natural sensitivity, intuition and empathy have great potential value in so many organisations. Celebrating these strengths and then positively engaging in the environment you are seeking success within can yield massive progress for you. Sure, at times you need to flex and be more assertive however, by nature women seem to be far more able to flex their behaviour than men.
Since you’ve read this far, I’d like to thank you for your patience and tolerance. I hope I’ve provoked plenty of thoughts and, whether or not you have agreed with what I’ve had to say, I hope you are ending this series of articles as a more positive and influential woman.
Below you will find the key articles in this series, plus a link to download a full PDF version of the anthology, Positive Influence for Women.
Key Article List
- Networking and Women
- Influencing Styles and Women
- Your Performance as an Influencer
- Gender is Not the Problem
- Personal Power and Gender
- Boosting Self-Confidence
- Women, Men and Personal Power
- Women and Bullying
- Getting Fair Recognition
- Developing a Positive Mindset
- Behaving Like a Man
- Competition and Collaboration
- Women and Organisational Politics
- Bullying: Prevention and Cure?
- From Minority to Majority
- Body Language: Fit for Purpose?
- Making an Impression
- Making Changes, Making Progress
To access all of these resources about women and influence, and learn how to develop your skills of influence, subscribe to the Influence Blog (or confirm your subscription) using the link below.
Once you are subscribed, you will also be able to download a complimentary (full) copy of the eBook, Positive Influence and Women which contains all of the articles (over 80) in one easy to access PDF.