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three coworkers
Mar 26, 2018

Two Actions That Will Help You Treat Your Female Coworkers as Equal

When I was young and starting out in the corporate sector, the landscape was extremely sexist. I was given menial tasks instead of what I was hired for. The image of the woman being asked to get the coffee might seem cliché, but it’s a scenario I experienced often. This changed completely when I started working for a woman who was the head of a marketing department...

Thank goodness, the last 20 years have seen some advances in the way women are treated at work. But I venture to say that treating women as equal at work is still a problem for certain sectors. I recently had a brush with the belittling way some men have of putting women down, of using their power to let you know in underlying tones without ever saying it that your job is on the line when you don't do what they ask.

Not all men are guilty of this. And some are simply unaware of how a certain tone could be demeaning, or of how what they are doing could be undermining a female coworker. But that does not make this matter less serious.

Those entering the workforce today are of a generation who will not take antiquated notions of gender roles lightly. If they do not feel respected and treated as an equal, they will find another place to work, taking their skills and talents with them. And studies have pointed out that teams, corporations, and organizations need diversity in sex, race, and age for better decisions being made at a work and for success in today’s marketplace.

The Scientific American reported:

--female representation in top management leads to an increase of $42 million in firm value.

--for innovation-focused banks, increases in racial diversity were clearly related to enhanced financial performance.

--researchers found that companies with one or more women on the board delivered higher average returns on equity, lower gearing (that is, net debt to equity) and better average growth.

We all likely want the gains that a diverse workforce will bring. But how to do that? It starts with respect. I have two pieces of insight to share with men and women who want to know how to show respect to the opposite gender at work.

 Ask your female coworkers for input and then truly listen.

This does not happen often enough. Ask for our input. Input equals respect and value. Learn to ask us for what we are thinking. And then don't immediately dismiss it.

Some women can be long-winded and could stand to be concise. But, in fact, no matter the gender, we can all learn to be brief. My advice for hearing another out? Use patience as a tactic for uncovering the invaluable insight your coworkers might have to share. You do this by being still and giving your full attention to the other. Not only will you receive a diverse source of input, but you will be contributing toward a safer work environment where your coworkers feel appreciated and respected. And all you did was stand still and give your undivided attention.

The pathway to a better relationship will be opened by these two actions. (1) Asking for input and (2) listening.

Often the reason men don't do these two things is that they don't have an example of that in their lives. Most men don’t have five sisters who can teach them how to do this during their formative years. But it’s never too late to start.  

The reward for learning to ask for input and then listening for all you are worth is huge—no matter the gender. It might seem like it costs time, but the value the coworker will receive comes back in spades through that co-worker who will become your biggest advocate at work.

For women who want more respect at work…

Women need to ditch their grudges. What I mean by this is, every day you need to come to work without the grudges you accumulated from the day before. It’s a weighty accessory and does nothing to enhance your professional appearance.

If you are in a relationship with a man or have had past relationships where you have been treated disrespectfully, don’t bring that with you into the workplace. Don't punish your male coworkers for the sins of the past men in your life. Or the sins of the men you see in the news. Not every man has sexual motives or is out to get you.

In short, don't take the habits that you have within your home life into the workplace.

To close, when I look at the work I have done with my team, I believe diversity is the necessary stimuli that sparks creativity. This takes each of us learning how to treat each other with kindness and respect. And it all starts by asking for input and listening.