How women can use differences to their advantage at work

CREW San Diego will host a special 30th anniversary Leadership Evening Event on Nov. 21 at the University of San Diego. Bestselling author Shaunti Feldhahn will be the featured speaker, discussing the differences between men and women in the workplace, how to have productive working relationships and overcome obstacles you may not even know existed. I recently chatted with Feldhahn.

CC: In your book, “The Male Factor: The Unwritten Rules, Misperceptions and Secret Beliefs of Men in the Workplace,” your study of thousands of professional men reveals that there are distinct differences between men and women in the workplace. In an era where women are striving for equality, how do women typically react to learning there truly are differences?

SF: Actually, I’ve been surprised to see that most women are completely on board with talking about the differences — and realizing that “different” does not mean “unequal.” Now that we’re past the era of feeling like we have to wear shoulder pads and pinstriped suits, it is great that we can embrace our differences and women don’t feel that they have to try to change to “be like a man.” The differences between us include many strengths we have as women, and present great opportunities for us.

CC: What do you hope women will achieve by learning about gender differences in the workplace?

SF: The goal is that both men and women will be able to recognize and eliminate the obstacles for women that we may not have known were there — and that we will maximize the opportunities for mutual respect, influence and effectiveness.

CC: Commercial real estate and its related industries are, for the most part, male dominated. How can women use being in the minority to their advantage?

SF: It is so important to know the unspoken, often subconscious perceptions and expectations that tend to be common to most men. It is like working in another country in some ways, another culture. Once you are aware of those unwritten perceptions you can be far more influential and effective. In my research with thousands of men over the years I’ve found that most men see the strengths of women. So if we know how to avoid some of the troublesome perceptions and maximize the positive ones, we have some great opportunities before us.

CC: According to your research, most men want women to succeed in the workplace. What is your advice for women who have to work with a man in the minority, i.e., someone who doesn’t view women in the workforce positively?

SF: First, although I have run across those men, I am grateful that they are very rare. For women who have to work with those men, I think it will depend on what position they hold. If such a man is your boss and seems 100 percent stuck in his biases — well, you might want to consider switching jobs! If such a man is a colleague or client, then I think you have a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate to him that his biases are inaccurate. But it may not be easy, so you have to decide whether you have the patience for such an endeavor! It may be far simpler to spend your time and energy in working with the 99.9 percent of men who do have goodwill toward women in the workplace.

CC: You have interviewed thousands of men. What one difference between men and women in the workplace surprised you the most?

SF: Probably that men look so confident and like they have these big egos, but on the inside have so much self-doubt. They have this unseen vulnerability about whether they are doing a good job, whether they know what they are doing, whether someone is going to find out that they feel like an imposter. As one man put it, “that insecurity is running through my veins.” We women certainly have insecurities of our own, but that doesn’t tend to be one of them! And it was fascinating to see how much that insecurity created a hidden sensitivity in the men that can cause serious problems for us if we’re not aware of it — but also created a great opportunity to build mutual respect with someone who they felt appreciated and respected them.

For more information about Feldhahn’s CREW San Diego presentation and to register for the event, visit

Warren is president of TW2 Marketing, Inc. and provides public relations services to CREW San Diego.

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