What Men Have to Say
The annual Northbay biz “Women in Business” issue celebrates women in the workforce. Traditionally, we’ve devoted pages in this issue for women to speak out about what it’s like to navigate the business world. The feedback from readers was so positive and powerful that we continued to survey women, year after year. Let me add that 57 percent of our readers are men.
There’s a lot of noise about equality in the workplace. And yes, women have made great strides in the modern world. Some women will tell you that being a female never presented an obstacle in their profession, but others tell a different side. Their stories are shared within the pages of this magazine.
Over the years, I’ve seen first-hand the realities of being a woman in the workplace. My mother returned to her job as a bank teller when I was 6 years old. She started working Saturdays, but returned full time within a year and worked her way up the ladder to the position of loan officer, despite the lack of a college degree. She was an anomaly in the neighborhood where I grew up in the ’70s. Most of the other moms were home making pitchers of lemonade and cookies, while supervising a posse of unruly children in the backyard playing kickball. My mom, on the other hand, left for work at 7:30 a.m., leaving my brother and I to get to school on our own.
It wasn’t always so great being a latchkey kid, but I took a certain pride watching my mom go off to work. She always looked polished in her matching skirt-jacket combos, uniforms issued by the bank where she worked. She was paid a third of what her male counterparts were earning, so perhaps to even the score, she was provided a selection of uniforms, while her male colleagues wore suits and ties they purchased themselves. Though I didn’t think it was unusual at the time, it underscores the wide gap between the way women and men were then treated.
In the evening, my father returned home first since he had a shorter commute. He’d walk in the door and rally my brother and me to straighten up the house and set the table for dinner before she returned. Looking back, my father was progressive and forward thinking, compared to most dads I knew. He was the primary wage earner, but he shared household responsibilities. Growing up, I often heard him say. “Well, your mom works full time. We have to work as a team.” He encouraged me to get an education and build a career. Ironically, I took time off from the professional world to raise two sons before returning, but the complexities and nuances of being a woman in the workplace are something I’ve considered and faced most of my life.
Times have changed. Today, nearly 47 percent of U.S. workers are women, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. And more than half of the management occupations in the U.S. are held by women, but in S&P 500 Companies, women are less represented the higher up they go. Here a few stats from a report by Catalyst: 4.8 percent are CEOs; 11 percent are top earners; and 21.2 percent are in board seats.
Clearly, the numbers show improvement as women continue to blaze a trail for the next generation. Meanwhile, the women’s marches, #MeToo and #TimesUp movements are a galvanizing force that have set the tone for the times, which I suspect is bewildering to navigate for most men. Case in point: when the survey was sent to a selection of male readers, several contacted me personally, reluctant to participate. These men support equality and wanted to participate, but the times being what they are, they were unanimously concerned that their thoughts might be misconstrued. That’s the reality of men and women in the workplace today. I can’t say that I blame them. If I were a man, would I complete the survey?
It’s a question we pondered at NorthBay biz, as we began production for the April issue. We wondered if any men would respond, and then completed surveys slowly trickled in. One morning, a businessman called to discuss the matter, debating whether to respond. He was especially candid about some of the issues still out there about men and women working together. Though he chose to pass on participating, he ended our conversation with this: “The questions need to be asked.” Indeed, they do.
We asked these North Bay business leaders to answer one or more of the following questions:
1. Do you believe women are inherently different than men in their approach to business? Why or why not?
2. What unique qualities do you believe women bring to the business world? And how does business benefit from those qualities?
3. If you had one piece of advice to share with other men when it comes to working with women, what would it be?
Inherent Differences. I don’t believe that on a global level their approach is any more different than that of men.
Unique Qualities. I feel that women have less ego issues than men, and they collaborate better most of the time. I also believe women are more sensitive to their surroundings/situations and can provide more insights that men often miss.
Advice to Men. Listen well and hear what women have to say.
Matthew Bernd, D. C.
Inherent Differences. I don’t see a big difference with men or women with regards to business. Everyone should be [treated] equally. And equally, I’ve seen different qualities in both men and women—both good and bad.
Unique Qualities. In my business, women tend to be more detail-oriented, thus more adept and efficient in running the books, medical bill, etc. We simply couldn’t survive without these qualities being met.
Advice to Men. There is no place for male hierarchy. Women bring as much to the table, if not more, with regards to the success of a business.
Inherent differences. Yes absolutely, I am so fortunate to work with many great ladies in our company and they tend to have the extra touch to make things perfect at the end of a project to make sure the finished product or project is done 100 percent to perfection.
Unique qualities. Women bring a sense of calm to the office. They’re organized and disciplined to get things done. And how does business benefit from those qualities? Our business benefits by having efficiency, organized files , and deadlines being completed on time. All of this saves our business money and time. I just so appreciate the women in our office and in our tasting room. They are the face of the winery and wine club, and the first ones you meet.
Advice to Men. Treat all with the same respect and appreciation daily. Remember, the workplace is everyone`s island away from home. Showing respect and appreciation for all goes a long way in keeping a great staff for the long term.
Freeman Vineyard & Winery
Inherent Differences. Yes, women are far more thoughtful and deliberate in the decision-making process. I tend to react quickly and [my wife,] Akiko takes her time to make a decision.
Unique Qualities. I have also found women bring a more realistic approach to business than many men who are dreamers and overly enthusiastic. Women are also better executors, and get the detailed jobs done correctly.
Advice to Men. My wife is a lot smarter than I am. Always listen and ensure that you have their buy-in before making major decisions.
Leap Solutions Group Inc.
Inherent Differences. As a man who has nine employees, all of whom are women, I always say that women are smarter than men! Okay, so maybe not always true, but as to their approach to business, women often bring a different perspective to the table, which in the end brings up thoughts and ideas which men sometimes just don't think about, thus providing a better overall product or process.
Unique Qualities. Qualities come in many different forms. One of the things that I appreciate about the women in our business is their thoughtful approach, their care for the people they work with or support, and their ability to come from a place of sincerity, even when they have to deliver difficult messages. Businesses benefit from different thinking. If two heads are better than one, then two heads of the opposite sex has to be three times as good.
Advice to Men. Listen more, talk less, ask questions, then have a deeper discussion to get to the best outcome possible. When only men (or only women) make decisions in a vacuum, it doesn't always go well and there’s always clean up to do!
Mauritson Family Winery
Unique Qualities. I will simply say that I have the pleasure of working with an incredibly talented group of women here at the winery, and the winery would not be what it is today without them. They all bring their unique skills to work every day, but share the unique traits of empathy and compassion that I do not see as often in their male counterparts. I think it’s a pretty fare statement that the world would be better place if we were all more empathetic and compassionate to one another!
KLH Consulting, Inc.
Unique Qualities. Often women possess an intuitive understanding of business issues, especially those dealing with people. Much of business involves relationships and interactions with people on many levels. The ability to build strong relationships is very valuable.
Advice to Men. Listen and be open to problem solving approaches or solutions that might not have occurred to you. Good communication and understanding will yield the best possible outcomes when all parties participate.
President & CEO
Inherent differences. Women are inherently different in their approach. They apply a different perspective and different intuitiveness than men. I'm not suggesting one approach is superior to the other. What is critical is enjoying a balance of both. From my experience, all things being equal (i.e. skill sets, experience, passion, etc.), women have the capacity to prevent ego from complicating sound decision-making.
Advice to Men. Take the time to understand and fully appreciate the intangibles of that different set of perspective and intuitiveness that women have, and leverage those strengths.
President & Founder
Chandi Hospitality Group
Unique qualities. Women are well-composed, committed, thoughtful and good multi-taskers. My wife is truly the better half of me because of these qualities. Committed to our business, the women in our family have been a major component of our success.
Advice to Men. Embrace their success. My experience is that women are as dynamic (or even more so) than men. We should accept that and work towards changing the data for the future, so women are taking on more roles, leading organizations of different sizes so they [are paid equal or greater salaries] in accordance to their performance, not gender.
Summit State Bank
Inherent differences. Women are not inherently different in their approach to business in my world. They generally have the same background and training in education and work experience. I do believe that women, in general, have had to overcome some lingering perceptions by some that they have a different skill set, but that has been fading, especially in Sonoma County. Management needs to constantly evaluate its decisions to be sure all staff is treated equally, not just superficially, but in reality.
Unique qualities. Everyone has different qualities, and a diverse team approach to business strategy and implementation will more likely yield better results. Sometimes gender can make a difference in anticipating general response to products and services, and a woman’s perspective is indispensable in these circumstances. Women are said to be better at character assessment, and I certainly try to include different opinions when in theses situations.
Advice to Men. That’s easy. Treat [women] with the same respect and attitude as anyone else. Men need to be aware that this cuts both ways. You don’t have to be extra nice to someone because she’s a woman. Treat them the same, and they’ll respect that. Give a woman the same amount of room for judgment and error as a man. Hear them out and assess their performance the same. Doing so will create a formula for success in your business.
President & CEO
Napa Chamber of Commerce
Inherent Differences. Fifteen wonderful years of marriage has made one thing positively clear—men and women are extremely inherently different. However, when it comes to business accomplishment, success and leadership, you’ll always find several key common traits and characteristics.
Unique qualities. My wife has worked as an executive in a male-dominated finance industry for more than 25 years. Her company—and our family—benefit each and every day from her commitment, intelligence and ambition. She also does it with a much better sense of life balance than I could ever manage. So add compassion to that list as well.
Men & Women Working Together: Let’s Keep the Conversation Going
In our politically-correct workplaces, discussing male-female differences can be so taboo that the topic is often avoided altogether. With that in mind, a special thanks to the men who participated in this survey, and to those who took the time to reach out and explain why they were reluctant to do so.
As we pulled the Women in Business issue together, it inspired discussions here and underscored the need for open and frank dialogue. Let’s keep the conversation going. We have the power to flip the script and create the new norm for workplace culture and men and women working together.
I hope you’ll write in and share your thoughts and stories at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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