What Women See, and Why It's Important

Women see the world through a distinctive lens and can use their vision to their advantage. Author Sally Helgesen provides this posting's list of The Five Things Women Notice -- and What Organizations (and Men) Can Learn From Them.

1. Women take a robust scan of the emotional temperature in a room. Women employ their capacity for broad-scale notice in order to read what people in a meeting are feeling. Are they present and engaged, or do they feel isolated and awkward?

Example: One woman in our book was asked by her employer to “just notice what goes on in a meeting” She came back with vital observations about a key partnership in jeopardy. Her employer dismissed the information, saying that “by notice I meant notice if the numbers add up.”

2. Women employ multiple senses when summing up a situation.
Notice isn’t just about what we see—it derives from multisensory impressions.

Example: Details matter. An otherwise powerful conference will not make as positive impression if the sensory aspects of it are unpleasant. Sound, smell, temperature and feel affect our judgment and how we remember. Yet most organizations don’t know how to use sensory information.

3. Women notice if the daily experience of work is rewarding. This sounds like a no-brainer, but many organizations tend to emphasize abstractions when offering incentives and rewards rather than supporting an employee’s ability to enjoy the daily practice of work.

Example: In our survey on differences in how men and women perceive, define and pursue satisfaction in the workplace, we found that women are less likely to be motivated by what a job might lead to in the future if they also perceive that job as offering a low quality of life in the present.

4. Women notice when collegiality is not valued. Many companies have learned to speak the language of teamwork and collaboration, but their policies do nothing to support it.

Example: In most sales units, providing support to help a team member meet a goal is neither recognized nor rewarded. People are instead graded and ranked on their individual achievements.

5. Women notice when other women’s suggestions get overlooked in a meeting. They see it as a sign of disrespect to women in general.

Example: Jill offers an idea at a sales conference. No one responds. Ten minutes later, Jim makes the same suggestion, using different words. This happens all the time. Men who notice this have a great opportunity to show their support for women by speaking up: “Great idea, Jim! I see you’re building on what Jill suggested.”

What are your thoughts and responses?


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