More than 300 women and men today gathered at the DoubleTree by Hilton Somerset Hotel and Conference Center for the New Jersey Business & Industry Association’s (NJBIA’s) third annual Women Business Leaders Forum, titled “Unlocking the C-Suite.” It was an event focused on helping women and men advance in business, and NJBIA’s President and CEO Michele Siekerka told the audience, “This is a day of energy and momentum. I want to ask you all for a moment to close your eyes and look up … use your imagination. You see that glass ceiling. What we do today is all about continuing to shatter that glass ceiling.”
This is part one of a four-part series examining the forum, with additional articles to be published tomorrow, Monday and Tuesday.
Sally Glick, principal and chief growth strategist at Sobel & Co., LLC, provided the morning keynote, which explored documented communication style differences between men and women. She weaved that data together with wage differences between men and women in the workforce, stating, for example, that “women employed full-time, year-round, in the United States, are paid 80 cents for every dollar, based on men’s salaries.”
Exploring the matter more deeply, she said that preschoolers of different genders exhibit different behaviors, adding, “We can conclude that what we see as innocent playground activities can have a serious and potentially negative consequences in the work environment, because current data indicates that those who have been encouraged to take risks, will likely be recognized later for their leadership skills, much more than those who avoid risk taking. So, keep that in mind when we talk about advantages or disadvantages that come from childhood activities.”
Glick noted that these “patterns grow stronger as we grow older.”
She referenced a Psychology Today article, which detailed that – on average – women use 250 words per minute, while men use roughly half (125 words).
She told the audience, “Women can practice talking less, and saying more.”
Glick said, “Grammarians recognize gender-specific speech differences, and their studies repeatedly indicate that male speech patterns are typically seen as forceful, efficient and authoritative – everything you want in a leader, and a good communicator. Women’s speech patterns are often viewed as polite, hesitant and sometimes even apologetic.”
She said that, overall, people should “be aware,” “sensitive” and “educated about the differences in gender styles.” Glick said that “… gender inequality stubbornly persists in the modern workplace, under very different communication and leadership styles exhibited by men and women, rather than on other key performer indicators, such competence, experience, knowledge and skills. Tracing these differences back to our earliest childhood helps us understand why – and we have to know what those differences are.”
Overall, she said, “Without surrendering our personal brand and our core values, we do need to be aware of our verbal messaging, and, equally, our non-verbal cues. How we communicate is judged as a key indicator of how we inspire and motivate others. So, both men and women need to embrace the suggestions that can help them be more effective communicators and leaders.”
She said, “Both genders need to make significant changes. We need to put that effort to take the lead, from talking about the unfairness of it all – even if it is unfair – to working together to do something to close the gaps that our gender-specific communication styles and attitudes have perpetuated. We can address this challenge by building awareness, and at conferences like this, by: being honest and transparent about the obstacles; by being more flexible; by acknowledging the differences in styles, which each have distinctive benefits depending on the situation; and ultimately by concluding that there is no specific way that is best for an approach that draws on good communication characteristics and leadership traits from both genders, and that’s what makes the most sense.
“We can urge sensitivity to each other’s experiences and situations, as well as nurturing sincere mutual regard. This, in turn, will help us to build rapport, and honest relationships that increase productivity, profitability and overall success in the work environment.”
Quoting Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Glick concluded, “Instead of ignoring our differences, we need to accept – and transcend them – and that would be my message to us all.”