Gender Issues & Communication at Work Gender Essay

Excerpt from Essay :


Gender & Communication

As with a number of changes in business, such as "going green," diversity in the workplace was not initially or always welcomed. Eventually, as the times change, there are some organizational changes that must be made across industries simply to keep current with the trends in business practice. Diversity with respect to culture and gender is certainly a change that came with intense resistance. Around the world in the 21st century, there are still a number of industries, cultures, and countries that have rampant imbalances in the workplace with respect to the gender representation within specific organizations. This is to say that gender diversity as well as diversity in general, is not a simple or quick change to be made. Furthermore, as with many changes, whether the intentions are positive or not, organizational change, even expanded diversity, comes with potential positives and negatives. Diversity is an organizational change and arguably an organizational trend or norm that originally came from a place of increasing profits and not evening the odds for all people in the professional landscape.

Organizations often adopt diversity practices as a way to maximize profitability and overall reputation in the field. The practice of an organizational to adopt diversity is not often about the people who will be affected, but about the general success of the organization. It is valid that a diverse workplace provides a competitive advantage.

…diversity has its roots in "good business." Diversity is framed as a "resource to be managed" (Thomas, 1992), not for social or moral reasons but for competitive advantage. Diversity management is viewed as a strategy similar to a change in accounting practices; it is used to gain a competitive edge and make a profit. The need to manage diversity is promoted for four business reasons: (a) to keep and gain market share, (b) to reduce costs, (c) to increase productivity, and (d) to improve the quality of management in organizations…Although it emerged for seemingly all the right reasons, the institutionalization of managing diversity threatens to position individuals and structure work relations in potentially alarming ways. (Kirby & Harter, 2001,-Page 122)

Therefore, diversity as an organizational asset holds relatively true. If management does not make the transition or the reasoning behind a diverse workplace clear, resentment and other negative repercussions often result.

More so now in the 21st century than perhaps in prior centuries, diversifying the workplace environment in terms of gender is no longer an option, but really more like a necessity. In the world and time of peer review, the consumer has a great deal more influence over a company's reputation and overall success than in previous year, in great part because of the Internet. If consumers or employees (current or former) report homogeneity and severe lack of diversity, not only will the company suffer internally from lack of perspectives and ideas, the company will additionally suffer because that kind of environment does not often sit well with the average, modern consumer.

To prosper, let alone survive, organizations must excel at both planning and execution; they must be nimble, visionary and get maximum benefit from their resources ± all of their resources, including human resources and including women. By failing to maximize the potential of their female employees, organizations lose in two ways. First, they do not fully benefit from the unique talent and perspective that women can impart. The difference in men's versus women's leadership styles is seen as particularly important in light of the trends toward flatter organizations, team-based management and increased globalization (Oakley, 2000; Adler, 1993; Rosener, 1995). Secondly, organizations get a poor return on their investment by driving out those that they have spent time and money training. (Applebaum et al., 2003,-Page 43)

21st century consumers know more about the companies they support and do not, and know what definitively why. Consumers know more, or at least have access to a great deal more, about the means of production and distribution of the products they consume or not. Meaning, for example, a company that only employs men, even if providing services or products for men only, would not sit well with consumers and the message would get out about this practice combined with the emotional reactions of dissatisfied customers. Including gender diversity at the workplace may prove to streamline and improve communication at work in ways not previously possible in less diverse environments.

At this point in human history, diversity is likely to be much more than a trend. Diversity will quite likely become the norm. Homogenous workforces will not be able to keep up to organizations with heterogeneous workforces. There are too many perspectives, ideas, and innovations that will never occur with a workforce of people who are all relatively the same. Particularly in the 21st century, where the professional landscape and increasing amounts of organizations operate on the local, national, and global levels. In order to reach greater consumers and investors, the workforce of an organization often reflects the kinds of customer and investor demographics that the company desires. In this respect, many organization, those who are quite profitable and often on the cutting edge of the industry, follow Ghandi's famous words, "Be the change you seek."

Groups in organizations have become increasingly diverse over the years and will continue to become more diverse in years to come…Organizations have become more diverse in terms of demographic differences between people (e.g., in terms of gender, age, and ethnicity). Moreover, organizations are increasingly adopting work group compositions that incorporate differences in functional or educational background, such as in cross-functional project teams; mergers, acquisitions, and joint ventures also introduce diversity into work groups…work group diversity may have positive as well as negative effects on group performance… (van Knippenberg, 2007,-Page 516)

Diversity can be great for an organization and work very well -- even in the best interests of the company. On the other hand, as the quotation above implies, if implemented hastily or otherwise ineffectively, bringing together diverse people into groups, especially with respect to gender, retains a great deal of potential for communication errors and mishaps. A key element to creating or integrating diversity within an organization, has to do with effective leadership. The organizational leadership needs to be aware of how diversity can cause more conflict and other forms of damage, than improvements or positive results.

Joining, merging, and diversifying are all trends and practices in 21st century business; they are all normal. These practices are applied more and more to the staff within a company. Organizational management or leadership must be keenly aware of what kinds of cultures and gender roles the workforce is accustomed to and to what they resist. It is important to have a keen awareness of what the existing environment is and how it works before leadership diversifies it. The decision to diversify, especially with respect to gender, must be well researched if it is not to backfire and cause, for example, miscommunications and/or tense communications within the organization. This kind of tension and unresolved conflict due to gender miscommunications will prove very costly.

There are gender differences within every culture on Earth. Those who identify as masculine and those who identify as feminine have a great number of distinct differences, particularly when it comes to the topic of communication. There are also people who claim that their gender is part masculine and part feminine; in truly diverse areas such as large cities like New York City, there are those who have combinations of these qualities that intensify the level of diversity with respect to gender. Regardless of their frequency or relative cultural normalcy, these people are active members of the workforce as well. Experts across a number of fields both in the hard sciences and social sciences concur that communication across gender lines have stark differences.

Studies indicate that women, to a greater extent than men, are sensitive to the interpersonal meanings that lie "between the lines" in the messages they exchange with their mates. That is, societal expectations often make women responsible for regulating intimacy, or how close they allow others to come. For that reason, it is argued that women pay more attention than men to the underlying meanings about intimacy that messages imply. Men on the other hand, to a greater extent than women, are more sensitive to "between the lines meanings" about status. For men, societal expectations are that they must negotiate hierarchy, or who's the captain and who's the crew (Tannen, 1990; Wood, 2009). (Torppa, 2010,-Page 1)

These are just some of the basic and superficial differences in how the different genders and sexes communicate. The varying methods have to do with how a culture socializes and defines what is female, feminine, male, and masculine, as well as the categories or kinds of people that do not fit nearly within those categories. These kinds of miscommunications occur in the workplace with regular frequency and varying levels of intensity. There are a number of factors…

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