Gender in the Workplace: Getting to Effective Teamwork

Posted by jlubans on August 01, 2016

Well, we’ve heard about Factor C, “collective intelligence” and how an abundance of it leads to team success and its absence contributes to failure.
C’s crucial elements: participant emotional or social IQ; the number of engaged participants; and the number of women on the team. Here’s an explanatory quote about effective teams:
“First, their members contributed more equally to the team’s discussions, rather than letting one or two people dominate the group.
Second, their members scored higher on a test called Reading the Mind in the Eyes, which measures how well people can read complex emotional states …
Finally, teams with more women outperformed teams with more men."
The last is quite a finding: women participants tend to influence teams for the better and men less so. It gets worse, if that’s the phrase. When we think of the office jerk, what’s the gender? If you are like me, jerkiness is invariably a male quality. Women can behave despicably toward others, (Ken Kesey’s Nurse Ratched comes to mind) but not in the blunt, anti-social, and rude ways of a jerk. I doubt if the people you want to avoid at work are more one gender than another; I happen to think some women’s unpleasant qualities are simply more refined (masked) than men’s.
Which is all by way of a lead in to a BBC report entitled
Boys 'twice as likely to fall behind girls' in early years”.
It draws me because of what I have personally experienced in life and that I have often admired and wondered why many girls excel in school - apparently more now than ever - than do many boys, myself included.
Hannah Richardson, BBCs education reporter, describes a study that compared girls' and boys' scores in early language and communication skills. An “Early Years” test in England measures children’s’ ability “to listen and express themselves effectively, showing awareness of listeners' needs.”
Specifically, “they should be able to listen to simple instructions and answer "how" and "why" questions.”
The findings are not good for boys: 25% of boys were unable to meet these requirements, compared with 14% of girls. And for kids from disadvantaged homes, “the difference was more stark, with 38% of boys not meeting the standard compared with 23% of girls.”
There have been other studies and allusions that show how in America, college girls get better grades and perform better overall than do boys.
OK, why? “The report said it was not clear whether this early gender gap was the result of biological differences and rate of development, or social processes.”
I’d guess it is a combination of all three, gender difference, developmental rates and sociability. I’d add another, the educational “construct”, where and how students are taught.
Girls, for whatever reason, do better in class than do boys. Stereotypically, boys act out vs. girls control themselves and are able to focus. When is the “class clown” a girl?
The report suggests girls “develop the behaviour and attributes, such as persistence, independence and flexible thinking, that enable them to learn.” Why is that?
Another BBC report discusses the value of outdoor education – an often marginalized concept much like recess* is treated in American schools nowadays.
Advocates describe five outcomes from regular lessons in natural environments. Of the five themes, three goals relate directly to the notion of C or Collective Intelligence for group work:
*A sociable, confident person
*A self-directed and creative learner
*An effective contributor

Might not an outdoor classroom be far more suitable for many boys than the schoolhouse? No, I am not suggesting that the forest or desert somehow imbues a person with wisdom. Wandering à la John Muir in fields and forests, without guidance, will not make you more empathetic, considerate and communicative – more likely it will lead to hypothermia. Even with a guide, you have to be open and engaged. One of the most frustrating aspects of my leading workshops that involve experiential learning is how some participants expect to be entertained – they bring nothing to the experience and balk mightily when expected to explore concepts, to make transitions from the experience to the workplace. A few suggest there’s no validity in experiential learning or, more directly, that I was a crappy instructor. Many derive a positive experience, make ready transfers to the work place and thank me for the opportunity.
Boys like Peter Pan, (and no, I do not subscribe to the Peter Pan psychosis) might prefer the outdoors to the schoolroom, hence they might have a greater inclination to learn, to absorb.
Regardless of our levels of “C” we boys are expected to grow up and go to work, we are expected to lead and get worked over. I have a minority opinion about the so-called glass ceiling for women. It exists but not because all guys conspire to keep the gals out of the executive tree house. While some men do not want women to boss them, lots of men like female leaders (for reasons of C!) but cannot convince women to accept the top job(s) – maybe women know better, I would venture).
Have I upset you, the reader, with these cerebral doodles on gender? That’s not my intent.
No, I am frankly worried that many boys are not doing well in school or in society. Sure, there are many who make it big or muddle through and get the breaks, etc.
While some men and women stand out - they are genuine leaders, true contributors - some men do not. An educational system that claims it is overwhelmed and accepts a success rate of 80% as good enough, suggests another problem in the construct. I gather that since there are different levels of achievement among tested groups of boys, that indeed there are influences, tangible and otherwise, why some boys do better than other boys; can we not focus on those and see the effect?

Perhaps outdoor education – a process that allows for physical activity in groups along with action teaching and group discussion might help boys, and girls, who lag behind in the traditional classroom and eventually in life’s classroom.
Boys seem saddled with some genetic afflictions that do interfere in learning; I can refer you to a Robert Graves poem about one such driving force.
Perhaps we should look at ways to help boys rather than squeezing them into a construct that seems far more effective for girls (due to their genetics) than it is for boys. The positive societal outcomes might be well worth the effort.

*Take a look at a New Zealand school’s “No Rules” playground and twice a day 40 minutes recesses (after “forced food breaks”!) American tort lawyers would love it! No such frivolous lawsuits permitted in New Zealand.

PS. Robert Macfarlane’s "magnificent meditation on the words we have for describing the natural world" offers up another dismal picture for boys (and girls) out of doors: a survey that shows "that the area in which British children were allowed to play on their own had shrunk by 90%. Their “roaming radius” was down to house, yard, pavement and, one might add, parking lot. They just don’t get out much."

© Copyright John Lubans 2016
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Posted by Mara Jekabsone on August 01, 2016  •  08:16:03

I think that the biggest problem in this case is that the entire education system is feminine and there are missing manful examples for boys. Boys need male teachers, and boys and girls must to learn in separate groups only for girls and only for boys and must be teached with different methods. What kind of results we expect when boys and girls are put together into one bag, then we give them a woman teacher and teach them with feminine methods?...

Posted by jlubans on August 01, 2016  •  09:00:19

Thanks, Mara!
Yes. I went to school with some very capable male teachers, I still remember their names. One was a history teacher another science, another social sciences. You are right to have the mix. At the Cēsu Jaunā skola Dana Narvaiša told me they were desperate for male teachers. When one fills in, the students love him.
I also liked how the Cesis new School gave an hour long recess, out in the snow and allowed boys to build snow forts and be on their own.

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