Men vs women: Your gender intelligence at work

Companies are spending time and dollars to understand the difference between how men and women work. Organizations now see the value of retaining and promoting women and how diversity and inclusion are essential for strong performing teams. Researcher John Zenger and Joseph Folkman have identified 16 traits required for success. These include integrity, initiative, self-development, problem solving and a drive for results. They found that women outscore men in leadership effectiveness.

Dr. Zenger argues that moving from a command-and-control style of leadership to a more collaborative model plays to women’s strengths. Women are better listeners, better at building relationships and more collaborative he argues.

So why do thirty-six percent of men say they want to be CEO, where only 18 percent of women say they do?

Women traditionally value their work but take on a second shift at home – often more so than men. Boards have not seen a lot of women in the CEO role and often feel it is “safer” to hire what they know – male leaders. As decision-makers become more aware of the merits of female leadership, more women will enter the C-Suite. That does not discount the value of male leadership. As a leader, you must understand the need at hand and how to build the team to accomplish it. Gender work styles play a key role.

Zenger and Folkman found that in high performing companies women outranked men in all the areas below. The exceptions were Customer Service, Facilities Management, and Administrative/Clerical.

Where Women Outranked Men in High Performing Companies

  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Operations
  • Human Resources
  • General Management
  • Finance/Accounting
  • Product Development
  • Legal
  • Engineering
  • IT
  • Research and Development
  • Quality Management

In Barbara Anniston and Keith Merron’s book Gender Intelligence, they illustrate the difference in how men and women work differently. Here are some tips you can apply today when you delegate, build consensus and interpret results. These also bring value to your interpersonal relationships.


Men – deal with ideas and issues sequentially.

Women – juggle many ideas and issues at once.

Solve Problems:

Men – converge on an issue to zero in on a solution.

Women – diverge from the issue to explore many solutions.

Make Decisions:

Men – isolate issues for quick decisions.

Women – visit the entire context of an issue first.

Work on Teams:

Men – value, focus on and work for results.

Women – value and work for the journey as well as the results.

Lead Others:

Men – are transactional hierarchical, competitive, convergent.

Women – are interactive, participative, collaborative, divergent.

Conflict Resolution:

Men – assign blame, think it through alone, seek solutions.

Women – take it personally, talk it through together, seek understanding.

Problem Solving:

Men – isolate the issue, pare down the number of causes, narrow the field of options to a fast solution.

Women – expand the context and are expansive in the number of causes, explore multiple causes for more enduring solutions.

Understand the individual differences of your team members and you will best position their results for high performance.

If you want more executive presence and career planning tips here’s a link to Mary Lee’s FREE Career and Life Planning Tool.

Mary Lee Gannon, ACC, CAE is an executive coach and corporate CEO who helps busy leaders get off the treadmill to nowhere to be more effective, earn more, be more calm and enjoy connected relationships with the people who matter while it still matters. Watch her FREE Master Class training on Three Things to Transform Your Life and Career Right Now at