Gender Disparity / Inequality in Professional
Scope & Methodology
primary objective of this paper is to review the importance of effective
the communication process, identify barriers and establish strategies to remove
which prevent effective communication within the organization. This paper
focuses on the impact and importance of understanding gender differences and their effects on the
there is gender inequality in professional communication?
are the barriers in effective
is the impact of these barriers on productivity ?
ancient times we have seen that males and females have been raised differently
due to biological differences. Society has always treated men to be superior in
all aspects of life in comparison to women. Men were considered to be
intellectual, brave, powerful, strong and the sole bread winners of family
whereas women were considered to be tender, weak and who could only take care
of household jobs. This has led to gender difference in personality, career
paths and relationships.
kept changing with the advent of science and technology but the mental frame of
the society hasn’t seen any significant change. Today we can find women and men
share equal stature, knowledge and experience.
gap appeared to narrow considerably beginning in the mid-1960s. Where some 5%
of first-year students in professional programs were female in 1965, by 1985
this number had jumped to 40% in law and medicine, and over 30% in dentistry
and business school. Before the highly effective birth -control
pill was available, women planning professional
careers, which required a long-term, expensive commitment, had to “pay the
penalty of abstinence or cope with considerable uncertainty regarding
pregnancy.” This control over their reproductive decisions allowed women
to more easily make long-term decisions about their education and professional
But men and women have different
communication styles which prevent them from working together effectively. It
may be due to different upbringing right from their childhood, gender stereo
types or inherent. Women are still highly
underrepresented on boards of directors and in senior positions in the private
have also identified several traits which are more common in one gender or the
other. These traits form the basis of work environment that fosters open
communication among all.
to author Heather R Huhman women focus more on feelings and tend to talk about
tangible things such as business or sports. They often use communication to
gain insight and understanding by asking a lot of questions whereas men
communicate to give and get information and are less likely to ask questions.
to author John Gravy, women often focus on learning about other person and
attempting to earn his trust by showing genuine interest in him.
the other hand, men try to establish their reputation by talking about their
achievements, their responsibilities at work and what they have to offer. They
can’t take a woman seriously if she can’t establish what she can do as a
to gender specialist Barbara Annis, many men are unsure about how to approach a
topic when discussing with a woman as they react in such a they didn’t expect.
They may come across in a way they don’t intend as there is no mutual
understanding in their communication.
doubt the professionalism of women as they focus more on relationship building
while meeting new people. Similarly, women feel that their male counterparts
are too aggressive as men tend to be more direct focused on their achievements.
diversity expert Connie Glaser says that the problem between men and women in
workplace is not due to different set of rules played by them. They don’t know
these rules. This has lead to inhibiting
communication between colleagues and hindering productivity.
is a method of exchanging information between entities.
there are two entities: the sender and the receiver. The sender sends
information through various mediums like verbal, written, signals etc. and the
receiver interprets the messages received. Information can be interpreted in different
ways. Lot of misunderstandings are created due to misinterpretation of information
received. Hence understanding is very crucial to improve communication skills
and build effective communication habits1.
Communication can take place only when the receiver perceives the message sent
to him in the way it is intended to be.
We can see
the importance of effective communication in our day to day lives.
Communication is the vital means for exchange of information. Hence if the
information is misinterpreted or not conveyed properly then there is sufferings
and misunderstandings. The ultimate goal of effective communication is to
transmit message in such a way that the receiver understands the message
clearly as intended by the sender.
There are verbal and nonverbal messages sent and
received with effective feedback to ensure that the message is perceived
properly. Improvement of communication skills and developing effective
communication habits can happen with proper understanding of communication
process. This can avoid miscommunication that can occur at any stage.
The different stages of communication process are:
(1) Sender: The person who conveys message
(2) Ideas: It may be an opinion, attitude, feelings,
views, orders, or suggestions.
(3) Encoding: Use of words,
actions or pictures etc. by sender to
encode the message.
Channel: Information is transmitted to the receiver verbally or non-verbally
(5) Receiver: The person who receives
(6) Decoding: The person who receives the message or symbol
and interprets the message properly.
(7) Feedback: Effective
response to message by the receiver as intended by the sender.
Feedback is the process of ensuring that the receiver has
received the message and understood in the same sense as sender meant it.
Barriers to Effective Communication
communication gets affected when it causes misunderstandings due to
misinterpretation of any information or message or inappropriate way of
conveying the message. The first step to stop this barrier is to develop
effective communication habits. As per an interview with a famous lawyer2, some of the personal and
organisational barriers are perceptual, physical,
language, gender, cultural, generational, incorrect filtering, poor listening,
information overload, defensiveness and stress. He explained how workplace
pressures can be resolved by understanding the internal structure and employee
communication in workplace.
the industrial age i.e. 20th century, communication at workplace was
top to down i.e. Executives and Managers
(Males) held the authoritative position and told the employees what to do.
today’s age of information, communication has become complex. Now the
information flows in variety of ways from top management to employees, from
employees to top management and horizontally among the individuals within in an
organization. Previously the communication was limited to commands from
executives and mangers to employees and lower – level managers. But today the
scenario has changed. The employees are curious to know the working of the
organisation and they are interested in helping to improve its functioning.
Managers use a range of channels like social media, emails, text messages
newsletters, interoffice memos and magazines to reach their employees.
Discussions and group meetings, speeches of higher executives allow employees
to get information from the top.
the Senior Management of organizations
have come to realize that supervisors, managers and employees are the ones who
can tell them about customer concerns, current issues, employee problems and
organizational issues. It has helped to break down the hierarchies between
employees and the top management.
has been observed that communication between people of same level is very
essential in cross functional teams as departments can pool their diverse
talents and sources to find solutions.
effective communication strategy suggestions have been made, many organisations
are still presented with challenges and struggles with issues surrounding
gender within the workplace. Todays era is no longer limited to top to down
commands or instructions as in the past. It involves effective communication in
all forms like bottom – up, lateral and among males and females of all ages.
Gender Impact on Effective Communication
According to author Julia Wood, gender communication
differences begin right from early childhood. Males and females are taught
different linguistic styles. Girls are expected to play quietly, speak softly,
while it was acceptable for boys to talk loudly or use rough language. This
norm continues to exist till date. For example, a girl can express her emotions
freely like crying whereas a boy is expected to be bold and brave. He cannot
express his emotions openly. So, a boy develops a competitive style of
interaction whereas a girl develops a relational style3.
of Understanding Gender Communication Differences
is a known fact that male and female brains process information differently. Men
tend to analyse an information whereas females tend to process things
abstractly. Each one assumes that the other things and acts as they do. So,
there is a miscommunication between them.
John grey in his book “Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus”, has
stated that men and women have different communication patterns and it seems
that they are from different planets. It is important to learn the different
communication patterns between men and women
like linguistic styles, abilities, skills and use those strengths
cooperatively to work grow and succeed. Women express feelings or build rapport
by using words whereas men share facts and figures as in a report.4
Psychologically men and women are
different and the reasons attributed to their ways and means of communication
are dissimilar. Women communicate for camaraderie within their own gender and
they become intimate because of the small talk they generate to create such
relations. On other hand men communicate to show their independence and share
their facts and figures as in a report. Brevity is the hallmark of
communication between two intellectuals and should be adhered to in all forms
Well documented research concludes
that men communicate loudly in public to establish their prestige or status in
the society. While women communicate
loudly in private because they need to establish intimacy to take further the relationship.
The reason women communicate loudly
in private comes from the fact that they have been evolved that way. In the
olden times when women stayed in the house to look after the kids and do
household work they used to live in a cluster of families. The men used to hunt
for food in groups and since talking loudly would allow the animal to escape
they used to talk low voice . The women
used to solve the household problems by talking to the other women across their
boundary walls of their houses so their voice was loud enough to be audible to
the person on the other side of the wall.
Men and women have different reasons
to talk about
Men often talk to resolve a problem and
the reasons for the problems
Women often talk to discuss people , their
relationships and as an expression of their feelings
are miser in using words and stick to brevity without being descriptive while
women are just the reverse they are not
very clear and lose the context in the maze of
communication between the two genders when both of them understand the
differences and choices in the way of communication. These differences impact
the communication process and it becomes difficult to come to a conclusive
decision. A conscious effort is needed to understand the different modes of
communication between the genders for successful exchange of ideas.
In some companies
it is generally seen that during the promotion exercise the network of men
takes prominence and they are awarded accordingly. This does not mean that
women employees are less capable, the only reason being their communication is
not being understood (verbal and nonverbal) by their male counterparts and in
the process, they lose in the game.so it becomes pertinent that there are at
least some of the reviewing authorities are females so a proper understanding
and representation would be there in the company. In this context the Govt of India took the
initiative in tweaking the companies law 2013 to include at least one women
director in the board.
What is the impact of these barriers
communication between the two genders is not that effective as men because men
have a ossified perception that women would not be able to do certain things.
This is communicated to the women in different ways which ultimately affects
the productivity. If men are able to communicate to the women that they have
special skills in the areas of logical thinking , multi-tasking, empathy and valuable social skills, they would earn brownie points for their
company as the women would feel that they are being understood and in the long run would increase the
productivity in the same fashion if
women are able to communicate to the men that they have their special skills in
the areas of perception and coordinated actions, they would perform better in
these areas which would ultimately benefit the company .
Strategies for solving communication clash between genders:
always try to work in conditions where their comfort level is high and there is
minimum clash. However, it would be in the interest of the company to encourage
people to work in a diversified group with a healthy mix of both the genders.
For this to happen the work atmosphere should be congenial with mutual respect
for each other.
It will always
work in a team to have good mix of both the genders with different skills but
the same goal.
any task to a team it will always be beneficial to know the skills of each members
so that a calculated risk can be taken to include that person in the team.
training to the male genders in areas where females have natural skills would
be win situation as team would be well equipped. It goes without saying to give
training to the female gender in areas where the male is befitted with natural skills.
Every person has set of belief system
which he or she has developed through the years. Changing the belief system
becomes difficult for the person and the organisation. The reaction in any sort
of communication between two genders is more of a reflex reaction based on the belief
system which the person has developed. The best way to come out of this jinx is
to ensure that the communication methods are evolved on an ongoing basis. In
the Indian context age plays an important role as we inherently we have been
tuned to respect elders. Here mentors having vast experience can play a significant
role as they have seen the ups and downs of communication clashes. It would be
in the interest of the company to have a mentor of the same gender as there
would be a better understanding of the candidate’s point of view when
interacting with the mentor.
Some people prefer verbal communication on
the practices and policies value systems and goals of the company while others
may rely more on text or mail. Here it is necessary to identify the medium of
communication preferred by the gender. Communication should invariably be not biased
and based on facts and figures. The older
generation has an added responsibility to imbibe the value systems and ethics
while communicated with the younger generation as far as possible the generation
gap should be taken into consideration when communicating with the other gender
or own gender.
For effective communication we must
realize that all are different and perceive the world through their own understanding,
this understanding should be guiding principle when we communicate and we
should be more flexible and evolve with time 5.
sorts of communication should gender neutral
should be healthy mix of both the genders in any company
should be ensured that due weightage is given to the opinions of both the genders
rules of the company should not be tilted towards any gender.
government guidelines regarding gender diversity should be strictly complied
for better communication should be evolved on an ongoing basis .
1 Griggin, Em. “A First Look at Communication Theory.” Launching Your
Study of Communication Theory (2009):12
Information is enclosed with the author
3 Wood, Julia T. “Gendered Lives: Communication, Gender and Culture.”
4 Tannen, Deborah. “You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in
Robbins, Anthony. Think Exist
Quotes. Available at:
Accessed June 25, 2011.