Gender and Work in a Global World
Regardless of the reasons, men and women certainly are different, and if those differences are made clear within a particular culture, those same differences become ever more striking between cultures. The different ways that different cultures handle the two genders makes working across cultures a challenge to members of either gender, but especially so for women, who, in many cultures, are traditionally ascribed a subordinate position in the workplace. These challenges have grown dramatically as organizations have increased their global operations over the last two decades, and have been acutely felt by male and female managers and the organizations they ...view middle of the document...
For gender issues, this means foreign businesswomen are distinguished (more or less so, depending upon the degree to which a culture has been involved in the process of globalization) FIRST as businesspeople, SECOND as representatives of their culture, and THIRD as women. This is very different from patterns at the beginning of globalization, where businesswomen were seen first as representatives of their gender, second as representatives of their culture, and only last (if at all), as businesspeople.
Two Sides of the Coin:
As cultures become more involved in the globalization process, gender differences increasingly become advantages, not disadvantages. American businesswomen, for example, increasingly report that being female gives them an advantage because male business colleagues in cultures that have experienced significant globalization, understanding that in America women can have authority in business, give them special consideration, and can enjoy working under an excitingly different set of rules. While the culture might not permit these same men to extend the same considerations to native female managers, both men and women are "free" to break traditional gender barriers in the global business environment. Doors to foreign businesswomen open more often than they close in many cultures simply because a foreign businesswoman, being outside of and exempt from the traditional norms, provides local businessmen with new opportunities without challenging the norms.
"Masculine" and "Feminine" Skills:
There are many reasons why men and women behave differently, and the research is still coming in on this issue. Whether genetic, conditioned, or some combination of both, the fact is women and men often employ different behaviors to similar situations. Curiously, the behavioral skill sets that are effective in many cultures abroad match closely with what have been traditionally referred to as "feminine" behaviors, with traditional "masculine" behaviors being less effective in these same cultures. For example, in the US (and other cultures as well) the ability to communicate relational and interpersonal understanding, for whatever the reason, seems to be a skill more easily employed by women than men, yet this is a prime requirement for successful business in many cultures. Nancy Adler's research in this field has indicated that American women often have great success abroad precisely because of their ability to develop the all-important interpersonal relationship, a skill that many American businessmen either cannot master or mistakenly overlook in their singular emphasis on "the deal". The curiosity here is that it is precisely those cultures which emphasize the importance of the interpersonal relationship that also traditionally have excluded women from business (Latin America, the Arab world, etc), and as such cultures become more influenced by globalization, women increasingly have greater rates of success in business.