Drilling Down Into the Differences
“I understand.” It’s a phrase that’s used frequently in business and other settings. The problem is it’s usually not true. We don’t understand. We can’t. Unless we’ve experienced it, we can’t “get it.”
We don’t understand the impact. But we can take steps to verify—and quantify—the impact.
We know that differences exist and permeate every work setting around the country in ways that are often overlooked. But every once in a while we’re hit over the head with examples that can’t be dismissed.
This article in Harvard Business Review reporting on the results of an extensive study of male and female differences in the workplace is a prime example.
Researchers Stephen Turban, Laura Freeman and Ben Weber, conducted an extensive analysis of the differences in the way women and men in the workplace are treated, using sociometric badges to track in-person behavior.
They write: “These badges, which look like large ID badges and are worn by all employees, record communication patterns using sensors that measure movement, proximity to other badges, and speech (volume and tone of voice but not content). They can tell us who talks with whom, where people communicate, and who dominates conversations.”
When the Facts Hit You in the Head!
What they discovered is startling. They found “no perceptible differences in the behavior of men and women.” And yet, they did discover actual differences in terms of the roles men and women held and their ability to advance within the organization. Women weren’t advancing. Men were.
It’s not just differences in how men and women are treated in the workplace that is problematic. It’s differences between how women, people of color and others are treated in the workplace and how even subtle disparities can lead to big gaps in terms of earnings, role, status and advancement.
Differences exist. Those differences have disparate impacts. Are you tracking these impacts in your organization?
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