Think about these two questions:
1) Are you happier working with people of the same gender, or would you rather work in a group that includes both women and men?
2) Do you think the best work gets done in same gender groups, or groups that include both women and men?
A recent study has some interesting findings about both those questions, and those findings have implications for you as a leader.
Alike and Happy
For the study, researchers from MIT and George Washington University looked at employee data and survey responses from a professional services company with 60 global locations.
They found that men were more comfortable and cooperative when they worked only with other men. The same was true for women who worked only with other women.
In some ways, this makes a lot of sense. Men-only or women-only work groups have more common ground, and there's more of a shared sense of what "the rules of the game" are.
Diverse and Productive
But the same study found that offices made up of all men or all women aren't as productive or innovative as those where men and women work together. Bottom line: Gender diversity drives more revenue.
Why is this the case? When you're in an environment where people act and think alike, they're less likely to challenge things or bring different ideas and perspectives to the table. There's a lot of value in having different skill sets and different points of view.
So, What Does This Mean?
As a leader, it's your job to bring out the best in your group, no matter its makeup. The MIT/George Washington study sheds some light on how to do that.
The study found that even if you don't have a diverse workplace yet, simply communicating that you value diversity is enough to make employees more collaborative and satisfied.
When you are leading a group that includes both men and women, you'll get the benefits of better ideas and greater productivity that come with gender diversity. It also means, though, that you may have to do more team-building. Establish the norms and ground rules of the group, and help your people navigate conflicts or differences of opinion.
Work on your ability to understand others' points of view, find common ground and communicate clearly.
Always treat people as individuals and not based on stereotypes about their gender.
You can learn more about the study and my workplace tips on my YouTube page, where I've posted a radio interview I did on the subject — it's a hot topic! My challenge for you this week is to use these insights in your own workplace. If you work in more of a single-gender setting, think about how you can push yourselves to overcome "group think" and consider more ideas. If you work with both men and women, take time to listen and look for common ground the next time you find yourself in a disagreement or conflict. Remember that small steps can lead to big results. In this case, they can change how effectively your team works together.