employee engagement

Women’s History Month: A time to remember the power of collaboration?

Do women bring unique strengths and struggles to the world of collaborative work?

Diversity is an important topic in this day-in-age. It’s a social cause and a business imperative, but the genuine value of diversity is often clouded by political pandering. And, with it being Women’s History Month (and a day removed from International Women’s Day), we thought it would be interesting to discuss diversity, why it matters, and women in the modern, collaborative workplace.


Diversity & Collaboration

Often, the most effective collaborative teams are comprised of team members from diverse backgrounds, bringing together different experiences, different perspectives, and different professional skillsets to create solutions and tackle projects that would be beyond the scope of a mono-skilled team with a single, narrow perspective.

In many ways, the modern focus on collaborative work and the ongoing evolution toward decentralised decision-making (enabled by digital technologies and platforms, such as Papillio) has necessitated and enabled the development of diverse, multidisciplinary teams – sometimes separated not only by skillset or gender, but by geography and national borders.

But it has also leveraged social aspects of professional relationships in the workplace to transform the world of work into a network of connections in which interpersonal and professional relationships overlap to enhance collaborative effort. This has flattened traditional hierarchies and dislodged entrenched and outdated workplace thinking, allowing more women to pursue and attain leadership positions through honest work and merit.


Women & Collaboration

Research on the role of gender in team collaboration and performance has found that, when compared to their unisex counterparts, mixed-gender teams:

  • Are more sensitive to non-verbal cues.
  • More accurately infer what team members are thinking and feeling.
  • Encourage conversational turn-taking, making collaboration more productive.

This heightened social sensitivity allows teams that include both men and women to create better collaborative norms and group processes and to more effectively work toward team, and therefore organisational goals.

However, it has also been found that women tend to suffer more from burnout in collaborative working environments than men do. It’s not known why, but women tend to pick up a disproportionate amount of the workload when collaborating, trying to take the strain off of their teams, while shouldering more of the burden.

According to Harvard Business Review:

“Women will not only take on more than their share of the collaborative load, but also will be more likely to take action to reduce the overall workload in their team or department.”

So, as a group, women have their own strengths and their own struggles in the interconnected and collaborative workplace of today.

But, what does that mean for the organisational decision-makers or its human resources department?


Remember, Diversity Is Diverse And Women Are Not A Monolith

It’s easy, in the effort to be inclusive, to forget that individuals are still individuals.

While, as groups, men and women might be more likely to behave in one way or the other, individuals will often be exceptions to the rule – and may even resent you overtly treating them as members of a group, even if your intent is good. Being human is an accumulation of many experiences and influences – from professional skillset to cultural background – no single experience should be treated as the central experience.

Rather, the positive aspects of the feminine workplace influence and perspective should be a part of the consideration that you put into creating a collaborative culture and ecosystem within your organisation.

In reality, a “female-friendly” workplace is an inevitable part of creating a human-friendly workplace – which should always be the ultimate goal for the organisation concerned with its productive and creative output.

So, for example, taking the feminine perspective into account, an organisation might introduce protocols for the monitoring and distribution of workloads among all of its employees – even going so far as to introduce leadership interventions, whereby workload capacity is considered on a case-by-case basis and burnout is mitigated across teams, departments and individuals.

This is one of the greatest strengths of a diverse workplace and workforce – when different perspectives are productively brought together, the result of that effort will be far greater than the sum of its parts.


Papillio: Creating a human-centric virtual workplace

The Papillio Innovation Toolkit facilitates the creation of a collaborative ecosystem: a human-friendly, intuitive virtual workplace that team members and leaders can carry in their pockets and access wherever they are, online or not.

A productivity, collaboration, and task prioritization tool, Papillio focuses on leveraging and empowering the human decision-making at all levels of work, to change the shape and future of work - be it business-as-usual or innovation projects. With online whiteboards, digital task management boards, synchronous and asynchronous collaboration functionality, try Papillio for free today, or get in touch for a free demo and let us show you how to change the shape of work! 

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