Women operate so differently

I read a book when I was on vacation in December called Virtual Love.  I continue to think about the book. 

The book is told through the eyes of a smart, highly educated woman who is in a bad relationship and a meh job.  She lands a great job at Google, roughly 3000 miles from where she is currently residing which is NYC.  She moves forward thinking that this change will be good.  She is in her mid-30s wondering about getting married or not.  Wondering about her career choices and her desire to succeed yet still have her friends and perhaps a relationship.  She is confused and living inside a tremendous echo chamber in her own head. 

The other night I had dinner with two girlfriends who are both successful, work ridiculous hours, can't say no to anything and quite frankly are exhausted.  There is no question that they rarely get the credit they deserve.  We spoke about women vs men.  Women operate so differently.  Some men appreciate the can do woman while others find them good from the onset but overwhelming at one point.  I have heard about many women who are "let go" from their jobs in the start-up world that are in their early 40s' right before they are vested.  There are always 3 sides to a story but it does make one wonder why.  Is it a cultural fit or is it power struggle?

There is this chapter in the book that I told my friends about.  It was 930 at night and all the men had gone home but the women were still there working.  Why?  The main character in the book was the boss of this particular department at Google and she said something that was interesting.  Men never sign up for things that they do not want to do.  She told all the women in her department to throw away their to do lists.  Focus on what you need to and leave the stuff that you know you can do but it is not top of the list and as important as others.  Just do things that need doing.  Do not feel guilty about it but good.  Ask yourself before saying yes to doing something would my male counterparts take on this task?  If the answer is no then do not do it.  Then you too will leave when you should and in the end that is healthy and possibly more productive. Bottom line; women operate so differently.

My friends totally agreed with me that they should move forward with that idea in mind. They should ask themselves why do we continue to do everything for everybody?  It reminds me of a story of a friend of mine, a woman, who are running a division of a major consumer food business.  She was engaged to be married.  She was concerned that she was not paying attention to what was happening in her division but instead paying attention to all the things she had to do for the wedding.  Reality was that she was doing exactly what needed to get done and delegating to the people under her to do the rest.  She was really concerned that her boss would figure out that she was remiss.  She felt she should tell him.  I told her that was ridiculous that I am sure he has zero idea and I find it hard to believe you are not getting more done than most.  She was not so sure.  We had this conversation at her bridal shower.  She was living in Chicago and I was in NYC.  We talked ever few weeks. This was before the internet, texting and constant engagement.

The following Monday the phone rings and it was her.  My first reaction was to ask if everything was ok because we had just seen each other.  She laughed because she was calling me to tell me she had just been promoted.  Ends up I was right.  She was probably doing a better job having those wedding distractions because she was only doing what needed to get done vs trying to do everything. 

An interesting thing to think about.  Women should be themselves but sometimes they do need to see the inner workings of an office/environment and ask themselves how should they be operating in this arena.  Taking on everything for everyone is great in the short term but it never works in the long run.

Comments (Archived):

  1. Susan Rubinsky

    There are a lot interesting points here.I find it interesting that your woman friend was getting married — was she under age 40? I have a bunch of single women friends with good careers who are all in their mid to late 40’s (including me) and nobody wants to date us. Funny thing, our single women friends who are less accomplished have lots of dates. This is qualitative, obviously, but I bet if someone did a study the data would show similar results. But the truth is, I’d rather have a great career than be with someone who wants me to be less than I am.On saying no. I rarely say no but then I delegate or find a subcontractor to do the work for me. I also spend a good amount of time talking my clients out of things they “want” to get them to focus on things their business/organization “needs.” And they pay me for advising them of such :)I’m going to check out this book. Thanks for posting.

    1. Gotham Gal

      It is a novel and a quick read but interesting thoughts.My friend was in her early 30’s. I believe that this generation of women in their mid-30’s/early 40’s are strong individuals that have been raised with the mantra you can do anything. We have to raise our boys to adore women who are that strong and smart. See a strong mother you often see a son who wants to be with a strong woman. My guess, and you will see in the book, that many men do not know how to navigate the smart driven women. And women have blinders on to those men that are actually interested.

      1. Jeff

        Mitt moment… I just read your last sentence as “And women have binders on those men that are actually interested.”Why is there an aversion to delegating? Usually when I see people not delegating it is because of one reason: they do not trust/believe in the people below them to do the work exactly as they want it to be done and see it as a delay since they will ultimately end up having to redo it all themselves. The problem with this is that it creates poor morale for anyone you work with and creates a ton of stress for you. But getting over this hump, of trusting the work of those you delegate to, and realizing that their work can be great even if it is different than the exact way you would do it, is very hard for some people. Is it harder for women then men? I don’t know. Is it something learned earlier in life? I don’t know.This is slightly related, and maybe a stretch, but maybe it’s learned. From my own limited sample set, it seems like people that grew up playing team sports (football/basketball/soccer/etc.) are better at delegating and trusting others to get their jobs done than those that grew up playing more individualistic sports (tennis/track/dance/etc.). Maybe it’s the exposure of kids to groups where individual positions and skills are required and admired, but everyone ultimately fails unless their is trust amongst the team, that helps foster trust in teamwork later in life and the ability to delegate. I’m probably reaching to far with this last paragraph.

        1. Gotham Gal

          Being on a sports team is a great learning experience when it comes to trusting your teammates and peersI was referring to men dating women. Women sometimes do not see the people who are interested in them and when they are right in front of them

          1. Susan Rubinsky

            I don’t know if that is true about women having blinders on. If the men are interested, do they ask the woman out? I often say yes to the first date because it’s really just an opportunity to get to know someone better. My experience is that single men around my age (late 40’s) are dating down by about 10 years. Conversely, I get asked out all the time by men who are 15-20 years older than me and men who are 15-20 years younger than me. Men around my age, hardly ever.I think the issue is deeper. I think that men like to date women who are less accomplished and/or less intelligent and, even, younger. Why they do is matter of psychology and bio-physiology.Also, maybe the actual pool of available men around my age is very small.

          2. Gotham Gal

            you could be right. you are on the front lines..

        2. Susan Rubinsky

          Maybe women who are team sports people are a different personality type than people who like individual sports.

        3. Susan Rubinsky

          I am wondering if it’s also a matter of budget. Now it’s been more than ten years since I held down a corporate job, but back in the day I used to have to do a lot of work — really, it was like an annual circus act — to prove why I should get a budget that other departments led by men just got automatically. If departments run by women have less budget, then there is more hands-on work that needs to be done because there is less budget for resources — both people and materials. Given that women’s wages are still in the stone ages compared with men for the same job, I wonder what that stat is for departments led by women vs. men?

  2. Lisa Abeyta

    Oh my goodness, yes! Such a profound – and obvious (after you think about it) epiphany. Women constantly take on tasks that no one else wants to do, whether it is at home, as a volunteer or at work. And then they burn out and resent that no one else pitched in to help. Here’s to letting go of the guilt and embracing with energy and passion the things we choose to take on!

  3. Lally Rementilla

    Great post, GG. Last night, my business partner and I were at a women’s event at a business school. The panel was about work-life balance. I felt compelled to telling these young women that they have to start learning to say no gracefully as early as they could. Saying “no” is not about not wanting to do things (well… most of the time), It’s about saying yes to what’s really important.

    1. Gotham Gal

      exactly. saying no is about saying yes to yourself.

  4. Donna Murdoch

    This is so darn good, and so accurate on so many levels. Thanks for taking the time to tell the story.

    1. Gotham Gal

      thanks donna.