By Rebecca George, Deloitte partner, responsible for the Firm’s Public Sector Health practice in the UK
If Steve had been a woman he probably wouldn’t have dropped out and started up his own company. Whilst he might have got jobs in the IT industry in his vacations, he probably wouldn’t have worked his network as well to support him as a young, new entrepreneur. He might not have had the self belief that enabled him to say in 1984 that he was going to change the world. By the time women get to the workplace, they act differently from men in three fundamental ways.
Firstly, in interviews. There are always exceptions to the rule but women are much less likely to say they are confident they can do a job in an interview than men are. If interviewees aren't aware of this they could pick male interviewees on the basis that they just sound really convincing, even if their skills and experience is identical to the female interviewees.
«There are always exceptions to the rule but women are much less likely to say they are confident they can do a job in an interview than men are»
Secondly, appraisals. Typically, women don't hear good news. So you can spend 90% of an appraisal telling a woman she has done a great job, and 10% of the time telling her how she needs to improve, and she will go home and obsess about the 10%. I think this is the same trait, by the way, which causes women instantly to forget, or never hear in the first place, all the compliments they are ever paid. Women need to concentrate on hearing good news and keeping criticism in professional perspective. Failing at work is also a fact of life. Most successful people have at least one failure during their career. You need to deal with failure, learn from it and increase your resilience.
Thirdly, women think that if they put their heads down, and do a really good job, they will get promoted. The majority of men, on the other hand, subconsciously spend up to 10% of their time selling themselves. That's nearly half a day a week. And if most men are doing that, managers and executives included, then that's what they expect everyone else to do. Women often don’t feel comfortable seeking out the company of more senior people and talking about their achievements. They also tend to be more collaborative, wanting everyone to be successful.
«Women need to concentrate on hearing good news and keeping criticism in professional perspective. Failing at work is also a fact of life. You need to deal with failure, learn from it and increase your resilience»
These are generic trends and don't apply to absolutely everyone. But it's worth women thinking about if they are getting their message across in ways men understand, and men being careful to avoid those random acts of discrimination by remembering that women do act differently in the office.
So if Steve had been a woman he would have been an incredibly talented, creative, innovative employee, consistently over-performing and probably reaching senior management or executive roles. But probably without the core of self belief, risk taking, networking and resistance to failure that Steve used to fuel his destiny to change the world.