I’ve been hearing often that women are starting to take over the IT companies in the recent years. I don’t see that really. It is true that in Romania we have more women in the IT industry than in other countries, but we are still very few and most of us are not even programmers, we are designers, HR professionals, testers, office assistants and managers. My company is no exception, I am one of the few girls here so I get this question pretty often from friends and relatives: ”how’s life among boys?”.
It is different because a group of men has other communication needs, other jokes, conversation topics, habits and other types of interaction than a group of women. I had also been a part of groups of women and mixed groups in the past and I can definitely say it is NOT the same. And that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone as long as we all know that males and females are psychologically different (at least in this society, where men and women are still separate and distinct genders).
I’ll be sharing my impressions after many years of observation and I’ll do it in a tone of advice so I sound more convincing :) . So if you are a girl in a company full of guys, please read on as you may find some useful insight here. And if you’re a guy, you may understand how women think and feel, we’re really not as complicated as you guys believe.
How to behave
As one of the few or even the only woman in a group of men, you have to be yourself. You should always be yourself for that matter, but especially in this case. They don’t like and they don’t tolerate a fake attitude. Most men won’t smile at you for free, without a good reason, and won’t make you tons of compliments all the time like women do. First of all, they don’t see it as necessary, second of all probably they think it is not appropriate to do so. If a coworker does the opposite, there may be something more and you should pay close attention to that.
If you are the flirty type, try to minimize your flirting. No good can come from that when there are many men involved in this story. Competition between men makes it bad if you flirt with just a few and stereotypes will kick in if you flirt with everyone. Think about and acknowledge the reasons you usually do this with men and you’ll realize it’s not impossible to live without flirting at the office.
Don’t be bi*chy. Most women adopt this attitude towards men when they feel undermined, disrespected, judged or underestimated. In fact, it’s a vicious circle. Try to keep an open mind and a clear head, reflect and investigate, don’t assume until you know the facts. It is easy to fall in this trap of prejudgement based on gender. If you feel that something is not quite right, the easiest thing to do is simply ask, communicate with them.
How to communicate
There are some levels of communication between same sex people that don’t need much talking and clarifying. But between sexes, it is necessary to do more intentional verbal communication as we are wired differently and this is the aspect we should pay a lot of attention to. Men and women misinterpret each other quite often and left unspoken, this comes with great tension and conflict. Speak about your feelings and theirs, talk about what’s wrong but also don’t forget to talk about what’s good. Don’t expect them to spill their guts, they’ll be brief cuz that’s how men are (that’s what she said joke), they’re not mad at you or something. Generally they don’t talk about their feelings much because men don’t wanna seem vulnerable. So you’ll have to work a little bit more and be patient if you want them to open up. Moreover, do it in private, don’t talk about their feelings especially in front of other men.
Men can’t stand whiny women, they literally can’t listen to us complaining about unimportant stuff. All they hear are some high-pitched sounds. Most of them will be extremely polite (they don’t want to upset you more because they’re afraid of angry women) and won’t say anything, won’t even move a tiny facial muscle to let you know that they’ve been thinking about something else for the past 5 minutes. So if you want to tell a man how you think or feel, just be quick and assertive. Get to the point fast, men can’t follow you if you talk too much about too many things at once.
How to dress
If you do not have a dress code in the office or one implied by the nature of your job, wear whatever makes you feel comfortable, but don’t forget about style. Guys pay attention to what you’re wearing and they talk about it, especially when they don’t see so many girls around. So expect to be in the center of attention regarding clothing. And do not forget, men like sexy outfits, but don’t reveal too much because there is a thin line between sexy and slutty. They like to see slutty, but they don’t have a good opinion about the girls dressed like that.
How to joke and react to jokes
Most men have a sense of humor and they care about it (you know, like women care about their looks). So this, combined with their need to seem strong, frustrates them a great deal if a woman makes fun of them. It makes them feel weak and outsmarted.
Men are reticinent when a woman joins the group because they know we’re much easily offended. Imagine how much this can change the dynamics of a group of men. Let them joke as much as they want, they’re not hurting anyone. Of course there are some people who don’t know where to stop and they often become rude. Don’t make a big fuss about it, they most probably don’t even realize they crossed the line but their intentions are not bad. Guys just try to joke, unfortunately not everyone has a fine sense of humor or great self-awareness. So if this happens, if a coworker makes a rude joke that actually offends you, let him know in an elegant manner. You don’t have to get upset to prove a point. Moreover, be sincere, laugh if you like the joke, don’t laugh if you don’t like it.
Guys are not trying to bring you down and they don’t underestimate you if you’re a reasonable and honest human being. Nature gave them the strong instinct of protection towards women and as long as you’re nice, they’ll take care of you and they will treat you with respect and kindness. Let them protect and help you. It makes them feel strong and important. Not many men like strong independent women. Yes, I know there are also men that hate women, consider them inferior and so on. But as long as you stand your ground, they can’t get to you and believe me, they won’t even try.
I’ve changed a lot in the past 3 years and a half since I’ve been almost the only woman in this team. And I love it. This experience has been making me stronger and it has been helping me understand a lot of things about men, things I didn’t learn in any school or book.
I cannot emphasize this enough: girl, be mindful and self-aware, have confidence and don’t make assumptions. Because it’s a pity not to get along with these wonderful human beings.