Recent research by Dr Judith Baxter of Aston University, suggests that women are four times more likely than men to be self-deprecating and to speak indirectly or apologetically when broaching difficult subjects, in order to avoid conflict.
Many experts hold the view that the differences in gender communication are down to childhood conditioning. Young boys are often conditioned to be ‘big and brave’, and are taught that achievement and winning are very important. Young girls, on the other hand, are often taught that it is their role to share with others and build caring relationships.
As a result, men tend to be more task-orientated, whilst women are relationship-orientated. Generally, women are more likely to avoid conflict, and this sometimes takes the form of self-deprecation.
Whilst being relationship orientated is an essential quality of great leaders (women are more likely to make individual team members feel valued, which leads to team loyalty and cohesion) we also need to display the self confidence people want to see in their leaders, and often the language women use sabotages this premise.
Both styles (task-orientation and relationship-orientation) have their merits in the workplace. I believe as more and more women learn how to broaden their style, to suit the situation and audience, we will start to see a reduction in the current disparity between men and women in senior positions. At present, just 12.2% of FTSE 100 Directors are women, and a quarter of FTSE 100 companies don’t have a single female board member.