EVERYONE KNOWS that professional speakers love to tell stories and use generalities in their speeches. What better topic to have fun with than that of gender issues in the workplace? We probably have all either heard of or read the book by John Gray, PhD, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. Well, according to professional speakers on the circuit, the book's title applies in the workplace as well.

Professional speakers on the circuit today who address the issues of gender differences are primarily women. This in itself is interesting considering that the majority of professional speakers on the circuit are men. Additionally, most of these speakers also share a background in medicine, sociology, psychology, and human behavior.

By sharing stories and anecdotes that are scientifically based, and by bringing audience members up on stage to role-play, audience members learn the genesis of gender differences and, most importantly, how to laugh at them. We are told that if you can laugh at these differences then you can appreciate them, and this will increase business productivity between the sexes in the workplace.

Communication Conflicts

Connie Merritt, RN, author, coach, and professional speaker, says that the fundamental differences between men and women begin in the womb. At six to seven weeks after conception, males lose 40 percent of the fibrous tissue that aids in communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. This explains much about why men are typically placed in the left-brain category and women are considered to have more right-brain and even whole-brain tendencies. Merritt says the resultant male versus female wiring creates conflict that can take a costly toll on business if not identified and treated with appropriate behaviors and actions.

Since job titles and descriptions in the business world are often more clearly defined than the roles of men and women in the workplace, issues such as teamwork, decision-making, and problem-solving become hotbeds without the proper vocabulary to bridge the gender gap. Luckily, many professional speakers offer a vocabulary to combat the conflict between “male-speak” and “female-speak,” and audiences learn how to fine-tune their words and actions so they are not as likely to be misconstrued by the opposite sex.

“How many of you men have experienced the silent treatment by the women in your lives?” asks Connie Podesta, author, educator, professional counselor, and speaker. “Did you know that it takes the average man one hour to figure out that we are not even speaking?”

Not only are we speaking a different language at home, we speak these different languages to each other in the office. By recognizing these “different patterns of thinking between men and women,” according to speaker Peg Neuhauser, we can put the puzzle pieces together about how to best work effectively together.

In addition to the speakers mentioned above, Lenora Billings-Harris, Jennifer James, and Grady Jim Robinson are popular speakers on gender issues in the workplace.

These business issues are an ongoing puzzle, and it is unreasonable to expect to bridge the gap after listening to a one-hour keynote or a half-day seminar. In this period of time, however, audiences can learn the basic concepts and differences between the sexes in the workplace — and as any speaker will tell you, that is a good start.

Ruth Levine, founder of Speak Inc., an international speakers bureau based in San Diego, with offices in Chicago and Kansas City, Mo., works with pharma firms and medical associations. Contact her at (858) 457-9880 or rlevine@speakinc.com, or visit www.speakinc.com.