Women, men, and workplace interaction (link)

Judith Baxter, a linguist at Aston University who researches gender and language, has recently published a piece in the Guardian on gender-stereotyped communication and interactional styles in the workplace.

Baxter has published widely on gender and identity in the workplace, and this column highlights the gender-associated markers that many business leaders and employees draw on in their daily work lives. The piece also reminds us of the communication stereotypes that still exist: men swear and women gossip, for example. Of course, there is more to communication in the workplace than one-dimensional stereotypes (research has shown that men gossip and women swear, both in and away from workplace settings), but it is also true that many people rely on these linguistic markers to express themselves and create an identity for themselves in their professional roles.

The pervasiveness of these gender-associated communicative styles also shows the power than such gender ideologies have in professional workplace situations. As Baxter makes reference to in the above Guardian column, these stereotypes remain and persist because women and men draw on them, thus reinforcing them. Societal change is glacial, and I do not expect these gender-associated linguistic markers to disappear or lose their power anytime soon. We must keep in mind, however, that these stereotypes are only some of the tools that people use to express themselves, construct a professional workplace identity, and interact with others.

If you would like to talk more about this issue in your workplace and how it might be affecting productivity, safety, or growth, please do get in touch.