There's a great article over at the Complete Lawyer written by Cathy S. Wright: Women Really Want A Level Playing Field. I highly recommend that you give it a good read.
In this article she discusses the differences in the ways that men and women interact and perceive each other. In my experience, many of her observations are right on point. The sub-titles of the article should give you a good idea of what to expect:
- While Our Goals May Be The Same, Our Strategies For Solutions Vary In Business
- Women Often Still Feel Like Outsiders
- Men And Women Are Divided By Language
- Men And Women Are Motivated Differently
- Reciprocity Means Different Things To Men And Women
- Men And Women Bear Different Life Responsibilities
My favorite part of the article is the concluding paragraphs, where she responds to the (maddening, in my opinion) claim by some that working women have a made a "choice" and have to live up to the ramifications. I agree 100% with her take on this issue:
Some men (and more than a few women) respond that these issues are the result of life choices. Families with an at-home partner add that they are making the financial sacrifice to have someone manage the home front, so they feel working women have no right to have their life choices subsidized by business.
I don’t think this is an either/or proposition; one reality doesn’t cancel the other. Rather, we need to acknowledge that the structure of our society forces women lawyers to assume burdens and make choices that most of their male counterparts don’t share. Women-owned business is the fastest growing segment of the US economy, and as hard as it is to start a business, these businesses are succeeding equally with businesses started by men. Many observers believe that this trend reflects the impulsion of women to set up organizations that respect the realities of their lives. These new businesses require women to work hard, maybe even harder, than they do in the corporate world, and yet they succeed. Freed of the necessity to accommodate to structures that sometimes feel unfriendly, women are finding ways to be successful. The lesson here is that women aren’t failing to accommodate to the corporate world anymore than the corporate world is failing to accommodate women. Clearly there are ways that work for women to work.
Both genders can take steps to ameliorate the current situation. We all need to become aware of how our unconscious differences create misunderstandings. Recognizing that this is a team issue rather than a “women’s issue” is another essential component to leveraging a law firm’s investment in talented women employees. And while women lawyers need to take the responsibility for understanding the ground rules in the arena they have chosen, men need to develop a sense of appreciation, and perhaps some humility, about the home court advantages they may take for granted.