Men and Women Can (and Should) be Friends

We’ve always been told that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. While that often poses problems when you’re dating (to say the least), it does bring a certain well-rounded perspective when it comes to matters in life and business.

In business, I’ve always been a firm believer that the more brains, the better. If you surround yourself with smart, emotionally intelligent people, you’ll often end up with a smart, emotionally intelligent product. You need those people to help you determine what’s missing in the marketplace and how, as a company, we can successfully fill that void.

It’s also important that you bring people together with different life stories and skills. You’ll need business-minded people, marketing-minded people, sales-minded people — if you’re missing any one of those, you’re missing a very key component in making your business successful. Your product won’t get off the ground if it doesn’t fill a void or can’t be marketed or sold.

You also need people with different life experiences: age, ethnicity and socio-economic background all bring important perspectives to the boardroom.

And while we’ve made huge gains in making sure that it’s no longer just a caucasian boys’ club in the executive offices, we still have a long way to go — especially when it comes to gender.

I’ve never understood why male-run businesses don’t see the value of having females on their senior leadership team. I also have never understood why female-run businesses don’t see the value of having men in those senior leadership positions as well.

Just as it’s important to have perspectives from different professional backgrounds, age groups, ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds, it’s equally important to have perspectives from different genders.

Since men and women are from different planets, they see things very differently. Women see the value in certain things, while men may think those same things are not important. Men think some things are of paramount importance, while women could not care less. While we’re often on different ends of the spectrum in our opinions, it’s important we take the time to consider and evaluate all options on the spectrum before coming to a final, or at least temporarily final, decision.

And that doesn’t end in business.

I feel the same way when it comes to personal relationships. Think about your friendships, for example.

Ever since Harry met Sally, we’ve been told that men and women can’t be friends — and while that’s often true (I’ve seen a lot of friendships break down because one half caught feelings while the other didn’t), there are some that can truly remain platonic. If you can manage a platonic friendship (or you’re lucky to already have one or two), hold on to them with all your might. Having someone of the opposite gender around to weigh in on life’s biggest conundrums (from business to love to health) is truly priceless.

I know I’m taking on a lot of stereotypes here, and there are members of both genders who smash these regularly, but there are three main differences between men and women that I’ve seen time and time again:

  • Women tend to freak out over tiny details (a.k.a. overanalyzing) while men usually take things as they come and remain pretty calm
  • Women tend to worry about how they come across in business, while men typically have no problem asking for what they want (whether it be a title change, raise or corner office)
  • Women often pick up on social cues — that someone’s upset, angry, stressed, sad — while men are often oblivious to such emotions

The key here is that neither of these behaviours are 100 per cent right, or 100 per cent wrong. Women can benefit from picking up some of the traditionally male behaviours in many of these situations, while men could definitely stand to pick up a few traditionally female traits.

When you have friends of the opposite gender, you have an opportunity to better yourself, personally and professionally. You have a sounding board that thinks totally differently than you do. You have someone who can open your eyes to a perspective you may have never even considered.

The key to make my mantra work, is that you can’t just have more brains in the boardroom, you have to have brains from all over the solar system.