Everything is personal nowadays, even business. Maybe a little too personal; especially when sex enters the workplace creating imbalance or counter-productivity. With women yielding the largest demographic for sales in any product or service category, can your company afford to avoid a battle of the sexes about what women and men want?

Fear of being sexist removes healthy debate and collaborative conversations between men and women, negatively impacting product design. It goes against societal norms and professional self-preservation. According to relationship navigation specialist, Kimi Avary developer of the Beyond the Glass Ceiling Workplace Navigation System, "masculine and feminine modes of being are hard-wired, but it's when we get stuck in your own head that misunderstandings occur and productivity decreases."

Here are 3 ways you can safely bring sex into your product development team and design equation without pinking and shrinking your products or defaulting to gender-neutral.

Get rid of the chip on your shoulder

If we expect as Avary says, "men don't want to listen and women won't be clear," then we are setting ourselves up for miscommunication and failure. It is only when you get rid of your projections onto the situation that you can see clearly and remove unproductive emotions from the mix.

I personally learned this lesson early on in my career. As I mentioned in a prior article, my first job out of college was working for South Carolina textile giant, Milliken & Co. I expected that there would be a very low glass ceiling. As one of only two women in my very first meeting with Mr. Milliken, I grew anxious that my proposal for a new CAD system would just be dismissed as a "girl's request" as I watched him turn around and yell things like, "Boys, get me this." Luckily, right before I began my presentation, I saw the name badge on the man sitting in the row behind Mr. Milliken. It read "Boyce Smith." I realized right then that if I expect sexism, it is exactly what I'll get.

Don't ignore gender differences - embrace them

"Diffuse awareness can provide tremendous insights and opens the door to creativity," says Avary. Creating strict boundaries are problematic in any team environment, but boundaries that embrace gender differences instead of denying or ignoring them can streamline effective contributions from both sexes. Multi-tasking is a super power and so is single-mindedness and the new paradigm in partnership is finding a way to embrace and encourage their co-existence.

Move beyond sexism to gender harmony collaboration

Collaboration comes from recognizing that gender differences are diverse contributions that can be used as a competitive advantage. My design partner is also my husband, so we have the unique ability to naturally avoid sexual office politics and concentrate on marrying gender blend features into our product designs that are covertly feminine without alienating men. It has become our competitive differentiator and it can become yours too.

Battle for the sexes and embrace conflict that will lead to creative thinking and novel ideas. Innovation and gender blending cannot happen without an environment that that allows men and women to debate without jeopardizing their jobs.

Published on: Feb 29, 2016