Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Workzone: Rodriguez Dennehy on Meshing Male, Female Work Styles for Success

Do the men on your corporate management team rush to find a quick solution to problems? Do the women take longer to analyze the options?

Both decision-making styles can lead to good outcomes, said Elisabet Rodriguez Dennehy, a leadership consultant and author who believes companies should embrace the differences between men and women instead of fostering a culture where everyone needs to be the same to succeed.

In her book, “Can You Afford to Ignore Me? How to Manage Gender and Cultural Differences at

Work,” Ms. Rodriguez Dennehy taps scientific research and her own experiences conducting

training sessions for clients in Pittsburgh, as well as in Prague and Sao Paulo to illustrate that

men and women can complement each other in the workplace and boost business performance.

Ms. Rodriguez Dennehy’s consulting firm, Rodriguez & Associates, is based in Shadyside. She is also the lead faculty for Duquesne University’s Women’s Executive Leadership Program and an adjunct faculty for the university’s School of Leadership and Professional Development.

Prior to focusing on business and organizational behavior, she was a practicing attorney in

Puerto Rico.

She wrote the book, which was self-published earlier this year, after being prompted by a male student at Duquesne who told her he needed a “how-to” guide to help him manage a group of predominantly female employees at a bank.

Over the course of her own career, she kept a folder stuffed with news articles and research

studies about women trying to make it to the top of the corporate ladder.

“I still have it, and it’s very thick and I keep putting articles into it,” she said.

When she decided four years ago to write a book, she pulled out the collection of clippings and searched for common threads about issues that kept some women from reaching the executive suites.

Among the major challenges for women that Ms. Rodriguez Dennehy addresses in her book and in the training sessions she conducts for companies are “contradictory demands” about how women should behave. For instance, she writes, if a woman at work is assertive, she’s perceived as “too pushy.” If she wants to collaborate and share power, “she is perceived as weak and unable to make decisions.”

“To overcome this challenge, both sides need to accept that men and women see the world

through different filters,” the author advises.

Another challenge is posed by the so-called “dragon ladies” of the management team — women who Ms. Rodriguez Dennehy describes as being so eager to emulate male behavior that they overcompensate and become “too assertive, domineering, arrogant and impersonal.” Many of them never reach top jobs because men keep their distance and women reject them.

She applauded the controversial bestselling book, “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s

chief operating officer, in which Ms. Sandberg identifies societal obstacles to gender equality, and calls on professional women to pursue more leadership roles and for men to pick up more duties of running the household.

“I was thrilled with that book,” Ms. Rodriguez Dennehy said. “More successful women should

write their stories and give us examples of what they’re doing. We have very different books,

but she proves me right.”

* This excerpt was taken from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Written by Joyce Gannon.  First Published September 15, 2013*