Working Wounded Blog: Gender Bender

News Flash: Who can best handle an important project at work? According to readers the answer is apparently women, but it's closer than you may think.

Responding to a recent WorkingWounded/ online ballot, readers said women would be the choice over men, 52 percent to 48 percent. That could be a telling statistic, or maybe not …

I'm going to argue that the differences between "male" and "female" don't matter much at work anymore, regardless of the poll results above. In fact, the sex of someone at work today is almost irrelevant. Before I explain my position, let's take a look at some of the latest trends affecting men and women.

First let's look at men. This week, Conde Nast announced the launch of Men's Vogue, the latest signal that a strange trend has taken hold of the male population. Every man I know is becoming a "metrosexual," and my daughter's 8th-grade class is full of boys who mousse their hair. According to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, 11 percent of sexual harassment claims are filed by men. Today's male role model seems to be less John Wayne and more Alan Alda.

But it's not just men. I recently read an article on the latest trend among successful women executives -- having a mid-life crisis. Martha Stewart is clearly as tough as any male CEO, and female pilots, construction workers, firefighters and soldiers barely warrant a second look these days. (Unfortunately women still are paid less than men and the overwhelming majority of sexual harassment claims are still filed by women. I can't argue that men and women are equal, just that sex roles are not as cut-and-dried as they once were.)

This blurring of traditional gender roles reminded me of an article that appeared in Sports Illustrated many years ago. The article featured four all-star NBA squads: an all-white team, an all-black team, an all "white" team comprised of black players and an all "black" team comprised of white players. OK, that probably didn't make sense. Let me explain the last two teams: They were black players who played a white style of play and white players who played a black style.

Is it any different today at work in terms of men and women? In the last few weeks I've received e-mail describing women bosses who are tyrants and unable to communicate without yelling. And I've heard about a male boss who seemed more interested in gossiping and not wanting to act for fear of hurting someone's feelings.

Now before the PC police come busting through my door, I'll point that that all of these examples are obviously dated stereotypes. But really, that is exactly my point.

Just as the "all-white" basketball team comprised of black players and the "all-black" team of white players aren't representative of anything but stereotypes, I'm not sure that a person's sex is a predictable way to determine how they'll respond at work. I can't tell you how many times recently I've read an e-mail assuming that it had come from a male and later found it had come from a woman. And vice versa.

I predict that in the future,the lines between men and women are going to continue to blur. And that's a good thing; because we'll have to pay attention to the person and not just make assumptions based on his or her sex. But this will require more effort on all of our parts, because it takes time to figure out where someone is really coming from. Ultimately, looking past rigid, outdated sex stereotypes will allow us all more freedom to be who we were meant to be. That said, I still don't plan on picking up a copy of Men's Vogue anytime soon -- things for me can only blur so far.

Quote of the week:
"Read more novels and fewer business books." -- Tom Peters

Weekly book excerpt:
From "The Lessons of Experience" McCall, et. al. (Lexington, 1988)

"Hardships seem to startle managers into facing themselves, and coming to grips with their own fallibilities can be a turning point in their development. Some of the managers we studied realized their dependence on other people and gained a healthy respect for what others can contribute. Becoming more aware of their own shortcomings also gave some of the managers a heightened sense of compassion and tolerance for the foibles of others. Some realized they had stopped listening to people, soliciting their support or showing their gratitude. They learned that they couldn't take others for granted nor could they get along without them. Some turned that heightened sensitivity into management techniques, such as goal-setting procedures that give subordinates more of a say, or better ways to keep their bosses informed. Sometimes they got reacquainted with their family and revived their love."

Working Wounded Mailbag:

"My best and worst job is the same one I have been doing for the last 12 years. The only difference is the attitudes toward me of the person(s) I have had to report to."

Blog Ballot Results

Here are the results from a recent Working Wounded Blog/ online ballot:
How do you handle opinions at work that differ from yours?

       I've never had anyone disagree with my opinion, 1.3 percent
       I tune 'em out, 13.8 percent
       I hear 'em out, 84.7 percent

Bob Rosner is a best-selling author, an internationally syndicated columnist, popular speaker and a recent addition to the community of bloggers. He welcomes your comments at

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.