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Great Minds Think Unalike: Creatively Teaching Gender Diversity in the Workplace

A team collaborating

When Kendra Thomas was asked to consider a new Pearson project that could help companies understand gender differences (gender diversity), she thought it was "just another reason to single out women who 'all cry in the marketplace.'" She says "that kind of thinking drives me batty."

Kendra is the Director of Diversity and Inclusion in the Americas for Pearson. Her regard for this new project changed drastically when she saw two brain scan images, one of a male's brain at rest and the other of a female's brain at rest. The pictures were entirely different, showing the stark differences between men and women's cognitive processes. "It was really valuable," she says. "If you're not a gender intelligent colleague or leader, then you're missing a lot of progress."

Brains
Brain scans of a female brain (left) and a male brain (right). Both brains are at rest.

Not long after, Be Gender Intelligent was born. It's an online curriculum produced by Pearson in close collaboration with Barbara Annis and Associates, a firm that takes ground-breaking gender research seminars in to executive suites and board rooms.

"We want to translate that experience, not simply transcribe it," says Sean Stowers who's Pearson's Director of Learning Services. For example, Be Gender Intelligent takes those two brain scans usually shown on a screen during seminars and adds several more interactive steps for the online learner.

Gender Intelligence 2
A screen shot of the Be Gender Intelligent digital program for online learners.

"It begins with the brain science," Sean says about the online version of the two images. "Then we scroll through key differences between men and women in the pictures. Then, again through interactivity and video, we show the man's perspective during the experience, as well as the woman's perspective during the same experience."

Sean says his own team has learned how to be more gender intelligent while working on the project. "It's now part of our own dialogue," he says.

Be Gender Intelligent will be available to large firms and their employees starting this fall. The design team has integrated some of Pearson's most creative thinking about online learning in to the almost 16 hours of content. "It can be structured so that learners can go through it in a pace that works for them," Sean says.

Learning and inclusion work hand-in-hand to make organizations more efficient—and more profitable. “If you don’t know how to be gender intelligent with your colleagues, then you’re likely not finding the best or most innovative solutions together,” says Kendra Thomas. “Truly transformative things happen when men and women leverage their diversity to work better together.”

Kendra provided three tips for increasing your gender intelligence

  1. Be an insatiable learner. Being gender intelligent means having curiosity that goes beyond binary gender lines. Gender intelligent leaders voraciously learn all that they can, regardless of whether the learning comes from a male or female viewpoint. This makes them more attuned to fine differences that can make or break teams.
  2. Be inclusive. You cannot be a gender intelligent colleague or leader without keeping a constant eye on whether you are contributing to the environment. Practicing inclusive leadership lets you better leverage the unique skills men and women bring to the workplace. 
  3. Even if a meeting ends, keep the dialogue going. Instead of rushing to an immediate conclusion, train yourself to step back and ask, "is there anything here that I'm missing?" Exercise your muscles around contextual and web-like thinking.

Read more from Kendra and Sean on Twitter.

Read more about how Pearson and the Gender Intelligence Group are exploring gender intelligence together.