Summary:

A new study reveals that we’re much more likely to choose others of the same gender to collaborate with and suggests that management should get involved to ensure teams are co-ed and chosen based on skills rather than personal comfort level. Is this really necessary?

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Back in elementary school, gender may have played a huge role in who you chose to team up with or pick for the kickball team, but these days you’re a mature professional who’s clearly grown out of thinking the opposite sex has cooties, right? Maybe not, argues a new study by Danish management consultancy Innovisor.

While it’s unlikely that you still consciously have any issues with working with the opposite sex, the study of 5,000 professionals in 29 countries revealed that both men and women gravitate towards working with those of the same gender. “We prefer to collaborate with people who look just like us,” Jeppe Hansgaard, a managing partner at Innovisor told the Wall Street Journal, suggesting that this unconscious bias often goes unremarked on by management because so much of our day-to-day collaboration is informal.

But maybe management needs to take note, Hansgaard suggested to UK site Management Issues, as our preference to work with those like us can sometimes trump the need to find the most competent individuals to collaborate with. He explained:

Until now gender has not been a factor, companies have taken into account when managing collaboration to increase productivity, It has been a dormant factor that has not been talked about. However, it is important to uncover the barriers play in terms of collaboration, since this insight has potential to increase business value significantly

Gender clearly affects our judgment to collaborate objectively, and so we need to be more aware of the consequences of this to ensure the right match of skills and qualifications.

Collaboration must be disciplined to ensure that the right people work together towards a common goal at the right time. It shouldn’t always be the individual’s choice, because it is often determined by who we feel comfortable around and have a desire to work with.

If you think objectively, have you noticed this tendency to form single sex collaborations in your professional life, and as a manager, do you think it’s worth intervening to ensure collaborative partners are selected based on their skills rather than their gender?

Image courtesy of Flickr user OakleyOriginals

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