Gender diversity in teams: differences and preferences

Are men’s teams different from women’s teams? Can you talk about it or is it taboo? Does one have advantages over the other? And what is your personal preference if you had to choose? During the final day of the Team Coaching Masterclass we delved into these exciting questions. The meeting was chaired by Elisa de Groot, consultant and author on diversity issues. We came up with surprising conclusions, especially if you ask people if they prefer a male or a female team.

Mannen en vrouwenteams

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Differences between men’s teams and women’s teams

Prior to the session, all participants shared experiences with men’s teams and women’s teams, online. This resulted in well-known stereotypes. In men’s teams you see camaraderie, goal-orientation and not a lot of ‘why’ questions. If you see emotion, it’s anger and fist on the table, but rather avoiding any of it. Female teams are much more focused on sharing and feeling: ‘just cry, get it all out.’ Precision and perfectionism were mentioned. Conflicts linger around rather long and are dealt with privately. And: keeping a low profile.

What struck me most in this online discussion was that the topic didn’t seem taboo to anyone, which tells me a lot about my own assumptions. I presumed that it’s not acceptable to talk about differences between men’s and women’s team, as speaking of differences easily comes with judgement.


According to Elisa de Groot, women are typically focused on relationship and reflection, and men especially Also similarities are found. The Masterclass participants said that power struggles and ego exist in men’s and women’s teams alike.

There were some positive experiences with single gender teams. In addition, factors such as character and age are just as important for team success as gender diversity. Therefore, effective team chemistry can thrive in teams with only men or just women.

Does the gender-diverse team have benefits?

Elisa de Groot showed impressive studies when it comes to proven success of gender-diverse teams. Research showed a positive correlation between diversity in the board and financial performance of the company. A widely cited 2007 study by Catalyst shows 42% higher gross profit margin at Fortune 500 companies. McKinsey’s project ‘woman matter‘ also mainly sees profit. There really is a ‘business case for woman’, says the consultancy giant.

Some studies actually show the contrary, as we can read in Harvard Business Review. An analysis by Professor Mina Lückerath-Rovers of a large number of studies challenges the optimistic picture. Still, the link between diversity and return on investment is beyond doubt.

It is a encouraging message that diversity translates into hard cash. But the statistical link is not just a causal link. It may well be that companies that are more open to women in high positions, could also be more successful in many other areas. That is actually my gut feeling. And aside from the numbers, what are individual preferences when it comes to team composition?

What would people choose?

A study by McKinsey shows that nearly three-quarters of both men and women at the top prefer diverse teams. However, the study by Frank Dobbin should also be mentioned. He examined why there is in some cases a negative relationship between women at the top and falling stock price. His answer: prejudice of investors, who react negatively when women are appointed to senior positions.

In our Team Coaching Masterclass everyone favoured the diverse team. But here it comes. Imagine that you ‘had to’ choose between working in a team of only men and a team that consists entirely of women. What would it be? The result was somewhat surprising to us all. Of the 20 attendees, only 3 people (all female) chose the women’s team. The rest, of which more than half of them women, chose the men’s team. Asked about the reasons one argument prevailed: working with a men’s team is ‘just easier’.

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