Gender Differences
In Decision Making

Men Women decision making

This collection of gender differences in decision making come from many sources. It's important to remember that we're talking here about humans.

This means that the gender differences in decision making are true in general, and may not be true in specific cases.

It is well known that men and women have different shopping strategies, different ways of communicating and place emphasis on different things in relationships. Let's have a closer look at some of these.


The 'shopping gender gap' has been well documented in retail anthropology. One specific aspect of this is the factor of time. Men tend to make their purchasing decisions based on immediate needs and how well the product or service will satisfy needs now and into the immediate future. Long-term considerations seem to play little part for men.

For women, however, this trend is almost reversed. Frequently the long-term considerations, and whether the purchase can be used again and again over time, may even be a stronger factor in the woman's purchasing decision than instant satisfaction.

Obviously if you're selling to men, emphasise the immediate gratification. For women it's more useful to ensure that they understand the benefits over the long-term. Or even to make sure that they buy sufficient quantity to last them a long time.

It's also useful to keep in mind how this affects brand loyalty for both sexes.

Emotion vs facts

When it comes to actually making the decision, women generally make purchase decisions on a more emotive level, whereas men go more with the facts and data. Women prefer a narrative, a story with the faces and the interaction and the relationships that are occurring. The female brain seems to be more multitracked and networked compared to the male brain which is a lot more compartmentalized.


Opinions to decisions and back

Here is an interesting idea in gender differences in decision making. Women use other peoples opinions to help make their own decision. Men use other people's decisions to help them form their own opinion.

How does this work? If men know that other people have made the purchase decision and it works for them, then they will be happy to go ahead themselves.

While women would like to know that it worked for others, they prefer to know the reasons behind somebody else's purchase. Because other people's reasons and motivations may not be the same as their own. So they may not get the same result.

These gender differences in decision making also effect brand loyalty differently for men and women. Men avoid products that fail for others regardless of the reason. Depending on the reason for failure, a woman may still go ahead and make the purchase.

These gender differences in decision making with regard to purchasing are important when you consider that women purchase, or influence the purchase of, up to 80% of all consumer goods!

The decision to ask for help

Another area where there are significant gender differences in decision making is in the area of asking others for help. Women make this decision much more quickly than men do.

For example, a study was done on employees whose PCs at work became infected with spy ware. 64% of women called the IT department for help. Only 30 per cent of men did so.

And consider when a man and a woman are driving some place and get lost. It's amazing how often any argument becomes about whether they should ask for directions or not!

The standing joke is that the man would have to kill the person who gives him directions simply for knowing that he (the man) was lost!

Men women decision making in business

With the increasing number of women in decision making positions in business nowadays it's useful to know how they differ to men in leadership and communication styles. There are even gender differences in decision making with regard to ethical issues.

Remember that women are much more interested in relationships than tasks. They build relationships to get the task done. Men prefer to build relationships as they're doing the task.

Women often like to discuss options out loud before reaching a decision. Men seem to prefer quiet contemplation. Of course, these are generalizations. But if each is unaware of the other, it may cause difficulties. Most people have their own experiences of this!

In terms of communication, women not only like to discuss things, but non verbal communication may include lots of eye to eye contact, head nodding to indicate agreement, and standing face to face. For some men, some of these things can be threatening.

Men talking together will very often be side to side at an angle, a position that's more comfortable for them. Women may interpret this as being secretive or uninterested.

Men approach moral issues looking at individual rights and considering what is just and fair. Women approach them with caring and compassion and constantly consider relationship. It is obviously difficult to say which is more ethical, but a combination of both tends to give more creative solutions and is generating more useful results over the long-term in organizations.

And now we move onto a tricky subject, financial decision making in relationships...

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