Women in business and professions know they must sometimes be masculine, sometime feminine. Can women do this “shifting” without burning out or losing themselves? It is natural and smart to select from different “versions” of ourselves when we move from one situation to another. But it can be costly. If a woman who prefers a feminine style has to behave in masculine ways a lot, she may become an “honorary man,” become exhausted or dis-engage. If she does so consciously, intentionally, “mindfully,” can she avoid these costs?
I am interested in the roots of masculine-feminine differences in nature and nurture. I want experts to tell me if I have this right or wrong. Cultural influences on where a person operates along the masculine-feminine continuum include norms, expectations, and approval/disapproval. One tends to do what he or she is encouraged and rewarded for doing. Repeated behaviors create and deepen neuropaths, creating habits. Cultural influences seem to reinforce physiological differences. Nature and nurture collaborate. The good news is we are not hard wired. We – and our brains – can change. Both men and women can learn and use both masculine and feminine strengths to be more effective.
If feminine ways of making decisions are “Fran,” and the masculine approach to decision-making is “Max,” we are all “Frax.” We are “Frax-wise” when we can use and appreciate both approaches. In the area of decision-making, Max’s approach (the masculine)) is to focus on the goal and approach it in a logical, linear and efficient way. Fran focuses also on the process, gathers ideas, involves others and synthesizes input. Both ways are valuable in different circumstances. Frax-wise people know when to use which; they appreciate someone whose approach is different from their own and know the value of having both on a team. Frax-wise leaders know this difference can create obstacles and work to lower those obstacles.
To avoid stereotyping, I use a prototype named Fran to describe feminine approaches to work and a prototype named Max to represent masculine approaches. All of us are both Fran and Max; we are “Frax.” A person who understands and appreciates both approaches can be “Frax-wise. in the sphere of personal effectiveness, a Frax-wise individual can shift his or her approach depending on the circumstance. In the sphere of relationships — working with and leading others — being Frax-wise enables one to appreciate and leverage difference, increasing engagement. In the sphere of organization, Frax-wise leaders understand how differences in Fran and Max create obstacles to gender diversity — and eliminate them.
After identifying the “foundational” difference between masculine and feminine ways of identifying ourselves in the world, we begin to look at three key drivers of workplace attitudes and behaviors. Using our prototypes of masculine and feminine approaches (Max and Fran), we look at the first key driver–how they think. Differences in the male and female brain shape how each processes information and makes decisions. Max is goal focused. Fran does more gathering and processing of ideas. The best decisions result from having BOTH masculine and feminine thinking on the job!