When we talk about “gender bias,” we generally assume we’re talking about a bias against women. Not so fast. The issue is less about men and women and more about a preference for the masculine style. This affects men as well.
Recently at the end of a workshop, a participant said he understood that people, women particularly, need to shift to a masculine style to succeed. Than he asked, “We want workplace culture itself to shift and become more balanced, right?” He had summed up the purpose of my work. I want a world where masculine and feminine ways are modeled in leadership and valued in business cultures.
After my Huffington Post article on styles of managing conflict, I continued to brood about my own way of handling conflict. Conflict has been particularly ineffective for me when it is with another woman. I find little redeeming value in the feminine (indirect) approach to conflict. And yet I have had little luck doing direct conflict (the masculine style) with women. When women have a dispute, it seems, both need to practice a direct but gentle form of conflict and manage the inevitable emotions.
This is another look at the intersection of gender and generational differences in the workplace. There are values and perspectives that women in general share with those of younger generations (Gen X and Millennial). Views of gender roles have evolved, causing a natural alliance between women and the younger groups, who are more likely to see women as equals and even to demonstrate more balance between masculine and feminine approaches. This could mean a critical mass to create workplaces where both men and women can reach their potential — and thrive!
The 2014 Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor joins a growing body of research that concludes that today’s leaders must have feminine as well as masculine leadership strengths. This study shows that women score higher on 10 of 14 key leadership attributes, including the top four. They are feminine strengths so, naturally, show up more in women than men. Key feminine strengths include communicating in an open way, admitting mistakes and bringing out the best in others. If you follow the work of DifferenceWORKS, you understand these strengths.
We can see the value of both masculine and feminine approaches in daily life. In my case, I saw the importance of having both approaches as I recovered from a physical impairment. The world needs both masculine and feminine strengths!