A 2011 study by Stanford School of Business says that the most promotions in their study went to women who can demonstrate certain masculine strengths (assertiveness, dominance, confidence, aggressiveness) BUT who can “self-monitor” and balance such behaviors with feminine behaviors. Successful women must be assertive and confident to make it into management — but not “too” assertive or confident. That’s the double bind. Women must also leverage feminine strengths — building community, collaborating, synthesizing multiple ideas, creating inclusive teams, etc. Both men and women are better leaders if they can model and leverage both masculine and feminine ways of leading. Leaders must appreciate both and create inclusive cultures where both are valued.
Differences in masculine and feminine ways of speaking at work can be its own separate topic–gender communications. My prototype of masculine ways at work, Max, speaks directly, confidently assertively. Speaking this language (“Max”) works for increasing his status. The feminine prototype, Fran, uses sentence structures that make her status close to that of her listener. Speaking “Fran” helps maintain relationships. In meetings, Max takes up more time; Fran waits her turn and gives up the floor when interrupted. I urge leaders to become “bilingual”–to understand both “Max” and “Fran” and not take literally how people express themselves.