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Differences in masculine and feminine approaches to work are rooted in nature or physiology. There are also deep roots in nurture—which directly reflects our culture. Our culture influences what we learn from parents, teachers, media etc. about what is and is not appropriate behavior. It influences norms for little girls, little boys, men and women. Author Dr. Pat Heim says that little boys and little girls actually grow up in different cultures.

Studies show that cultural influences on Max (the prototypical North American man) and Fran (representing the average North American woman) start early.

  • Parents and others tend to speak differently to infant girls than they do to infant boys (and even to an unborn child thought to be a girl vs. one thought to be a boy).
  • People tend to hold babies in pink blankets differently than babies in blue blankets.
  • Studies show that adults project different emotions on images of babies crying depending on whether they think the baby is male or female. For example, they may attribute a little boy’s crying to anger and a little girl’s crying to fear!
  • The awards given to Max and Fran in preschool and elementary school are different. Boys receive awards for being the best thinker, scientist, or athlete;
  • Girls receive awards for being the best sharer (for example, “Miss Congeniality”).
  • Children’s books, including classic fairy tales, feature lots of strong male leaders. The strongest females tend to be witches and wicked stepmothers!

And there is extensive research on differences in how Max and Fran play. That’s worthy of its own post! Stay tuned.

Obviously nurture and nature work together to shape us—and Max and Fran. How do you think nurture shapes differences in how Max and Fran compete at work?