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 We’ve been looking at the roots of masculine and feminine differences in nature and nurture. To boil down all the research on masculine-feminine differences, according to Eleanor Maccoby, there is one foundational difference. As we continue to explore differences in how Max and Fran approach work, we will see how this foundational difference influences how each thinks and behaves.

Remember, as we explore how Max thinks and acts, I am not talking about all men; Max is a prototype representing masculine thinking and behavior, which can characterize both men and women. All women aren’t like Fran. Fran is a prototype of feminine ways of thinking and acting, which can appear in women or men.

The foundational difference is the difference in how Max and Fran view themselves in the world. Max fundamentally views himself as existing in a hierarchy where status matters. He is more comfortable knowing his place in a hierarchy and generally prefers being “one up” vs. “one down.” As a result, he is more likely to take center stage. His individual accomplishes define him more than do his relationships.

Fran’s view of herself in the world is as part of a network of relationships. Her connections define her more than her own accomplishments. Competing, winning and status matter less than maintaining connections. It is less important for her to be center stage if taking a supporting role builds or protects relationships. While Max fears or avoids vulnerability, Fran fears isolation.

Max tends to identify himself by his job title or role while Fran identifies herself in multiple ways (marriage, children, job, volunteer work, etc.). They even introduce themselves differently. For example, a female friend of mine is President of a large bank yet often she introduces herself as “from XYZ Bank”; I used to introduce myself as “working in Legal” rather than as Senior VP, General Counsel. Max would simply introduce himself giving his title.

Here is a summary of How We Identify Ourselves in the World:

 Part of a hierarchy  Part of a network
 Greatest value is status  Greatest value is affiliation
 Life is a contest to win  We are the same or equal
 Is comfortable taking center stage  Is comfortable in a supporting role
 Independence is key  Values interdependence as much as independence
 Greatest fear is vulnerability  Greatest fear is isolation

Have you seen these differences?  Share your stories or examples in a comment!