In my work (consulting, training and coaching), I advocate for workplaces that value, model and leverage both “masculine” and “feminine” approaches. There is a business case for this; leaders and businesses that leverage both approaches do better. I am not talking about gender (men and women)–although a workplace with gender balance is more likely to be more balanced in terms of masculine and feminine approaches than one that is all or mostly either men or women.
To create common understanding of what we mean by “masculine” and “feminine” approaches, I delve into the research about how men vs. women generally see things and behave. I define “masculine” by how a prototypical male (not the men I am talking to) is most likely to see and do things and “feminine” by how a prototypical female (not the women in the room) is most like to see and do things. In describing the perspectives and approaches of the prototypes, I call upon research on gender differences from nature (our physiology) and nurture (how our behavior is shaped by the norms of culture).
I am fascinated by the relatively new science on gender differences. Several experts now say that the “female brain” and the “male brain” have important differences. These differences seem to underlie differences in how the prototypical male and female think, value relationships and pursue a goal. Other differences in nature include hormones (testosterone and oxytocin), the tearing mechanism and even our smile muscles!
If brain structure, hormones and other physiological factors alone drove our behaviors and approaches, men and women would be inevitably hard-wired, totally predictable and unable to change or learn new behaviors. That obviously isn’t the case. Whether an individual’s physiology is marked by a “male” brain and testosterone or a “female” brain and oxytocin seems to set up a preference or a default “set point.” I want your thoughts on factors that can influence our “set point” and enable us to learn and flex to take advantage of an approach different from our default approach. Some of my thoughts are below. What are yours?
- The degree that a particular physiological factors exists in an individual—e.g., the level of a particular hormone in an individual,
- Factors in “nurture”—e.g., whether a tendency is reinforced, moderated or reversed, and
- Human maturity, especially emotional intelligence and the related ability to choose our reactions and the behavior that works best in a situation.
I presume you will be correct regarding Masculine and Feminine Differences: Physiology Isnâ€™t the End of the Story | Difference Works. brbr I don’t know if the majority of folks can see the idea this way however.
Caroline, those factors are huge. I would say that the “nurture” factor could be expanded to include the entire set of experiences an individual has to tap into. Our family and social upbringing do much to shape the way we view the world. Most people have a variety of different career experiences that have very different cultures, norms and reward systems. I’m working with a CEO right now who talks about her early career experiences, where she was encouraged to “disconnect” emotionally from her customers, products, coworkers – to keep it “all business.” She later went to work at a company where the male CEO had his 4-year-old on his lap during their interview, and chose not to take the lucrative buyout that would have left him financially set for life because he didn’t want the company to lose its soul. Working there, she realized that by bringing her whole, authentic self to work, by striving to be as connected as possible, she is able to help her employees to find the connections between what they value and what the company does. Those connections create the kind of meaning that makes your work a calling, instead of just a job. People with a calling a motivated and free to create and innovate, and have the passion to work harder and smarter than people with a job.
Your story is great. A woman was shaped by “nurture” to downplay emotions; a man was shaped by HIS “nurture” to value authenticity. Clearly our roots in nature are not the whole story!
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