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The “foundational” difference between masculine and feminine ways being (demonstrated by our prototypes, Max and Fran) is in how these prototypes each identify themselves in the world. Out of this foundation come three key drivers of differences in the ways they each show up. These drivers, in turn, influence their behavior at work—which we need to understand (and appreciate) in order to be inclusive and create inclusive cultures.

The first key driver is differences in how Max and Fran think. Differences in the “male brain” and the “female brain” shape how each processes information and makes decisions.

Fran’s brain is wired to multitask (shift quickly for focusing on one thing then another). She gathers and integrates many inputs. Helen Fisher calls this “web thinking.” The female brain, says Dr. Baron-Cohen, is wired for empathizing, while the male brain is wired for “systematizing.” Max demonstrates more logical, linear thinking. His brain is structured to enable him to focus, compartmentalize and think sequentially.

When Max was a cave man, he survived and enabled the survival of his offspring by focusing on his goal (kill dinner). Cave woman Fran survived and supported the survival of her offspring by multitasking and gathering. In making a decision, in today’s workplace, Fran gathers, not berries and fruit, but ideas; she seeks input from and consults with others. She may raise points that seem “off track” to Max, who is focused on his goal (solving the problem).

If only people like Max are on a team, the team may drive to the goal and overlook some important “side issues.” If only people like Fran are working on the same task, they will listen to everyone’s ideas and process, which can take longer. With a mix of male brains and female brains, there is a balance of linear and web thinking. Max will keep the team focused and moving; Fran will be sure no issues or long-term repercussions are overlooked. The balance of masculine and feminine ways of thinking results in the best and most sustainable outcomes.

Here is a summary of masculine vs. feminine ways of thinking:




Sequential Non-sequential
Focused Synthesizing
Short term focus Long term focus
Systematizing Empathizing


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