It concerns me that, in the corporate workplace, women and men conform to the masculine model. If we all do that, first, we lose ourselves and become less authentic. Equally important, we perpetuate and ratchet up the imbalance we have in terms of masculine and feminine in the world of work (and the world generally). I don’t want women to become “men” in order to succeed. And I don’t want men becoming more masculine in order to fit in and feel respected. I want men and women to discover the strengths of feminine as well as masculine ways of working and leading.
I recently read about a theory called “stereotype incongruity.” It means that stereotypes of leaders “match” stereotypes of men more closely than they do stereotypes of women. This kind of thinking is real; it is behind the gendered view of leadership. The thinking is flawed, first, because stereotypes are not true; many women fit masculine stereotypes. Second, it is flawed because the stereotype of leadership fails to recognize the value of feminine leadership strengths. I agree with John Gerzema that leaders today need to have both masculine and feminine strengths!
Men in my workshops used to hesitate to claim feminine strengths, perhaps concerned they would be called a “sissy.” In my book and workshops, I use prototypes for masculine and feminine – Max and Fran. Men in our workshops seem comfortable acknowledging their “Fran” strengths. Maybe it is because more of them understand the value of gender diversity. Some may be convinced, e.g., by the work of McKinsey & Co. and John Gerzema, that leadership must include feminine as well as masculine perspectives. Valuing feminine strengths personally enables authenticity, effectiveness and health. Valuing feminine strengths in others contributes to inclusivity, which drives engagement and results.