How We Structure Things: Strengths and Limitations of Masculine and Feminine Approaches

The masculine and feminine way of structuring things (organizations, teams, space) are different.The masculine version of structure is hierarchy. Sometimes a hierarchical structure works best–for example when there is an emergency or time-bound situation of where consistency is important. The limitations are that people may feel less included and be less creative. The feminine structure is a flat “network.” This structure works best when getting lots of ideas, encouraging creativity and getting buy-in are important. Its limitations are that it takes longer.

Diversity: Better Decisions and Innovation

Better decisions really do come from diverse groups. The comfort of being with those like ourselves makes us pay attention less; having even one person who is different from the group norm makes people process information more carefully. There is more creativity and innovation, and outcomes are better and more sustainable.

Flexible Work Schedules: A Demand of More of the Workforce

MUCH of the workforce will respond positively to changes suggested in Anne Marie Slaughter’s article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” Addressing the difficulty of working a demanding job and having a family, she suggest “changing the culture of face time.” This is more than a women’s issue; it is a generational issue affecting large sectors of the workforce. Members of Generation X and Millennials “want a life.” Leaders who address the need for more flexible work schedules will see improved engagement and retention; those who don’t will see disengagement and turnover.

Getting to Gender Diversity: It Takes Structural AND Cultural Change

Reactions to Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article in the Atlantic have included that neither men nor women can “have it all.” This is now an issue for men as well as women so it is more important for employers to implement the changes suggested in the Slaughter article. Not only will those changes benefit men and women, they will help employers retain women, who suffer the most from the “have it all” issue. But employers must also create inclusive cultures that allow women as well as men to feel valued and included. Such a culture helps a woman handle the juggling of career and family and allows more women to reach the top. This enables employers to reap the benefits of gender diversity in leadership.

A Pause from Exploring Masculine and Feminine Approaches: The Book Is Born!

Rather than post the next in my series on roots of masculine and feminine differences at work, I pause to celebrate the “birth” of my book, Difference Works. I liken this to the birth of my children. Just as I wanted a family, I wanted this book–because I want to make a difference. My interest in “gender differences” shifted from an interest on behalf of women to a passion on behalf of business. I want to help businesses engage and retain people not only because they get higher productivity and profitability. Organizations with engaged people have better ethics, are better corporate citizens and do more good in the world. THAT’s why I spent 3 years “birthing” this book!