The prototypical man influences others to do what he wants by “telling” or “commanding.” The prototypical female does so by “persuading.” The advantages of the masculine approach are that it is clear and efficient. Its downsides are that it can shut others down. The advantages of the feminine approach are that it is inclusive and invites buy-in. But it may lack clarity and take more time. Women using the masculine approach can be caught in the double bind.
Is one reason that women aren’t proportionally represented at the leadership level in business because they lack the ambition or interest in power to be there? This question was debated a decade ago. Some women have ambition and want power in the masculine way. Other women simply define these terms differently. Typical female behaviors of avoiding taking credit or tooting her own horn mask ambition. Women who do appear ambitious are often caught in the “double bind.” To achieve gender diversity in leadership, we must broaden our definitions of “power” and “ambition.”
Heterogeneous teams, including those that reflect both masculine and feminine ways of thinking, make the best decisions. The masculine approach is prevalent in most workplaces. Women learn to model their behavior after those who succeed in the organization; they hone their masculine ways of working. Women and men need to understand and value the feminine approach to work.
This is a basic and observable difference in the masculine and feminine approaches to work. The masculine “work style” involves competing. The feminine “work style” involves collaborating. This difference follows the foundational difference in worldview, the masculine view valuing status first while the feminine view values relationships first. Competition emerges from hierarchical thinking; collaboration emerges from seeing an organization or group as a network. Both are valuable in achieving results!
When asked “haven’t women made lots of progress?” I am reminded of the cigarette slogan declaring how far women had come. As Gail Collins chronicles in her book “When Everything Changed,” since 1960 there have been major shifts in norms and attitudes about what women can and should do. In the 60’s most middle class women worked only at home. Now women are CEO’s, Supreme Court Justices and Secretaries of State. Women have more choices. Hurray! BUT women entered jobs traditionally held by men 35 years ago and still aren’t proportionally represented on the upper rungs of the ladder. We have a long way to go before the “glass” is full enough!