So far I’ve written about the bottom line value of inclusive workplace cultures, the importance of expanding engagement to include those who are different from those that most influence a culture and the issue of authenticity in the workplace. Now it’s time to dig into some specific types of difference.
The area of difference where I have the most expertise is masculine-feminine differences. I’ve taught workshops on “gender difference” for years and am writing a book with a large section on leveraging masculine and feminine approaches at work. Note that the book is not about men and women; it is about masculine and feminine ways, which both men and women embody and can leverage. People agree with me that this topic has more currency than ever with women now constituting 50% or more of the workforce—and so more feminine tendencies showing up at work.
Yet this topic still meets resistance—or we worry that it will. One online newsletter that I read recently illustrates the touchiness of this topic. The article (at http://www.newandimproved.com/newsletter/1090.php) tip-toed up to the topic of “gender-based differences” and called it “VERY dangerous ground.” The author practically apologized before broaching the topic, assuring readers that the newsletter was not meant to “pick a fight.”
Sometimes when I’m asked to conduct a workshop or give a speech, I encounter this sensitivity and assure my client that the workshop or speech won’t involve male bashing. (It doesn’t.) There’s another explanation, which I call the “F-word challenge.” Rather than seeing the strengths of both masculine and feminine approaches, some folks seem the treat “feminine” as a four-letter word. (Thus, the “F-word.”) If women behave in a way that is “too” feminine, they are weak—and lack leadership. Men may exhibit feminine strengths (good leaders exhibit both) but many wouldn’t want to call it “feminine”. It seems important to them to be seen as totally masculine and to avoid any risk of having “sissy” characteristics. And women sometimes hesitate to claim their feminine strengths.
My goal is to reach managers and leaders, comfortable in their manhood and womanhood, who are open to seeing the strengths and limitations of both masculine and feminine at work. One very prominent group seems to be willing to break through the “F-word challenge.” In 2008 McKinsey based a model of leadership called “centered leadership” on its research to determine what drives and sustains successful female leaders. http://media.cla.auburn.edu/wli/documents/wli_board_articles_1.pdf This year, it published another article on centered leadership, linking the characteristics of this model to work performance. McKinsey found that both men and women demonstrate these characteristics, which are “somewhat different from traditional male trait.” It declared that “centered leadership is . . . making use of mind-sets and behavior often considered feminine” (emphasis mine). McKinsey used the F-word positively! http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/The_value_of_centered_leadership_McKinsey_Global_Survey_results_2679
I’d like your comments on these questions:
- Why do you think this topic creates such sensitivity?
- What do you suggest that can help break through this sensitivity?
- Do you see the McKinsey study as a hopeful sign that we can actually hope to have unapologetic (adult) conversations about the strengths of both masculine and feminine approaches to work?
Wow this is a great resource.. I’m enjoying it.. good article
Thanks for your comment. Glad you are enjoying my blogs and finding them a good resource. Tell me what in particular you are looking for in terms of a resource on difference and inclusivity.
Il semble que vous soyez un expert dans ce domaine, vos remarques sont tres interessantes, merci.
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Thank you! I’ve only posted about a dozen blogs but plan to keep it up. Hope they are interesting and helpfl to you!
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Thanks for your comment. My site is hosted on GoDaddy. My web designer is Lethia Owens at callkayla. I have no idea why some sites load faster than others!
I believe that executives fear that by talking about differences they’ll be accused of fostering stereotypes. They believe that by having these conversations they’re almost wearing a badge that says “Houston, we have a problem – a feminine problem!”
I have to believe that a workplace where everyone felt free to openly and respectfully discuss their challenges, goals and dreams, is one that is mostly likely to surmount those challenges, achieve their goals and reach their dreams. Perhaps that’s the first thing they need to work on.
Great comment, Monica. We have let “political correctness” stymie important conversations. An environment of trust is mandatory to open discussion. I keep looking for a way, though, to point out the importance of valuing and leveraging both masculine and feminine approaches. I am not stereotyping though I do use generalizations in defining feminine and masculine. Thanks for your comment. I apologize for my slowness in responding.
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