Valuing feminine traits in the work place

Photo by Sara Schmitt

Gender inequality in the workplace is not a new phenomenon. Articles about the wage gap, pregnancy penalties and lack of women in C-suite positions are numerous. For every article highlighting the blatant disparity women face in the workplace, there are double the number of articles on how to combat this inequality.

The advice that seems to be embraced by the current workplace culture is to follow in the path of our more successful male counterparts and display behaviors that are characterized as traditionally masculine.

These masculine traits include being assertive and dominant while feminine traits include being gentle and sensitive.

While women are encouraged to pursue the same opportunities as men, they are discouraged from embracing their feminine personalities. These traits oftentimes make women incorrectly appear weak and incapable of taking on more serious roles.

In an interview in the Atlantic with Barbara Annis, the founder of a gender intelligence consultancy company, she describes her experience in management at Sony.

“With clients, I was my authentic self, … and we were able to close some amazing deals. … But, inside the company, I became one of the guys,” she said.

In other aspects of life, we are told to embrace ourselves — flaws and all. It is frowned upon when people change themselves for friends, families or their significant others in order to be valued and respected. Yet women are silently required to conform in order to move up in a company to reach higher levels of success.

By failing to promote both masculine and feminine traits in the workplace, reaching gender parity is impossible because we are devaluing what half the population has to offer. This feeling of being devalued is on of the biggest reasons why women leave competitive companies and positions.

This talent drain has dire consequences to a company’s overall growth. Diverse teams have traditionally proven to be more successful than homogenous ones; however, it is not enough to merely have a team with an equal number of males and females. Encouraging people to think and act in a certain way defeats the purpose of having diverse teams.

Equality does not necessarily mean being the same; in a competitive work place environment, equality means promoting and valuing both masculine and feminine characteristics. Until companies understand this, gender inequality will persist in the workplace.