For those of you who know the work of DifferenceWORKS, you know that our mission is to help businesses achieve gender diversity all the way to the top. You know that gender diversity in leadership is good for business results. You also know that we do not talk about men and women. We work to establish a common understanding of “feminine” and “masculine” and an awareness of the mix of those traits in all of us. To avoid stereotyping men and women, I use prototypes for each. Fran (who could be Francis or Frances) is the prototype for the feminine. Max (who could be Maxine or Maxwell) is the masculine prototype. Our work is based on the belief that organizations are more likely to achieve gender diversity if they are led and influenced by people who appreciate both Fran and Max – and build inclusive cultures that work for both.
In my book, Difference Works, I use the term “sage” to describe enlightened leaders who understand, appreciate and leverage difference, including feminine and masculine differences. They create inclusive environments where more people (those who operate like Fran and those who operate like Max) are engaged and, therefore, are doing their best work.
I want to introduce a new phrase that I think takes this point deeper. The term is “Frax-wise.” We all have both feminine and masculine aspects of ourselves. We are all “Frax.” To be “Frax-wise” is to use both feminine and masculine parts of ourselves deliberately and effectively. One can be “Frax-wise” on three levels:
- At the first level, it describes a person who understands both Fran’s and Max’s approach and can adopt whichever approach is most effective in a particular circumstance. This level is about being able to use more of the masculine-feminine continuum for personal effectiveness.
- The second level is about relationships. At this level, the term “Frax-wise” describes a person who appreciates differences in others. Rather than judge someone who operates at a different place along the continuum than they do, this person does what I described in a recent blog: he or she understands, appreciates and leverages differences. Being “Frax-wise” in this way increases engagement of those who work with this person. This is an inclusive team member or leader.
- The third level is about “Frax-wise” cultures. Being “Frax-wise” enables people to see and lower barriers to gender diversity. Lack of understanding of differences in Fran and Max can show up in unconscious mind-sets; these mind-sets work against the inclusion and engagement of those who operate like Fran. These barriers include the double bind, the comfort principle and unconscious images. (I will dig into these mind-sets in future posts.) A “Frax-wise” leader understands these barriers and works to eliminate them. When there is a critical mass of “Frax-wise” leaders, the organization truly becomes inclusive – and is on its way to gender diversity.
Let me know what you think of the term “Frax-wise” and the three levels at which being “Frax-wise” can be a good thing.