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I’ve covered the “foundational” difference between Max and Fran (our prototypes for masculine and feminine ways of thinking and acting). And I’ve talked about the first and second “key drivers” of their respective behaviors at work — how they think and what “relationshipmeans to each. The third and final driver is the masculine vs. feminine way that they express themselves.

Because the masculine (Max’s) worldview is one of competing in a hierarchy, the descriptor on the masculine end of the continuum is “Maximizing.” Max emphasizes his own abilities and strengths and is wired and raised to compete. He is comfortable taking center stage and displaying his status. The feminine (Fran’s) view of the world is one of a network, where relationships trump status and winning. The descriptor on the feminine end of the continuum is “Minimizing.” Fran minimizes her own importance to avoid risking relationships. She is comfortable in a supporting role.

In introducing himself, Max is comfortable starting with his title, e.g., “I am Vice President at XYZ Company.” Fran is less comfortable with this and, even though she is also an executive, may say, “I work at XYZ Company.” If Max and Fran both satisfy about half of the qualifications for a job, Max will apply for the job and risk that he will be able to acquire any skills he lacks. Fran is more likely to pursue the job only when she thinks she satisfies most of the qualifications.

The difference shows up in how they talk about success and failure. To build his status, Max takes credit for a success and avoids taking blame for a failure. Fran is less comfortable claiming superiority over others and is more likely to give credit to others for  success and assume blame for failure.

It also shows up in how they use space and time. In a meeting, Max is likely to spread out and take up time to emphasize the importance of his ideas. Fran is likely to take up less space and “air time” to make her point. This key driver also influences how they talk. Max speaks with confidence and authority even if he isn’t entirely sure. Fran understates her own knowledge and confidence to avoid appearing haughty.

The two poles of this driver on the masculine-feminine continuum are:




Takes center stage; displays status Comfortable on sidelines or in supporting role
Claims accomplishments Underplays accomplishments
Introduces self by accomplishments Introduces self by connections
Speaks, writes with confidence and authority; may overstate or exaggerate how sure he is Understates knowledge to avoid offending or appearing haughty
Wants to appear right; fears appearing wrong Wants buy-in; fears offending
Comfortable claiming superiority Display of superiority or bragging is risky to connections
Focuses on his qualifications rather than his lack of qualifications Minimizes abilities; focuses on lack of qualifications
Risks accepting stretch projects Accepts only assignments for which she feels fully qualified
Accepts credit for successes; blames circumstances or others for failures Shares credit for successes; blames self for failures
Takes up space and time; sits in open body posture Takes less space and time; gathers self in when meeting with men


Have you seen these differences?  Share your stories or examples in a comment!