One reason men and women appreciate my book and learn from my workshops is that I avoid stereotyping. I do not talk about “men” and “women” or even “gender.” Instead, I establish a common definition of “masculine” and “feminine.” I show how there is a continuum between the extremes of each. Men and women operate all along what I call the masculine-feminine continuum, demonstrating both masculine and feminine approaches. In other words, I do not believe men and women are from different planets!
Research recently published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology validates my approach. Reviewed in the April 20 New York Times, the research asked the question whether men and women are distinct classifications (the technical term is “taxon”) or whether differences are “dimensional,” with “individual scores dispersed along a single continuum.” The research focused on psychological characteristics associated with behaviors of women and men. It reviewed studies, for example, on how men and women exhibit intimacy, empathy and care-giving. The research did find categorical differences in size, athletic ability and interest in certain hobbies but not in psychological differences.
The report debunks the “Mars/Venus view” of the world. There are not “categorical distinctions based on sex.” On all traits studied, men and women “fell along a continuum.” The conclusion: “[S]ex does not define qualitatively distinct categories of psychological characteristics. We need to look at individuals as individuals.”
Absolutely! We cannot stereotype men and women. We can, however, define categorical distinctions between “masculine” and “feminine” ways of thinking and acting. Individuals, men and women, embody and employ both masculine and feminine traits and ways. Both operate all along the masculine-feminine continuum.
Understanding the differences, and the strengths of both masculine and feminine approaches, can be very useful. It can help us work better with individuals who operate at different points along the masculine-feminine continuum. It can make us more effective as individuals by giving us access to a larger tool kit. It can make us more inclusive leaders, able to eliminate or lower barriers that arise from differences. Having an inclusive culture in which both men and women can thrive and bring their best skills, whether they are masculine or feminine in nature, is very good for business!
Let us stop stereotyping men and women. Let us value the masculine and feminine in all of us!