Men are ‘assertive’ – Women are ‘bossy’

I recently was forwarded an article called ‘The End of Men’ which originally appeared in July 2010 – and is clearly very well researched. It is long but interesting. (And no menfolk are still very much loved, adored and needed the dramatic title is clearly designed to get our attention).

This US centric article focuses on the evolution of the role men and women are playing in industrialized societies. As I read the article I did feel uplifted – however I had the question sitting in the back of my head – yes this might be true in the US – but is it true for Australia?

In my experience in Australia annually on International Womens Day the same poor figures about participation of women in leadership are trotted out. Our social structures and the way we work have dramatically changed in the last 200 years – yet as a species have we been able to evolve as fast?

Some of the thought provoking ideas from the article:

  • “As thinking and communicating have come to eclipse physical strength and stamina as the keys to economic success, those societies that take advantage of the talents of all their adults, not just half of them, have pulled away from the rest.”
  • “In 2006, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development devised the Gender, Institutions and Development Database, which measures the economic and political power of women in 162 countries. With few exceptions, the greater the power of women, the greater the country’s economic success.”

 

  • “More to the point, what if the economics of the new era are better suited to women?”
  • “Of the 15 job categories projected to grow the most in the next decade in the U.S., all but two are occupied primarily by women. Indeed, the U.S. economy is in some ways becoming a kind of traveling sisterhood: upper-class women leave home and enter the workforce, creating domestic jobs for other women to fill.”
  • “The postindustrial economy is indifferent to men’s size and strength. The attributes that are most valuable today—social intelligence, open communication, the ability to sit still and focus—are, at a minimum, not predominantly male.”
  • “Yes, the U.S. still has a wage gap, one that can be convincingly explained—at least in part—by discrimination. Yes, women still do most of the childcare. And yes, the upper reaches of society are still dominated by men. But given the power of the forces pushing at the economy, this setup feels like the last gasp of a dying age rather than the permanent establishment.”
  • “A 2008 study attempted to quantify the effect of this more-feminine management style. Researchers at Columbia Business School and the University of Maryland analyzed data on the top 1,500 U.S. companies from 1992 to 2006 to determine the relationship between firm performance and female participation in senior management. Firms that had women in top positions performed better, and this was especially true if the firm pursued what the researchers called an “innovation intensive strategy,” in which, they argued, “creativity and collaboration may be especially important”—an apt description of the future economy.”

It is worth a read – if for no other reason than to challenge our existing ideas and the language use to stereotype by gender.

I have often been accused of being bossy…. if I was a bloke I would just be considered assertive. And our predisposed view of the world is that men are ‘supposed to be assertive’…. we as a species have a lot of evolutionary development to do to catch up to societies changes.

I’d be curious to know your thoughts on this…

 

 

This entry was posted in Lessons Learned and tagged , ,

6 Comments

  1. Adam Yu
    Posted March 23, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    Hi Naomi..A good read. My partner and I are in the early years of our careers. After graduating in 2007, my first role was under the guidance of a female manager and by far the best leader I’ve worked with. Since then I’ve been employed by a multi-national glass manufacturing company of which the head of Asia-Pacific was female (brilliant at her role!) and more recently with the Vision Care department of Johnson & Johnson which is also lead by a female at the head of Asia-Pacific. Directors of both my current Sales and Marketing department are also female. Actually, the gender mix of our department is 14F to 6M. My partner is employed by Reed Exhibitions, her manager is female, her managers manager is female and the head of Australia is female. That office is also predominately female.

    Generally I do not like to categorise by gender, age, culture, etc., but I do agree strongly that females are geared better to strive in an environment driven by education (Now!). That said, gender preference NEVER crosses my mind in the workplace.

    It surprises me that you’ve been accused of being bossy – obviously not because I personally know how you operate, but because you are a successful leader and I don’t think people end up in those positions by being bossy (as part of a successful organisation that is). It’s a trait I feel if placed on an individual, relates to dissatisfaction, hence disengagement. Was this by chance from someone from an older generation? I can honestly say that I have not once considered my female leaders bossy. I’ve had both male and female as leaders and I purely respect/disengage with them based on their competency in their role.

    I think you and other female leaders are definitely breaking a mould at this point in time and you might be pleasantly surprised with what comes out of my generation. What I think we are seeing now is a time where men are no longer able to become leaders for the sake of being men and couldn’t agree more that that mentality has put businesses and economies in absolute shit in the past.

    The way I – and I’m sure my greater generation – experience the environment we work in now, gender preference NEVER crosses my mind. Leaders are Leaders because they are the best at what they do, regardless of gender. That’s how I think. I think society is catching up VERY fast. I’m guessing these are your thoughts as well.

    Have a good weekend!

  2. Penelope Sommers
    Posted March 24, 2012 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Thank you Naomi. I recently (as in yesterday) learned of your company through an Information Systems course I am doing at the University of Adelaide (my degrees are law/commerce). I study full-time, I’m studying Indonesian at Charles Darwin University (externally), I am raising three children on my own, I own two dogs and two cats, I am Treasurer of the Mature Students Association at Adelaide Uni (a club established thirty years ago) and am in the process of founding mature student associations at three other universities. I am also the state representative for MASNA (a national mature student network). When I see a job that needs doing I get it done. And, according to the many men I work with running these clubs and my life, I’m bossy. I’ve always said that if I were a man they’d call me assertive.

  3. Jonas
    Posted March 25, 2012 at 12:48 am | Permalink

    I particularly liked the remark in that study you quoted that the economics of today have shifted from a strength and stamina dominated setup to one dominated by intellect, innovation, and effective communication. That’s very true!

    The fact is that formerly, you had to be a man to be strong enough for the “times”. But today, you don’t have to be a man to be smart. You don’t have to be a man to be innovative. What we’re seeing today is a levelling of the playing field by taking away that traditional “male advantage”.

    The rules of the game today are such that a man’s muscles and physical stamina are of lesser advantage to him than they used to be. Women can now compete with us more favourably. The competition now is on how good you can use your head.

    Though the male brain is known to be bigger, heavier, and theoretically smarter than the female, whatever advantages this confers on men is practically insignificant in real-world applications)

    Look at the military for instance. Although it’s still a male domain, it is now generally accepted that the wars of the 21st Century are less likely to be fought at some battle fields complete with all the artillery, cannons etc.

    Today, with advancements in long distance warfare technologies with minimal human danger (things like Unmanned Aerial Vehicles aka “Drones” and Ballistic Missiles), women could equally participate in some types of military operations as men. It doesn’t take physical strength or stamina to control a drone, for example. All you need is to understand how the electronics and weapons systems work together, the computers, and push around some hi-tech joystick to steer the aircraft to your GPS-located target!

    The good thing is, the trend is helping to increase the effective adult workforce of the world as the “other half” are now empowered. Productivity will only increase. I think we should allow women equal chances to compete with us, at least to reduce the level of “madness” (testosterone drive) in our company Board rooms.

  4. Posted March 25, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Hi Adam – your comment makes me feel positive about the future… given you are the future – born in 1985… thanks for your insights

  5. Posted March 30, 2012 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    Thank u Naomi – I am glad to have discovered u via Smart Company. Don’t fall into the sexist trap yourself: there are equally as many blinkered women as men. When I was starting in business several decades ago, I thought sexism was dead. I now know it continues to thrive BUT the big lesson is to simply surround yourself with smart people, men and women who do not need the comfort blanket of the status quo. And if you’re not that lucky, i recommend u move them or yourself until u are in the right company. I’m lucky enough to have outstanding (male and female) mentors, teenagers and a great husband, none of whom will tolerate the excuse of gender discrimination. We can win, but only through focussing on sucesses not the failures. Success breeds success; what we focus on grows. Discrimination is intolerable and we must be intolerant of those who excuse it, who are of both sexes. Show me a respectful man and more often than not I’ll show u a smart woman who was his Mother or role model. As u rightly say, the prize is bigger than equal rights: gender equality with respect for each sex is one of the significant forerunners of happier, healthier children and societies.

  6. martin
    Posted April 11, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Hi Naomi

    Just catching up on your blog so please excuse the delayed response. I cannot agree more with the below. I believe Australia in particular is even further behind embracing the other 50% in the work place.

    As a migrant from the UK I feel blessed to have started my career in an environment where sexual discrimination is not only not tolerated but feared (of course it happens but it makes headlines and people are shamed).

    Some of the comments I have heard from CEO’s and senior managers in Australia have made me cringe. Not employing due to the ‘baby issue’ and the ‘sick days’ issue.

    I work in the marketing industry which has been dominated by women for many years there is currently only me at my business but I cannot wait to employ my first employee who is likely to be female for many reasons not only due to supply and demand.

    Thanks for your blog. I also forward it to my wife and former colleagues from time to time for inspiration.

    Martin

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