Should You Be Emphasizing "Feminine" Values at Your Organization?

Madison Agee

According to New York Times best-selling author and corporate consultant John Gerzema, the values that we traditionally associate with femininity – such as nurture, empathy, collaboration and flexibility – are the “operating system of the 21st century.” As he recently discussed at Healthways’ 2014 Well-Being Summit, where he connected well-being to leadership and consumer trends, most people already think these feminine values are of great importance, a trend that will only continue to grow in the future.

In the book, The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future, which Gerzema co-authored by Michael D’Antonio, the authors explore this idea in detail. Their research, which took into account surveys of 64,000 people in 13 countries around the world, reveals some interesting insight into what people believe to be important and the values and approaches they feel will benefit themselves, their families, communities and workplaces, and the greater good.

Results from the surveys indicate that two-thirds of people think the world would be a better place if men thought like women. More than half (57 percent) are also frustrated with the conduct of men. The authors then split their original survey group of 64,000 into two halves and asked the first half to classify 125 human traits (e.g., “confident,” “visionary,” “adaptive”) according to whether the traits were masculine, feminine or neither. They then asked the other half to rank the same 125 traits (which were not given any gender association) based on how those traits relate to leadership, success, morality and happiness.

Conclusions from their research led the authors to assert that people all over the world are looking for more “feminine” leaders – leaders whose power stems more from gentle influence and persuasion than autocratic control. Gerzema and D’Antonio also concluded that feminine values are on the rise, and that people now prefer these values to those historically associated with masculinity.

Gerzema provided Summit attendees with both the results of their research and examples of how this rise of feminine values is being played out in far-flung corners of the world. He discussed how businesses and organizations all over the world are rejecting traditional models associated with masculinity and instead emphasizing these more feminine approaches to leadership, work and productivity – and achieving incredible success from doing so.

Traits such as empathy, collaboration, inclusion and humility are helping organizations achieve their business goals. As surprising evidence of this shift in thinking, Gerzema shared that 67 percent of survey participants indicated that they would work for less money at a company in which they truly believed, upturning the classic model that people are primarily motivated by money. Clearly, liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals — in other words, having a sense of purpose — is a significant contributor to well-being. To learn more about the importance of well-being, download the Gallup-Healthways State of American Well-Being Report.

Topics: Well-Being Wellness Program Leadership Women Well-Being Summit Feminine