(Well, duh. Brilliant insight, Ian.)
Most folks stop there and leave the rest up to culture and society to determine. But when you keep delving into just HOW the genders approach things differently, even more observations are possible. For instance, while both men and women have a plethora of common values as human beings, each gender brings a different priority set of those values to the table often influenced by whether they sit or stand when they pee.
Case in point: Over at the venerable lefty HuffPo, a recent post by Jean Oelwang, CEO of Virgin Unite, the entrepreneurial foundation of the worldwide Virgin Group, illustrates this better than I could. In an effort to find a silver lining in the crappy economy and heated gender wars, she bravely points out several ways that business is "better" in the 21st century, thanks to female values. (In fairness, she squirms away from labelling them as such, attempting to find a gender-neutral description that encompasses these values, so she settles on Gaian Values. After Gaia, the ancient Greek Mother Goddess. A swing and a miss!)
She begins thusly:
"I believe that women haven't been assuming more leadership positions in the world today because the systems we've created often do not place the right value on the strengths that women can bring to the table."
This, of course, flies in the face of the fact that women have been assuming leadership positions at an ever-increasing rate. Indeed, she takes apparent issue at the rate, and wants it to increase even more. Why? Because the "systems" we've created don't place the "right value" on women's strengths.
Only they aren't really "women's" strengths, because that wouldn't be politically correct, hence the Gaia imagery to encompass all. Bowing before the female value of Consensus, she equivocates and refuses to attempt to instill a sense of Order on the subject by calling out feminine values as feminine. But then she goes on to point them out exclusively where she sees women displaying them:
Here are three that tend to be prominent in many of the inspiring women I've had the good fortune to work with.Let's break these down and examine them as Feminine Values, instead of Gaian Values.
People matter -- capitalism started out with this premise, freeing people to make a living and pursue their dreams, but as greed fogged people's views on what really matters, the increasing lack of equity has led to unacceptable human suffering.
Fortunately, our newly connected world has now put the power back into people's hands. Leaders who put people and equity first will break through the glass ceiling hand in hand with the people they are leading.
While industrial capitalism frequently sought to diminish the role of the worker's needs in an effort to simplify and streamline the process, industrial capitalism is nearly dead in our country. The "power" in the people's hands stems from their ability to access and use the internet, not through any real evolution in business philosophy. So while "people matter", these days "people matter" the most when their jobs can be eliminated. And the leaders who put people first -- over profits, over policy, over efficiency -- are going to find themselves out of the job, because shareholders don't care about people. They care about profits and retuns-on-investment.
"People Matter" means "business should be run for the benefit of the workers, and not the other stakeholders". "People Matter", in Female Values, actually means "all people matter equally", that the product is of less value than the process. That's not to say it isn't, strictly speaking, true -- just not in the way Ms. Oelwang presents.
The Male Value corollary of "People Matter" is "Some People Matter More Than Others", and that irks the female valued ideal of absolute consensus and fairness. It's not egalitarian. It's openly elitist. And it's a Red Pill observable truth. It is an evolved and well-trusted male value that the Right Man for the Right Job brings smoother production, higher efficiency, and a sense of competition that fuels innovation and improvement in both process and product. Get the right designer in your firm and your kids go to Harvard. Get the wrong one, and they're going to end up sending them to community college.
Under "People Matter", the person who has the greatest need for those additional resources (pay, responsibility, prestige) should be given the job. If Frank and Felicia are both up for it, competitively, then the president of the company is going to have to make a decision . . . and if he makes that decision based on Felicia's seniority and the fact that everyone in the office likes her and thinks she deserves it, then he may well be skipping the fact that Felicia hasn't had an original thought in two decades and still keeps a MySpace account active. Frank might be a son-of-a-bitch to work for, and he might already have a bulging 401k and own his own home, but when the rubber meets the road his original ideas are what propel clients and move profits, not the "people matter" selection of Felicia for the job of Creative Director.
The difference in approach is telling. It's one reason why women tend to perform better in process-oriented work, for example. Human resource departments attract women because the "people matter" value is ingrained at a vocational level in them, whereas sales departments, the most competitive arena in business, tend to be predominantly male in most industries.
But most men understand the value of "people matter" much differently, and often in the negative. One idiot on the team can, for example, doom the entire team if he/she doesn't know their shit. "People Matter" is a Feminine Value . . . but to the Masculine Value system it's more of a warning.
Openness is the best policy -- as the world becomes more interconnected, this value will become more important. Honest dialogue will become the new power, the new success, the new sexy.
Men keep secrets. That's something that drives women crazy, even if they do a fair amount of it themselves. Worse (to women), men keep secrets and then don't even have the good grace to feel horribly guilty about it . . . so guilty they just HAVE to tell someone to spare their soul the burden.
"Openness is the best policy" is a Female Value, but it comes with many, many strings. For one, "openness is the best policy" does not in fact celebrate accountability, as it seems to on the surface. "Accountability is the best policy" could be construed as a Masculine Value, but accountability and "openness" are two very different things. Women value "openness", but they often fear true accountability. Women love to "clear the air" in an office environment, for instance, because airing grievances makes them feel better. But once a male colleague attempts to call a female teammate to account about actual work performance, perhaps asking for specific work products or a time log of hours worked, suddenly "openness" isn't quite so important as "consensus".
And as far as "honest dialog", the Female Value of Openness is highly selective about just how honest the dialog can become before it crosses a line. TRUE honesty and accountability are not what is being promoted here. It is the mere appearance of transparency, with the understanding that the ability to be honest in discussions ceases being a benefit when it ceases being a boon to women.
What Ms. Oelwang seems to be trying to denigrate is the male propensity for conserving information. Why do we do this, when "openness is the best policy"?
Because men compete, and secrets give us a competitive advantage. "Openness" is an attempt to limit those carefully-cultivated advantages to the benefit of others, i.e. women who didn't cultivate secrets. If Frank spends all weekend building a new ad campaign for his firm's new client in an effort to get the plum assignment, he isn't going to want to share that information with Felicia, because he and Felicia are competitors even if they are working for the same company. Competition is a strong Masculine Value, and it is the basis on which capitalism is predicated. Therefore Openness, as Ms. Oelwang describes it, is antithetical to the male value of competitiveness.
Collaboration is queen -- the fight for the top rung of the ladder is becoming irrelevant in the face of the issues and opportunities we face as a global community.
Look, I work in a creative field, and there is definitely a role for collaboration. but beware this term. It use to mean "equal contribution by both parties to the final product", but these days it usually means "can I get my name on that paper if I type it up for you?"
Collaboration is a rationalization for Consensus, a Female Value. Individual efforts in a competitive marketplace promotes the individual and individual achievement. "Collaboration" allows the consensus to take credit regardless of the efforts of the collaborating parties, and allows those parties plausible deniability to the point of escaping accountability.
The problem is that women see competition merely as a "fight for the top rung of the ladder", instead of the far more nuanced approach that men take. Yes, ascending the hierarchy is a major goal, not because it grants you more power and resources (those are just gravy), but because it is proof of your competitive value. Consensus and collaboration bleed achievement of its glory. Being the author of a brilliant paper is outstanding . . . being one of seven authors of a brilliant paper is six-sevenths less outstanding.
Since when is position, prestige, money and power "irrelevant?" That sounds like someone who has made it trying to convince her competitors that they can quit competing now because the game is over. What Ms. Oelwang does not mention is that while "collaboration is queen" in the post-industrial economy, "competition is STILL King", and therefore more important. Collaborate all you like . . . but your "collaborators" will not hesitate to use your collaboration as a weakness against you. Cooperation is great, until the effort you spend in the cooperation becomes less than the value you receive from it. Because at that point, you are essentially working for someone else, ala Tom Sawyer.
Remember when he got every boy in the neighborhood to collaborate on painting a fence?
Ms. Oelwang finishes with this inspiring call-to-action:
Those who join forces with others for far better outcomes will topple the ladders and build solid, equitable foundations for the emergence of a new way of living and doing business.
So women (and men) armed with these Gaia values are perfectly positioned to take on powerful leadership roles in this changing world order.
The future of successful business will incorporate these values and always do well by doing good. At Virgin Unite we've been calling this "Screwing Business as Usual." There has never been a better time and more critical need for women to embrace leadership roles and for all of us to embrace their Gaia.
This is where she essentially encourages everyone to abandon business practices that have been effective and efficient for centuries . . . because we'll feel better about things when we do. While Ms. Oelwang is quick to point out that these "new" values are going to lead to a "new way of living and doing business", she fails to specify in any meaningful way why this should be the case . . . or whether or not it manages to achieve anything other than "feeling good". And the last time I saw an organization who judged its success on whether or not everyone was feeling good was a kids' summer camp.
Major multinational corporations? Not so much.
Ms. Oelwang and her compatriots can attempt to trumpet Female Values as superior in this new age and new economy, but they aren't making a compelling point for them. At most she's putting it forward as "if you don't conform to this then the women in the workplace will throw rocks at you", hardly a compelling argument.
Its telling that the division of Virgin she leads is the . . . charitable division. The place where Sir Richard Branson makes himself feel better about his billions. While philanthropic and charitable organizations are noble and important elements of the free market system, one can hardly call the same values and virtues that work with non-profits and export them to the "real" business world. Female Values work great when the goal is to give money away. When the goal is to MAKE money, however . . .
Just imagine a small company espousing these Female Values. Say an advertising agency.
McWomann and Tate agency, a small competitor in a large market, wants to succeed. Its female CEO wants to promote collaboration, openness, and "People matter" as proud mission statements. That sounds great on paper, but . . .
. . . when Felicia starts to suspect that Frank isn't being fully forthcoming with the creative brilliance, due to the dilution of collaboration, she starts demanding to see his notes and sketches in the name of the female value of Openness. She accuses Frank of holding out his best work. Frank is understandably reluctant -- he already brought sufficient work to the collaborative effort, more than others, perhaps. He wants to keep his best stuff under wraps until it's well-developed and can be used to greatest effect . . . for his advancement. Mindless devotion to consensus and collaboration, he knows, doesn't get you rewarded in business. It doesn't get you promoted. It doesn't get you noticed. Being open about his work and his perspective would be working counter to Frank's goal of success.
When you see feminine values such as openness, collaboration, and "people matter" being promoted at the expense of traditional, proven business values like competition and ambition (which just happen to be a lot like Male Values, for some reason), then beware. Reconsider doing business with that firm. Not because they're being run for women based on female values, but because they probably aren't going to be around very long.
Would you work for McWomann and Tate, knowing that you will never get a chance to shine? As a dude, are you willing to submit yourself to the female value of the Crab Basket, with no one individual EVER rising above the others in any meaningful way without being snapped back? Consider carefully.
The whole "the future of business is doing Good!" (with "good" being defined exclusively by female values) is highly misleading . . . and any young man who tries to seriously incorporate them into his career strategy in any real way does so at his peril, unless he's in a barbershop quartet.
Because that's the place where men find the most value in collaboration, openness, and people mattering.
PS: If you haven't seen it yet, check out this month's Prefeminist Artist of the Month page on Coby Whitmore!