5 Steps to Create a Versatile Organization

This article is number three of a three-part series designed to help you shift your organizational culture to a healthy blend of masculine and feminine energy that is what we call high Versatility. Part one is 5 Signs Your Company Culture is Too Masculine and Part two is  5 Signs Your Company Culture is Too Feminine.

If you have read the first two parts of our 3 part series, you may have already identified signs that your company is either too masculine or too feminine. If so, the logical next question is, “How can you get the right balance?”

Here are five steps that will help.

Step 1. Understand the Difference Between an Archetype and a Stereotype

An archetype is a situation or behavior that represents a universal pattern of human nature.  Common archetypes include love, religion, heroism, death, birth, life, struggle, and survival.  Archetypes can be helpful constructs because they apply universally to all human beings.  Gender archetypes can help you to explore how women and men can benefit from adopting and leveraging both masculine and feminine behaviors.

Alternatively, stereotypes prevent you from exploring gender topics productively. Stereotypes are entrenched thoughts adopted about groups and individuals by other groups and individuals.  Stereotypes are limiting. They create the expectation that individuals should only adopt behaviors expected for their primary identifying groups (race, gender, age, etc).

With an understanding that masculine does not equal male and feminine does not equal female you become free to test masculine and feminine behaviors as different means to achieve different goals. You also can explore how your beliefs, biases, cultural norms and fears around gender (e.g. homophobia) limit your choices. For example, men tend to be more restricted from choosing feminine behaviors while women tend to have more permission to choose masculine behaviors. The distinction of archetype vs. stereotype allows you to examine unconscious habitual choices and make conscious choices that broaden your horizons.

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REMOVE

The Feminine Archetype

  • Focus on Others
  • Process Oriented
  • Collaborative
  • Flexible
  • Intuition and Emotions

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REMOVE

The Masculine Archetype

  • Focus on Self
  • Outcome Oriented
  • Competitive
  • Structured
  • Facts and Data

Step 2. Adopt “Both/And” Thinking

As specialists in leadership and gender, we teach that companies with a blend of masculine and feminine energy outperform those that don’t. Proving this assertion using empirical evidence is difficult if not impossible. But proving it using common sense is easy. It just makes sense that when companies have a good balance of masculine and feminine strengths they are better able to serve all customers, and employees of every gender thrive.

Battling over which is better, being masculine or being feminine, just devolves into a losing game for everyone. When presented with the choice to be 1. EITHER competitive OR collaborative or 2. BOTH competitive AND collaborative, there is no contest. Having access to both of these “opposite” strengths is clearly more desirable. It’s like asking, “Would you rather have one dollar or two dollars?”   Who would ever choose one dollar? Having a culture that benefits fully from the range of masculine and feminine attributes is like having a full set off tools in the tool shed.

Step 3. Seek Versatility

Masculine and Feminine archetypes are paired opposite patterns of behavior that cover the full spectrum of our human nature.   In Chinese culture the term Yin is synonymous with the Feminine and Yang is synonymous with the Masculine. According to Wikipedia, Yin/Yang philosophy explains how apparently opposite or contrary forces are actually complementary and interdependent and create a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the parts. The counterbalanced yin/yang symbol represents the sum of the forces behind everything. It also contains visual clues on how to dynamically achieve harmony and stability. Just as architects and designers use yin/yang awareness to create buildings that are both inviting and utilitarian, you can use this same awareness to create high functioning work environments.

While the virtues of having yin/yang balance are also known in Western Culture they are not as often pursued or talked about. You can talk about the value of seeking yin/yang balance at work, but let’s face it, that probably won’t fly in most US business environments. Instead, we suggest an alternative term, "Versatility.” Versatility is just a way to describe an environment where any gender can thrive and the full range of masculine and feminine behaviors complement rather than overpower each other.

Step 4. Cultivate a Higher “G–Factor”

Many studies show that adding women to the mix increases business profits.   For example, a McKinsey & Company study showed that high organizational performance and profitability measures correlate with companies that have higher numbers of women in management. As a result of these types of findings and others like them many companies are aggressively hiring and promoting women.

Because male dominated professions tend to be more lucrative and higher status than female dominated professions, there are far less studies that assert the merits of increasing men in female dominated professions. While fewer in number, those studies also exist and reinforce the efforts of the few brave men that pursue careers in those fields. For example, one study showed that nursing shifts with more men tend to have higher morale, while another study showed that pupils of male teachers tend to value hard work and have higher self esteem. What clearly shines through these studies is the fact gender diversity is truly a source of competitive advantage.

To support pursuit of a higher gender diversity we have coined a new metric we call the “G-Factor.” G-Factor is simply a measure of the gender diversity of your team. Raising your team’s G-factor will not only expand your team’s range of strengths, it will also allow you to more effectively target your full range of customers.   The G-Factor can be used to increase awareness of gender equity in teams, organizations at large, layers of management and even sectors (e.g. engineering, education, etc.).

Step 5. Cultivate a Higher “V-Factor”

Masculine behaviors tend to be a better choice for some situations while feminine behaviors are a better choice for other situations. By expanding your ability to thoughtfully choose both masculine and feminine behaviors independent of your gender or your team’s G-Factor, we expand our versatility or what we are calling our V-Factor. V-Factor is our ability to span both masculine and feminine strengths as needed and over time to cultivate a healthy balance between these two opposite styles. In many cultures there is an unconscious suppression of either the Masculine or the Feminine side leading to an unhealthy culture. This can be true even in companies that have a high G-Factor.

Did you know that on Facebook you can select up to 75 different terms to customize your gender identity? This is one of many signs that our society is opening to accept the full range of gender diversity. Despite this change studies show that over 41% of LGBT employees remain closeted. Another study shows that closeted employees are 10% less productive at work. As more employees take the brave step of revealing their true gender identity at work, we hope they will find a home in organizations that support full inclusion. Raising your company’s V-Factor will also help your organization to move towards a culture where all employees are free to be themselves and thus productively engaged.

By intentionally cultivating a higher V-Factor at 3 different levels of an organization, you can cultivate a culture with true Gender Energy Balance at every level of the system: 1. Personal 2. Interpersonal and 3. Organizational.

  • At the Personal level you can examine the degree to which your behaviors are balanced. If you can become as adept at feminine behaviors as masculine then you raise your personal V-Factor.
  • At the Interpersonal level you can expand your V-Factor by effectively partnering to leverage opposite energy and create balance. If you have a strongly masculine style you can choose to partner with someone with a strongly feminine style. In valuing what he/she brings to the partnership you both benefit and become a truly “dynamic duo.”
  • At the Organizational level you can look for ways to create and adopt balanced business practices with a balance of masculine and feminine energy. For example you could choose a model for selling your product that is both relationship oriented (feminine side) and results oriented (masculine side).

V-Factor and G-Factor are independent variables that support each other, and, when pursued in tandem, will help realize the full potential that mixed gender work environments provide. Many organizations put a lot of effort in to recruiting women, only to find that women leave the company at a higher rate than men.  If that is the case, they likely have an environment where women feel marginalized. By focusing on raising their V-Factor they will find that not only will women feel more engaged and loyal, men will as well, in part because an organization with a higher V-Factor is just a more inviting and productive place to work.

The topic of gender diversity in the workplace is one that requires both courage and sensitivity. In 1972 women only represented 38% of the workforce, today they represent 47% of the general workforce and 57% of the technical and professional workforce.   As more women actively pursue new ways to move out into the work world, their male counterparts have no choice but to respond. Together men and women are experiencing a dramatic shift in life and work, yet we have far to go to even acknowledge let alone adapt to these changes. Talking about ways to work together across gender co-creatively is a long overdue conversation worth having. Hopefully, the terms presented here of gender energy balance, G and V Factors support new ways for that conversation to happen. Regardless of the terms you use, we encourage you to look beyond the surface for the new possibilities and the full range of talents your team’s gender mix provides.