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Masculine and Feminine Leadership Communication

We know that, for many years, women have been relegated to the “homemaker” and bearing and rearing children. We learned earlier how girls are often raised to be “nurturing” and boys are often raised to be competitive. Much of this attitude has carried on into the business world for many, many years. This being the case, the vast majority of business cultures today are masculine cultures. As researchers describe the cultures:

Masculine cultures value a task orientation and being more assertive. In contrast, feminine cultures value caring for others and enhancing the overall quality of life.

What researchers call powerless language is stereotypically feminine and is indirect and focused more on the quality of a relationship than on the information being exchanged. Powerful language is stereotypically masculine and is direct, assertive, task-oriented, and focused more on the content of a message. According to researchers, men and women use powerful and powerless verbal messages differently. First, women use more hedges than men. Second, women use more tag questions than men. Finally, women use more intensifiers than man.

Thus, women often don’t communicate in the same ways and with the same goals as their male counterparts. These communication differences, tied with our cultural leaning toward males as leaders/managers and women as “sidekicks” and “moms,” have greatly contributed to the issue of the labyrinth. It isn’t fair, but it has taken a LONG time just to get to the point at which we are today. We understand the biases and stereotyping that perpetuate the prejudice against women as business leaders/managers, so one would think we could close the gap more rapidly than dragging our feet.

The best ways, thus far, that women have “beaten the system” have been to create their OWN companies and lead them to success (this is working VERY well and women have proven to be very good entrepreneurs) or to make their marks in the academic arena. Circumventing the “norm” is a great way to prove that women CAN effectively lead an organization. It’s unfortunate that women still are not always seen as equals (in pay, in ability, in responsibility) in today’s world. Of course, we have to also recognize that those in power are almost ALWAYS reluctant to relinquish that power.

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