It’s time to dispel the stereotype that there is room for only masculine traits in the boardroom—and embrace the fact that any good leader, regardless of gender, also embodies traits traditionally considered feminine, such as empathy and intuition. Here is how to own your feminine qualities at work, whatever that looks like for you.
Why These Feminine Traits Are Your Leadership Superpowers
The workplace rules were written years ago, by and for men, because women were largely absent in the corporate workplace. Times have changed, however, and today women make up half the workforce. With this evolution comes a shift in leadership traits, with more value being placed on qualities that have been traditionally considered feminine—and largely ignored (think empathy, collaboration, and intuition).
Clearly, it’s time to dispel the stereotype that there is room only for masculine traits (such as being direct, competitive, and assertive) in the boardroom—and embrace the fact that any good leader, regardless of gender, also embodies these traits traditionally considered feminine.
“Traits such as compassion, empathy and intuition are human traits, but I do think they’ve been traditionally labeled as feminine in our society,” says Debra Bednar-Clark, an executive coach and Founder and CEO of DB+co. “We need to bring these ‘feminine’ values to change workplace culture because, if we think about where workplaces are headed, people want to be connected to something greater than themselves and to feel supported. We have to shift culture to get there. Every person has the opportunity to change the status quo in their own way—whether it’s for themselves, their teams, their organization. It has to start somewhere, so why not with you?”
To help you get started, thought leaders from the Girls’ Lounge community share why traditionally feminine traits that have been largely ignored in the past are the leadership qualities we need to shine today.
Showing Emotion Is Good Because It Means You’re Passionate
“A common thread I’ve found from speaking to a wide variety of women is that they’ve been conditioned to believe femininity is a weakness. We need both our masculine and feminine leadership skills and qualities in the workplace. But we may have been consciously or subconsciously suppressing our feminine ones, such as emotionality and sensitivity. There is research that proves women who bring a combination of masculine and feminine qualities to work and know how to navigate them are more likely to be promoted than women who don’t. The piece that is new here is that It’s okay to be emotional, it’s okay to cry!”
“The idea that women are too emotional to lead is transcending in workplaces. In places where I’ve been lucky enough to work, emotion has been seen as an asset. You spend one-third of your life at work, so the idea that you’re going to be able to turn off your emotions there is insane. We need to honor [emotions at work] because the fact that I react to and really care about it is a good thing.”
Maia McCann, Editor-In-Chief and VP of Content at RockYou Media
“I was once told in a training session not to cry at work—and especially don’t cry if you’re a woman. I think that is changing…I like to call it being passionate rather than emotional, because when you’re passionate, you care about something.”
Carey Shuffman, Head of Women Strategic Client Segment, UBS
Caregiving Is Your Superpower
“I believe that women have a special legacy, and that today we have the possibility and the responsibility to put it in power again. Women’s DNA is wired with caregiving. A trait that enabled the success of our species as much as our capability to hunt, or more. For no other species in nature needs as much care after birth as ours and in no other species as much as in ours, being social is a way to survive. It’s always been this way. It’s a very powerful frame, that women can embody and project, bringing a new perspective to the world.”
Riccarda Zezza, CEO of MAAM
“‘Mothering’ or being the ‘mama bear’ in the workplace is simply about creating an environment of care and support, allowing employees to be their best. To embrace caregiving at work, try repeating this mantra: ‘When I care, I lead; when I lead, I care.’”
Amy Stanton and Catherine Connors, authors of The Feminine Revolution
“The ethos of The Female Quotient is that it is a family. That is a new paradigm of workplace culture, where we build a new culture that is welcoming to all, focused on relationships within the company, and is based on what a company believes in versus what it produces. It’s not just what products the company delivers, but caring about why it matters.”
Nancy Armstrong, Executive Producer and Founding Partner, MAKERS
The Power of Collaboration & Playing the “We” Game
“We say wisdom isn’t just from the top down, but all around. Never forget the power of amplifying each other’s voices, and of giving each other a leg up. Women who support other women have a special place in heaven.”
Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient
“Sometimes you might not know what to ask for [when negotiating], but having mentors and sponsors can help guide you.”
Cathy Novelli, Global Head of Corporate Marketing at Quantcast
“I don’t think leadership is a goal. Rather, leadership is something you can attain when you have a vision, you hire a good team and you treat them well, and you don’t steal their credit when credit is to be given.”
Val DiFebo, CEO, at NY, Deutsch
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