Envision a scenario in which two equally capable women enter a boardroom to compete for a potential new client.
Woman 1 is bold and assertive, taking control of the situation to make sure that she pitches first. She neatly outlines a carefully developed plan and emphasizes that she can work independently.
Woman 2 waits patiently for Woman 1 to finish, listening intently and observing the potential client’s reactions. When it’s her turn, she begins by first asking the client for their ideas, hopes, and concerns for his business. She absorbs this information and offers a flexible, collaborative approach to solving the client’s problems and building a trusting, professional relationship.
Did you notice the difference between these two approaches? Which woman do you think made a better impression?
Woman 1 chose a traditionally masculine approach, using her dominant energy to take charge of the pitch and drive her proposal forward. Woman 2 used an entirely different technique, leaning into her feminine energy to listen and collaborate with the client throughout the proposal process.
As a negotiation expert and coach for ambitious women, I’m often challenged to explain the concept of a masculine versus feminine negotiating style. I want to convey first and foremost that the way I see it, the terms masculine and feminine have very little to do with gender itself. Rather, we all have masculine and feminine energy that we can tap into depending on our mindset—we simply have to learn when and how to access that energy to our full advantage.
(Truthfully, I believe these gendered terms will soon become anachronisms. Society is gradually starting to distance itself from gender norms taking a much more inclusive, gender-neutral view of the world. But that’s a topic for a different day. For now, “masculine” and “feminine” are the terms we have, so we must use them accordingly.)
Using Masculine and Feminine Energy in the Workplace
Society has always framed negotiation in favor of masculinity, perpetuating the assumption that traits like aggressiveness and competition are inevitable harbingers of success. If you think about it, women were excluded from many professional settings until fairly recently, leaving men to establish these environments in accordance with their traditionally “male” characteristics.
Unfortunately, these masculine characteristics still dominate the workplace, conditioning men and women to eschew feminine negotiating traits like rapport building, empathy, and flexibility for the sake of conforming to society’s male-centric business culture. While the push toward gender equality in the workplace has made incredible strides in the past several decades, feminine energy remains significantly devalued in comparison to masculine energy.
And yet, regardless of what we’ve all learned to accept as the norm, the fact is that feminine traits are immensely valuable—especially in the workplace.
The Power of Feminine Energy in the Workplace
Feminine qualities are key to successful negotiations. But don’t just take my word for it. Let the research speak for itself.
In The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the Men who Think Like Them) Will Rule the World, John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio expertly detail an important, wide-ranging study asking a diverse set of people to qualify values and leadership traits as masculine, feminine, or neutral. Their findings unequivocally reveal that traditionally feminine traits are considered more advantageous in business settings than the “macho paradigm” (their words!) typically associated with negotiating.
The study showed that instead of masculine assertiveness and competition, people actually value cooperation, long-term thinking, and flexibility in negotiation—traditionally feminine traits that were previously perceived as weaknesses in the business world.
Looking back at our example of the two women competing for a potential new client, it’s clear that Woman 2 was onto something when she opted for a more traditionally feminine approach!
How does it feel to learn that the feminine energy you’ve been conditioned to suppress in professional settings is ostensibly more valuable than the masculine energy you’ve struggled to emanate and express? Liberating, isn’t it? This realization was certainly a game-changer for me personally and professionally, and it inspired me to launch Women on Purpose.
Now, it’s my mission to encourage women and men alike to shift their thinking from the masculine, competitive, tough mindset to a softer, feminine mentality of building bridges, collaboration, and trust.
Using Feminine Qualities to Your Advantage in Negotiation
We all have masculine and feminine qualities—and both can be valuable when negotiating for what we want. So let go of those sexist stereotypes trying to convince you that femininity is synonymous with weakness, and start recognizing your feminine traits for what they really are: your greatest strengths.
Reclaiming your feminine energy in the workplace will help you:
Get better results. People are inclined to negotiate with someone who is cooperative. When you show that you’re flexible and open to new ideas, you form stronger professional relationships and build trust quickly.
Find more creative solutions. We harness our feminine energy when we forge alliances and emphasize teamwork. Collaboration opens us to ideas we may not have generated on our own, ultimately yielding the best outcomes.
Make the world a better place. When we stifle our feminine energy, we pigeonhole ourselves and limit our potential—and that applies outside the workplace, too! Flexibility, cooperation, and empathy are immensely valuable in bringing people together as a force for good.
Are you ready to reclaim the true power of your feminine qualities in the workplace and beyond? Let’s connect to discuss more strategies for using feminine energy to your advantage!