What Does the Goddess Athena Have to Do with Negotiation?

What Does the Goddess Athena Have to Do with Negotiation?

Having travelled to Greece recently to speak on feminine wisdom, it’s perhaps no surprise that the Goddess Athena has been top of mind. You may be asking what this has to do with the art of negotiation. Well, I created the Art of Feminine Negotiation™ and HERsuaion™ programs which advocate leaning in to our feminine strengths to up-level our negotiating prowess and outcomes. So, it’s easy to understand why I’d be drawn to explore the impact of a figure who epitomizes the combination of feminine wisdom and power.  

In fact, the event I was participating in started in Athens, the perfect backdrop to celebrate feminine wisdom. Athens was named in honour of the indomitable Goddess Athena. When conflicts arose, Athena is lauded for purportedly responding with brilliant strategy and tactics, unlike her brother, Ares, who acted out in violence. 

It’s in part this recognition of feminine power that prompted authors John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio, to call their study (and book) The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the World. The study, conducted in 2012, inspired by a review of the 2008 crash fallout, was global in scope, surveying 64,000 people across 13 nations representing 65% of the global GDP and reflecting cultural, political, religious, economic, and geographical diversity. 

As noted in my article last week (Are Feminine Traits More Appreciated Today) they explored the consequences of the public’s shaken faith, and determined that: 

Nearly 2/3 of people around the world – including the majority of men – feel that the world would be a better place if men thought more like women. … This belief was shared regardless of age, income, or nation.

While it’s dangerous to accept that these findings are gender-based, it is interesting that they found in post-2008 recession, “most of the traits exhibited by the successful entrepreneurs, leaders, organizers, and creators profiled seemed to come from aspects of human nature that are widely regarded as feminine.”

While we’re starting to move away from gender attribution, most people still associate certain traits as feminine, masculine, or neutral. Much of this is based on conditioning. We can, however, recognize that we all have both masculine and feminine energy, and we can choose to raise our awareness to be more intentional about which traits we choose to embrace in any given situation. And, it’s interesting to note that many studies have found that as women gain in education, employment, and wealth, a nation’s wellbeing rises too. 

The study asked participants to classify 125 different human behavioral traits as either masculine feminine or neither and found strong consistency in allocations across countries. Interestingly, when asked to rate the importance of these traits to leadership, success, morality and happiness, a strong majority identified the so-called feminine traits as key to making the world better. 

It warmed my heart to see that participants’ definitions of ‘winning’ were changing (moving away from the traditional competitive or aggressive models to more collaborative ones); mission-focus vs self-interest was more valued in leadership; flexibility was recognized as an essential skill as was consensus-building and listening; and success was defined based on relationships and respect over money. These are key elements of my models, as set out in my book, Art of Feminine Negotiation: How to Get What You Want From the Boardroom to the Bedroom

Data also showed that people were seeking more expressive leaders, who share feelings and emotions more openly. I’ve certainly seen a shift in this regard. In my trade union law practice I remember being struck at a union convention by the fact that virtually every male candidate for election cried at the podium during their campaign speeches. This was a profound shift from the traditional stereotype of the macho union leader which had been the earlier expectation. Vulnerability had suddenly become trendy. 

I’m often asked which traits I consider ‘feminine’ when I speak to the Art of Feminine Negotiation™. My A.R.E. F.I.T. model speaks to rapport-building, empathy, flexibility, intuition and trust. My other models speak to listening, compassion, curiosity, understanding, and collaboration (to name a few). Again, this isn’t to say that women have these traits more than men, but rather, that historically these traits are typically seen as tapping in to our ‘feminine’. 

The Athena Doctrine supported this theory. Here’s a sampling of the traits that were designated as masculine versus feminine in their comprehensive study:  


Rugged Dominant Strong Arrogant Rigid

Proud Decisive Ambitious Overbearing Hardworking

Logical Self-Reliant Focused Resilient Aggressive

Brave Daring Competitive Gutsy Stubborn

Assertive Driven Direct Dynamic Confident

Selfish Independent Analytical Unapproachable Straightforward


Charming Trustworthy Articulate Reliable Dedicated

Reasonable Nimble Adaptable Obliging Passive

Committed Helpful Creative Flexible Intuitive

Sincere Passionate Kind Supportive Giving

Loving Gentle Generous Team Player Good Listener

Honest Imaginative Humble Curious Loyal

Conscientious Cooperative Selfless Perceptive Encouraging

Empathetic Expressive Understanding Patient Caring 

Sensitive Nurturing

When asked to identify which traits represented critical skills necessary to effective leadership and to success, invariably the bulk of traits identified were those which had been described as ‘feminine’. This gives me hope that my mission to redefine how we look at success, power, conflict, and negotiation is on track. I’m not alone in advocating that leaning in to our ‘feminine’ is the key to bring the world back in to balance. 

For too long we’ve defined success based on traditional competitive models that do not serve. It’s time for a rise of our feminine, where we come from a place of curiosity, seeking to truly understand and meet the needs of others. In so doing, we will be able to secure better outcomes, better relationships, better buy-in, longer lasting agreements, and a better world.


Are you looking to up level your negotiation skills?

How to Get What You Want from the Boardroom to the Bedroom

Negotiation skills are a woman’s secret weapon.

Art of Feminine Negotiation debunks myths and multi-generational gender conditioning that have stopped women from fully stepping into their power. Uncover the unconscious biases that have limited women from becoming the biggest and best versions of themselves. 


Learn the key skillsets that mark superior negotiators, explore how women already possess these skills in spades, and master how to start invoking these essential skills with intention in everyday life.

Please enjoy my TEDx Ocala talk
- Rise of the Feminine Voice as the Key to Our Future-  

rise of the feminine voice cindy watson tedx ocala

Click to play


Art of feminine negotiation, feminine traits, feminine wisdom, Goddess Athena, HERsuaion™, Masculine traits, Negotiation

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