The taxi driver at Ben-Gurion International Airport, near Tel Aviv, once drove a Merkava tank. The cook at the café in Netanyah, a few miles north of the city, learned his trade in an army field kitchen. And in the high-tech center of Ra'anana, not too far away, a venture capital firm called Veritas Venture Partners counts a former fighter pilot and a retired intelligence officer among its directors.
Spend a few days on business in Israel and you might start to think that "machismo" is a Hebrew word. Then you discover that women are the new stars of the army's peacekeeping corps, because they excel at averting confrontations. You encounter the toughest reporter in the country, a woman named Ilana Dyan, who can match U.S. journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein scoop-for-scoop. And at Beit Hanassi, the Israeli presidential residence, for years the only men in sight have been security officers and the former president himself, Shimon Peres. All of his key aides were female.
Efrat Duvdevani, who has worked with Peres since the assassination of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, now as director of the Peres Center For Peace, brings with her a belief in the power of female management and the importance of placing women in senior roles. ''All the leading positions at the Office of the President were held by women, most of them mothers,'' Duvdevani told myself and Michael D'Antonio, my co-author for our book, "The Athena Doctrine." ''Women have to combine many aspects of their lives into one life – and if the workplace facilitates this, then everyone gains. The modern world can provide solutions for working mothers – with technology you can work at any hour and through the night. It's how the modern economy should be.''
In her office at the Peres Center, we found about a dozen people crowded around a low table set with pots of tea and cold water. Duvdevani wants everyone included in the conversation, so everyone gets a seat. The women who joined us, and they were all women, held top positions as aides and advisers, and the main point they wanted to make was that collaboration, not ego, made the place work.
''The world is so complicated that you must have different people with different expertise putting their heads together to solve problems,'' said Duvdevani. ''Here it's a matter of teamwork, teamwork, teamwork. And once again, teamwork.''
Similarly, Google's recent research into optimizing teamwork found the importance of "high social sensitivity" – that innovation and productivity arises from "psychologically safe environments" or what we could call "feminine values." Survey data we gathered from 64,000 people in nationally representative samples in 13 countries – from the Americas and Europe to Asia – point to a growing appreciation for the competencies and characteristics traditionally associated with women. In this research, which we conducted for our book, we asked half the sample – 32,000 people – to classify 125 different human behavioral traits as masculine or feminine, while the other half rated the same traits (without gendering) on their importance to leadership, innovation and overall happiness.
By comparing the two studies, statistical modeling revealed strong consensus that what people felt was feminine was also ascendant. Notably, two-thirds of people agreed "the world would be a better place if men thought more like women." The surprising support to this idea included 63 percent of men worldwide. Even millennials in China, Japan, South Korea and India agreed to this idea more strongly than the women over 50 in their own countries.
As a consensus expressed by tens of thousands of people, the rising public respect for skills such as selflessness, collaboration, flexibility and empathy were also viewed as more feminine. The numbers reveal something that is deeply felt by men and women in all walks of life, in nearly all age groups, and at every level of the economy. They identify as "traditionally feminine" most of the strategies and skills that they find essential to success and happiness in a social, interdependent and transparent world.
In our research with the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and U.S. News for our Best Countries project, we also found correlation between a country's reputation for innovation, entrepreneurship and quality of life and whether its citizens felt their society offered a similar "feminine ethos." We asked 16,200 people around the world – a mix of citizens, business decision-makers and political elites – to rate countries on 75 different dimensions, ranging from a country's reputation for providing health and education services to its citizens, to its transparency in government, its innovative edge among others. We also asked their personal attitudes toward the balance between time spent with family and their career, their desire for wealth versus happiness, and more. We found a high correlation (average of 65 percent) between countries with cultures that reflect the more empathetic, society-centric values and perceptions of these countries as being innovative and progressive – having open markets, religious freedom, gender equality, transparency, political fairness and being more trustworthy.
These characteristics are also highly correlated to countries' per capita gross domestic product, meaning these two large-scale studies demonstrate there's a return on investment on a country's perceived "femininity." While previous research reveals the drag on a country's GDP when women aren't included in the economy, a country that purposely cultivates a more "feminine" society is not only important to a just society, but now a determinant of direct foreign investment, trade, immigration and even tourism.
The high value placed on qualities that people consider feminine align perfectly with their views on the problems of the world and path to solutions. In light of global economic and political problems, people are deeply concerned about equality and social conditions. In our book research, almost three-quarters disagreed with the statement "the world is becoming more fair" and a similar number – 76 percent – took issue with the notion that "my country cares more about its citizens than it used to." Eighty six percent said institutions have "too much power." When asked about the best way to respond to these conditions, overwhelming majorities of both men and women said they favored flexibility over ideology and influence over "control."
All numbers signal a change in the global zeitgeist, which run counter to the negative, isolationist populism of Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump or the abysmal state of gender inequality that International Women's Day seeks to redress. All over the world men and women are deploying feminine values to an innovative and successful result.
In Berlin, an entrepreneur named Tim Kunde emphasizes relationships, social virtue and accountability to build a profitable insurance company called Friendsurance, which is based on buyers groups that use intimacy and peer pressure to reduce fraud. His breakthrough idea involved harnessing the power of friendship, accountability and community to save people money and make their lives less susceptible to losses. "People pay the same insurance premiums at the start of the year and then we give them a payback at the end of the year," he explains. The refunds, which can total as much as 50 percent, are based on the number of claims against the insurance made by your network of friends.
In Medellin, Colombia, Government Secretary Mauricio Facio Lince is setting aside 62 percent of the city's operating budget for the next generation, including free digital schools and libraries to nurture youth away from the culture of a violent past. Nearby, Catalina Cock Duque runs Fundación Mi Sangre – the My Blood Foundation – which has helped 30,000 FARC rebel soldiers lay down their arms. In their 'Casas de Paz,' or peace houses, young former soldiers live with the very people they once terrorized. Geared toward a not-so-subtle approach to empathy and understanding, Catalina said, "A man is a fist. But a woman is open arms."
In San Francisco, investments targeting enterprises that require a large number of low-skilled workers have helped the Roberts Enterprise Development Fund become a self-sustaining job-creating machine. REDF's director, Carla Javitz, says the system works so well she has ample capital "for people with cool ideas who have the hard and soft skills" – read masculine and feminine – "to make them work."
Altogether, politicians, business people, activists and entrepreneurs who have sensed the shift in popular priorities and acted in a more traditionally feminine style – open, empathic, collaborative and transparent – represent a new way of doing well and doing good with a style suited to the age. Indeed, our round-the-world interviews of success stories turns up equal numbers of men and women thriving under this new paradigm. Among them, an active blend of masculine and feminine is so sensible, and natural, that it happens without much thought. About 80 percent around the world said "man or woman, you need both masculine and feminine traits to thrive in today's world."
What these innovative leaders understand is that a new style of leader is emerging, one who deploys their feminine capabilities for competitive advantage. "A good life is both chikara, which means power – and ai – which means love," says Yosh Kanematsu, a 20-something whom we met over tea in Tokyo at his web-based magazine called Greenz. "The masculine side likes to deliver on its promises and push forward, with tunnel vision. The feminine side is more inclusive and comprehensive in its view. It is strong but it is also perceptive and considerate."
In the past, Yosh says, many workers were willing to accept "rice work," which is a slang term for labor that provides long-term security with little stimulation. With fewer opportunities for such predictable work, his generation accepts less security but also wants "life work:" "work with a purpose, something that gives meaning to your life." Perhaps if we all strive to see the beauty in our common femininity, we'll find what we're looking for sooner, rather than later.
View the original article on U.S. News here.