On July 29, AmCham Shanghai was pleased to host author John Gerzema for a discussion on the rising value of traditionally feminine attributes in leadership and society, the subject of his New York Times bestselling book with co-author Michael D’Antonio, The Athena Doctrine: How Women (And The Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule The Future.
Gerzema shared findings from the book’s extensive research on the changing views on leadership, problem solving and success from around the world. His survey of 64,000 people in 18 countries shows that, as the world has become ever more interdependent and social, traditionally feminine leadership traits are on the rise. Expressiveness, empathy, cooperation and other traditionally feminine characteristics and competencies have become essential in our increasingly interconnected world. In China and globally, leaders and innovators, both men and women, are actively adopting “feminine” skills and values to lead and address today’s challenges, and Gerzema highlighted some of the many inspiring stories of successful leaders, in policy, philanthropy, business and other fields, interviewed for the book that reflect the trend.
With advances in communication technology and the advent of social media, soft skills that facilitate communication and collaboration have become essential to success, noted Gerzema. Innovators – like those behind the Felleshus, the world’s first collaborative embassy, which unites the Nordic nations in Berlin – are harnessing the power of social collaboration to share and exchange information and facilitate international cooperation. Dr. Ijad Madish, CEO and co-founder of ResearchGate, uses social media to disrupt the traditionally competitive field of academic research to encourage sharing and aggregating work from scientists from around the world, which he hopes will lead to better informed and more collaborative research and perhaps, one day, even a crowd-sourced Noble Prize. In today’s work environment, having a successful career requires not only the communication skills and teamwork needed for collaboration, but also the humility and group-mindedness to share credit.
Gerzema not only made the case that traditionally feminine skills are important to working within today’s society, but he also demonstrated through survey results that “feminine” attributes are gaining value among men and women across the globe. A majority of those surveyed believe that society would be fairer with more women in power. Gerzema presented the story of Silvia Loli Espinoza based on an interview conducted for the book. Espinoza formed Women’s House, a female-only police force in Lima, in response to widespread corruption within the male-only local police force. Her efforts in fighting corruption and inequality eventually led to the integration of women into the local police force and a 30 percent decrease in local police corruption. Stories like Espinoza’s demonstrate why today’s leaders increasingly judge traditionally feminine attributes such as compassion and fairness to be important attributes in leadership and society.
In our hyper social world, the majority of people, as surveyed by Gerzema and D’Antonio, agree that power lies not in control but influence. In the business community, socially responsible values are just as important in attracting consumers as talent. Skills and values that facilitate cooperation and demonstrate compassion and fairness are not only necessary but increasingly esteemed by policy leaders, business leaders, educators and women and men throughout the world, continuing a paradigm shift from the traditional structure of society, business and governance to Gerzema’s The Athena Doctrine.