Working in the space of diversity and Inclusion, I have come to realize that many of the traits that embody being an inclusive leader are having a balance between both feminine traits and masculine traits. Now I will be clear, feminine traits do not mean women and masculine traits do not mean men, society has just linked both feminine to women and masculine to men. However, now it’s important that we all understand that both femininity and masculinity are not the same things as gender and why both are different things.

Let’s start with what are masculine traits:

  • Dominant
  • Strong
  • Independent
  • Assertive
  • Brave
  • Innovative

Now let’s also understand what is considered feminine:

  • Emotional
  • Collaborative
  • Nurturing
  • Vulnerable
  • Caring
  • Humble

Notice yourself and how you feel when you read either traits, do you picture a woman when reading the traits associated to femininity? Do you think of a man when reading masculine traits? Yes, No?

For me personally, doing inclusion work has made it so clear that there are still so many leaders and employees that are unaware of this imbalance and that still have a bias towards each trait being classified to a woman or a man. Would you agree?

Traditionally feminine traits have been classified and considered bad or unwanted, and for that reason women have had to shy away from embracing feminine traits and had to embody only masculine traits. Especially in the workplace, where the foundation was to reward only those who embodied masculine traits.

If you think of the workplace, you immediately think of how it’s better to be dominant, assertive, and strong than it is to be humble, emotional, and caring. I even remember not long ago in my consulting training how when working with clients it was enforced to not be emotional nor caring because this can jeopardize the relationship with that client. Back then it made sense to me, but it also did not make sense how I felt burnout, and how unhappy I was because I couldn’t bring my full self to work.

We have all witness the saying of how when a woman is being dominant or assertive, she is called “bossy” yet when a man embodies both dominant and assertive traits he is seen as a leader. Even this is so wrong because we believe and have been programmed to associate masculine traits to be for men and feminine traits to be for women only. Think about it the other way too, if a man is to be vulnerable, empathetic, and caring he can be considered weak. Just all of it is so wrong, and it’s extremely important that especially leaders re-program their cultures to allow people to bring their whole selves to work. Would you agree?

If you got anything away from this article is to point out when people or your company culture still celebrates either trait to be labeled and associated with gender. Let’s all understand that femininity and masculinity are not traits we associate with gender. To be an inclusive leader while also have an inclusive culture you must embody both traits.

We were born to think we can only be either feminine or masculine, let’s remember that to show up being our truest self we must embody all attributes. Either won’t make you weaker, it will make you human.