Skip to content

A Question of Balance

5 minute read

Would you say you are a woman in touch with her masculinity? A man in touch with his femininity? Do you prefer to use another gender pronoun than your biological sex would ‘normally’ be associated with? How does masculinity and femininity show up in your workstyle? How do these notions shape the work culture in your organisation?

Dictionary definitions in my dad’s old 1944 Oxford English Dictionary:


Masculine: Of the male sex; manly; vigorous. Of a woman; having qualities appropriate to a man.

Some more modern manifestations (Oxford Learner’s 2023):

I feel quite masculine in this suit.

She has strong, masculine features.

That's a typically masculine attitude.


Feminine: Of female sex; of women; womanly. Of a man; (there is no corresponding entry).

Some more modern manifestations (Oxford Learner’s 2023):

I feel quite feminine when I wear a dress.

He had delicate, almost feminine features.

(They took) the traditional feminine role.


So, in 1944, it would seem women could have both masculine and feminine qualities, but men could only be masculine! I’m not so sure being a man with feminine qualities was accepted as much as it is today in our country. Today, gender fluidity has, at least to some degree, created a much more balanced situation in many countries.

If we look behind the words in these definitions, there is an implication that when anyone is being masculine, they are demonstrating strength, assertiveness, power, and goal orientation. These are often qualities we find ourselves associating with when being an effective senior leader of an organisation.

Microsoft Word came up with the following synonyms in 2023 for the word masculine:

Virile, macho, manly, all-male, red-blooded, laddish, muscular, muscly, strapping, well built, rugged, brawny.

With the idea of the feminine, there is an implication of softness, delicacy, warmth, empathy.

Microsoft lists these words:

Womanly, womanlike, ladylike, girlish, female, soft, delicate, gentle, tender, graceful, refined, modest.


A great leader is...?

Is it really the case that we need to embrace mainly masculine qualities to be great leaders? The below suggests the opposite…

Global not-for-profit Catalyst, which campaigns for more women in leadership positions, surveyed around 900 US employees and found that almost two-thirds of people in organizations with an empathetic leader are innovative at work, compared to just 13% where the boss lacks empathy. More than three-quarters (76%) of people whose boss demonstrated empathy said they felt engaged at work while just a third (32%) felt the same way with an unempathetic boss. And the study shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the importance of empathy.” (“The Price of Empathy for Women” — Tammy Heermann)

So, being able to read and acknowledge emotions really does matter. Surely the best leaders in the future will be in touch with both their masculine and feminine qualities, not to mention being free to be identified as she, he, or they.

Looking through the words above, and speaking as a male, I would positively hate to be confined to the words associated with my gender by Microsoft’s thesaurus. I don’t think I am many of these qualities. I will proudly admit I have a few feminine qualities when the situation demands it. Does that make me a weak man? If it does, then perhaps we have an example of unconscious bias.

Good soil helps things grow

An important quality as we progress through the 2020s will surely be our capacity to balance our own masculinity and femininity to be the best co-workers and leaders we can be and to be authentic and to accept each other fully. Balance means being able to encourage each other to be real and true to our core values, in all of our glorious individual diversity. To achieve this means we need to be profoundly curious as opposed to judgemental. Many studies are now recognising that teams that are truly inclusive and embrace diversity actually perform better.

We need to develop inclusive and inspiring work cultures where we all have access to equal opportunities—a place where we are all encouraged to feel at ease being our true selves and to contributeour very best, whatever our race, sex, religion, culture, style.

Find out more…

Some of the ideas and tools used in this blog are covered in the new book from Soul Corporations® - The Mindful Communicator by Nicholas Brice (Amazon, Nov 2022). Order a copy for you and your team here.

You can contact Nick directly at or +44(0)7778-356954.

The mindful communicator

Keep up to date with the latest events, resources and articles.

Sign-up for the Engage Employee Newsletter