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Masculinity-Femininity Dimension in Dr. Geert Hofstede's National Culture Model.

Updated: Aug 22



Dr. Hofstede's research has provided a valuable research-based framework for understanding cultural differences and their impact on economic, political, and social dynamics. By learning about different cultures and developing intercultural management skills, we can build stronger relationships and work more effectively in an increasingly interconnected world.


Now it's time to discuss the masculinity-femininity dimension in Dr. Hofstede's national culture model.


To provide context for this dimension, let's start with a basic premise that Geert discovered regarding this dimension: the biological differences between men and women are the same worldwide, and there is a common tendency among the majority of societies, both traditional and modern, in terms of the distribution of gender social roles, which also originate from the family we are born into. The pattern of functions demonstrated by the father and mother (and possibly other family members) has a profound impact on the mental software of the young child, which is programmed into them for life.


The pattern of gender roles in a society is reflected daily in its media, including television programs, movies, children's books, newspapers, and women's magazines.


We consider society masculine when the emotional gender roles are distinct: men are expected to be assertive, challenging, and focused on material success, while women are expected to be more modest, tender, and concerned with the quality of life.


The masculine pole is more strongly associated with the importance given to the following elements translated in economic terms:



Profit: having the opportunity to obtain large profits. Recognition: getting the recognition one deserves when doing a good job. Advancement: having the chance to move up to a higher job level. Challenge: having a challenging job, a position from which one can gain a personal sense of achievement.

On the other hand, the feminine pole is more strongly associated with the importance given to the following elements translated in economic terms:

Manager: having a good working relationship with one's direct superior. Cooperation: working with people who cooperate well with each other. Housing: living in a desirable area for oneself and one's family. Job security: assurance that one can work for their company for as long as they want.



Knowing how to differentiate gender roles in the workplace correctly will allow us to interpret the context better and make better decisions, especially when it comes to balancing results-oriented approaches with quality of life both inside and outside of work.


In literature, the distinction between masculinity and femininity at a country level is easily confused with the distinction between individualism and collectivism. In reality, these dimensions are independent, and the difference between them is that individualism-collectivism is about the self versus the collective, the independence versus the dependence of internal groups on external groups.


Masculinity-femininity is about stress on the ego versus emphasis on relationships with others, regardless of group ties. Group bonds essentially predetermine relationships in collectivist cultures: collectivism, not femininity. On the other hand, the biblical story of the good Samaritan who helps a Jew, someone from another ethnic group, illustrates feminine values, not collectivist ones.


 

In this dimension, it becomes fascinating to understand the critical differences between feminine and masculine societies. To illustrate, let's give some examples of how this dimension appears in the family:


  • Relationships and quality of life are essential in a feminine society, while challenges, gains, recognition, and advancement are essential in a masculine culture.

  • In a feminine society, fathers and mothers face facts and feelings in the family, while in a masculine culture, fathers deal with facts and mothers with feelings.

  • In a feminine society, parents share roles of income perception and care, while in a masculine culture, the standard pattern is that the father earns income and the mother takes care of the family.

  • In a feminine society, boys and girls can cry, but neither should fight. In a masculine culture, girls cry, but boys do not; boys should defend themselves, and girls should not fight.

  • In a feminine society, the same rules apply to both boyfriends and girlfriends, while in a masculine culture, girlfriends are expected to overcome challenges and be dedicated; boyfriends are not.


And how do masculinity and femininity reflect in shopping?


Dutch marketing expert Marieke de Mooji studied consumer behavior information in sixteen wealthy European countries. She found several significant differences related to the masculinity-femininity dimension. One of them was the division of shopping roles between genders. In feminine culture countries, the husband takes on a more significant portion of the family's food shopping. Other differences are related to the family car. When purchasing a new car, the husband in a feminine country will involve his partner. In a masculine country, this is usually the man's sole decision, where the car's engine power plays an important role. In feminine cultures, car owners often do not know the engine's power. The car has often been described as a sexual symbol; for many, it is undoubtedly a status symbol. Masculine cultures tend to have relatively more two-car families than feminine cultures; in the latter, it is common for the husband and wife to share a family car.


Shopping to assert status is more frequent in masculine cultures. People in these cultures buy more expensive watches and authentic jewelry; they often consider foreign goods more attractive than local products. They are also more likely to fly business class on leisure trips.


Female cultures spend more on household products. More people in these cultures bring their "home" on vacation (caravan or trailer). They spend more on DIY (do it yourself) carpentry, making their dresses, and rolling their cigarettes in the case of smokers. Coffee symbolizes unity; people in female cultures own more electric coffee makers, ensuring that coffee at home is always ready. People in female cultures buy more fiction books, while people in male cultures buy more non-fiction books. American author Deborah Tannen has identified two differences between male and female discourse: more "informational talk" (transferring information) for men and more "communication talk" (using conversation to exchange feelings and establish a relationship) for women. De Mooij's data also shows that, on a cultural level, male readers are more concerned with data and facts. In contrast, readers in female cultures are more interested in the story behind the facts.


 

Here are three recommendations for working and collaborating with people from masculine cultures:


  1. Familiarize yourself with the norms and values of masculine culture: Learn about gender roles and expectations in the masculine cultures you work with. This approach will allow you to understand the work dynamics better and adapt to their norms and values.

  2. Communicate clearly and directly: In masculine cultures, people value assertiveness and direct communication. Avoid beating around the bush and get straight to the point when expressing your ideas or making requests. Be clear in your messages and avoid ambiguity.

  3. Recognize and appreciate success and achievements: Masculine cultures emphasize material success and recognition. Recognize and appreciate the individual and collective achievements of your male colleagues. Celebrate successes and show your appreciation for their well-done work.


Here are three recommendations for working and collaborating with people from feminine cultures:


  1. Practice active listening and create a collaborative and cooperative environment: Feminine cultures value the expression of feelings and emotional connection. Practice active listening when interacting with your female colleagues, showing interest and empathy towards their opinions, concerns, and experiences. Pay attention to nonverbal cues and be receptive to their emotions. This approach will help strengthen communication and build trust.

  2. Pay attention to the quality of life and emotional well-being: Feminine cultures prioritize quality of life and emotional care. Prioritize the well-being of your colleagues and show empathy in personal or dynamic situations. Emotional protection for those less fortunate is essential in these cultures, so supporting them when necessary is vital. This approach will be well-regarded by others for showing your human side.

  3. Emphasize equity, inclusion, and diversity more substantially with words and actions: Recognize and value the unique contributions and perspectives that individuals from feminine cultures can bring to the workplace. Foster an inclusive and diverse environment that promotes equitable participation and equal opportunities for all individuals, regardless of gender. Feminine people value cultures, cooperation, and relationship-building. Encourage collaboration among your female colleagues and promote a supportive and solidarity-filled environment.


 

To summarize, the masculinity-femininity dimension in Hofstede's national culture model refers to gender roles and differences between masculine and feminine societies. In a masculine society, men are expected to be assertive and focused on material success, while women are expected to be more modest and concerned with quality of life. In a feminine society, men and women are expected to be humble and concerned with the quality of life.

This dimension has implications in the workplace, as in a masculine society, earning profits, recognition, advancement, and challenges are valued more, while in a feminine culture, good relationships with superiors, cooperation, housing, and job security are valued more.


It is essential to correctly differentiate gender roles in the workplace to make appropriate decisions and balance results-oriented orientation with quality-of-life orientation. Understanding and considering this dimension helps us better understand cultural differences and work more effectively in an increasingly interconnected world.



References:


Hofstede, Geert, Hofstede, Gert Jan., Minkov, Michael (2010). Cultures and Organizations, Software of the Mind, Third Revised Edition, USA: McGrawHill.




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