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Masculine and Feminine Cultures: Not Exactly What You Would Think


Continuing the overview of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory, we get into the masculinity index or MAS. This dimension has evolved and is mainly referred to nowadays as the Masculinity/Femininity index.


The MAS dimension can be confusing at times because it has a double meaning:

  • On one side, this dimension uses gender roles to summarize attitudes or characteristics.

  • On the other side, it refers directly to the gap between male and female values. For example: if in a given culture, only men can be priests.

Let’s keep in mind that this was one of the first dimensions Hofstede defined in the early ’70s and how, in terms of gender references and equality, it was a different world back then, half a century later. Of course, it has evolved as societies evolve. However, we can see traces of such evolution, and we can still find references to this dimension as Masculine/Less-masculine rather than Masculine/Feminine.


Masculinity


Here’s how Hofstede’s website defines it:

A high score (Masculine) on this dimension indicates that the society will be driven by competition, achievement and success, with success being defined by the winner / best in field – a value system that starts in school and continues throughout organisational life.

In a masculine culture, money and things are essential. Individuals identify with the phrase “live to work,” that is: life is based around work and nothing else, or, said differently, there is no clear line between professional and personal life.


Femininity


Here’s how Hofstede’s website defines it:

A low score (Feminine) on the dimension means that the dominant values in society are caring for others and quality of life. A Feminine society is one where quality of life is the sign of success and standing out from the crowd is not admirable.

In a feminine culture, quality of life and people are essential. Individuals identify with the phrase “work to live”: individuals work to allow themselves to enjoy other things in life. It means that once they get home, people are more focused on other things, such as hobbies, family and friends, and their person.


Regarding this work thing, let’s keep in mind that there’s a difference between working 80 hours a week because you have to vs. you love to. Some might argue that you don’t really work a single hour of the week when you love what you do.


Now is a good time for the usual reminder: please consider these, like many other elements of a cultural intelligence report, as generalizations, and members of a given culture can have different degrees of compliance with the behaviors described for this and any other dimension. Also, there’s no right or wrong; it just is.


The following graph compares MAS for Canada, India, Mexico, and the USA. Keep in mind, this index is more complex than a simple gap between the role of men and women in a given culture.



Source: hofstede-insights.com.


With a score above 50 for the four countries, they all tend to be “masculine” societies, Canada being the one closer to a work-life balance. Mexico is the highest, meaning that bosses are expected to be decisive and assertive, there’s a heightened sense of competition, and conflicts are resolved confrontationally. The US follows closely, and it shouldn’t be a surprise given the well-known American way of “be the best you can be” and “the winner takes it all.”


If you are curious about what countries have a very Masculine or very Feminine score, here are two examples: Sweden is decisively “feminine” with a score of 5. Japan is decisively “masculine” with a score of 95. I’ll leave you the fun of figuring out why.


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