Measuring masculinity-femininity as a dimension of culture

Measuring masculinity-femininity as a dimension of culture

The third of five cultural dimensions highlighted by Hofstede is assertiveness versus modesty. This is used to measure gender or masculinity-femininity as a dimension of societal culture, and the roles each culture assigns to them. This especially influences how leadership is exercised, and how it is perceived by its recipients.

The Masculinity Index (MAS) values were calculated based on eight questions related to work goals. Evaluating and defining what gender roles should be can often lead to emotionally charged discussions, with the inherent values of respective national cultures underpinning those beliefs. As Hofstede, Hofstede, and Minkov, also point out, “it is not surprising that one of the dimensions of national value systems is related to gender role models offered by the parents.”[1] The role of the family in the transmission of values will be looked at in a future essay. Hofstede, Hofstede, and Minkov, acknowledges gender differences in mental programming and states that

“A society is called masculine when emotional gender roles are clearly distinct: men are supposed to be assertive, tough, and focused on material success, whereas women are supposed to be more modest, tender, and concerned with the quality of life.

A society is called feminine when emotional gender roles overlap: both men and women are supposed to be modest, tender, and concerned with the quality of life.”[2]

One interesting finding from the research is that unlike the Individualism Index, masculinity was not related to the country’s economic development, although it did significantly impact the availability of opportunities for women in some societies. Hofstede, Hofstede, and Minkov, analyze femininity and masculinity according to occupation, in the family, in gender roles and sex, in education, shopping, and in the workplace. Table 3 reveals the differences between feminine and masculine societies in the workplace.

Table 3. Key Differences Between Feminine and Masculine Societies in the Workplace
Feminine Masculine
Management as ménage: intuition and consensus Management as manége: decisive and aggressive
Resolution of conflicts by compromise and negotiation Resolution of conflict by letting the strongest win
Rewards are based on equality Rewards are based on equity
Preference for smaller organizations Preference for larger organizations
People work in order to live People live in order to work
More leisure time is preferred over more money More money is preferred over more leisure time
Careers are optional for both genders Careers are compulsory for men, optional for women
There is a higher share of working women in professional jobs There is a lower share of working women in professional jobs
Humanization of work by contact and cooperation Humanization of work by job content enrichment
Competitive agriculture and service industries Competitive manufacturing and bulk chemistry
Source: Geert Hofstede, Gert Jan Hofstede, and Michael Minkov, Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind (New York: McGraw-Hill Books, 2010), table 5.5.

In analyzing the results for 76 countries, a number of European countries scored the lowest the MAS Index. Slovakia was ranked first with an index score of 110, closely followed by Japan and Hungary with scores of 95 and 88 respectively. Seven European countries represented the lower ranked countries, with Sweden ranked 76 with a score of 5. The United States and Australia was ranked 19 and 20 with scores of 62 and 61, while China and India were ranked 11 and 28 with scores of 66 and 56.[3]

The work of Hofstede, Hofstede, and Minkov, primarily focused on the value differences of societies in relation to assertiveness, success, competition, that reflected “tough” or masculine societies, and values such as nurturance and solidarity as representing “tender” or feminine societies.

The GLOBE study looked at another aspect of masculinity and femininity as it relates to the different beliefs societies have in relation to behavior, and “what is appropriate for males versus females.”[4]

In doing this, they adopted the same two-scale approach as it did for measuring collectivism by measuring gender egalitarianism at both the societal and organizational levels. Not surprisingly, they discovered there was a strong correlation between the two; the “more gender egalitarian a society’s current practices, the more gender egalitarian a manager’s values.”[5] However, this doesn’t explain the discrepancy between them.

What we do know in relation to the six implicit theories of leadership is that those societies that held values that were more gender egalitarian, the more likely leaders in organizations supported Participative, and Charismatic/Value-Based leadership attributes, but strongly resisted Self-Protective leader attributes. Furthermore, if leaders perceived that their organization’s practices were more gender egalitarian, they were more likely to endorse Team-Oriented leadership.[6]


[1] Geert Hofstede, Gert Jan Hofstede, and Michael Minkov, Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, 138.

[2] Ibid., 140.

[3] Ibid., 141-143.

[4] Cynthia G. Emrich, Florence L. Denmark, and Deanne N. Den Hartog, “Cross-Cultural Differences in Gender Egalitarianism,” Culture, Leadership, and Organizations: The GLOBE Study of 62 Societies, eds. Robert J. House et al. (Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2004), 344.

[5] Ibid., 364.

[6] Ibid., 383.

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