Do female values even exist?
We have seen a number of references from some really quite senior people talking about feminine or female values. We also see the same speech patterns related to female strengths and skills. [Tweet “But can values and skills have a gender?”]If they can what is the difference between male and female values?
We decided to ask.
Definition of Values
Values are beliefs tied inextricably to emotion, not objective, cold ideas referring to the desirable goals people strive to attain and transcending specific actions and situations. People’s values form an ordered system of value priorities that characterize them as individuals. This hierarchical feature of values also distinguishes them from norms and attitudes.
The Theory of Basic Human values, developed by Shalom H. Schwartz, suggests there are 10 universal values
- POWER: Social status and prestige, control or dominance over people and resources
- ACHIEVEMENT: Personal success through demonstrating competence according to social standards
- HEDONISM: Pleasure or sensuous gratification for oneself
- STIMULATION: Excitement, novelty, and challenge in life
- SELF-DIRECTION: Independent thought and action – choosing, creating, exploring
- UNIVERSALISM: Understanding, appreciation, tolerance, and protection for the welfare of all people and for nature
- BENEVOLENCE: Preservation and enhancement of the welfare of people with whom one is in frequent personal contact
- TRADITION: Respect, commitment, and acceptance of the customs and ideas that traditional culture or religion provide
- CONFORMITY: Restraint of actions, inclinations, and impulses likely to upset or harm others and violate social expectations or norms
- SECURITY: Safety, harmony, and stability of society, of relationships, and of self
The general consensus from our social media survey is that basic values are human. Where the differentiator lies is in interpretation and prioritisation. But priorities are probably gender based because that is the way our society has evolved and works now. Today gender based values are considered to be on a range. There is an expectation that men and women will exhibit both male and female priorities to different degrees.
When it comes to Power and Achievement, not all men will ascribe to the same interpretation of these values, as we can clearly see with Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau.
Women are perceived to have stronger values in the Universalism and Benevolence subsets. Although, Michelle Obama and Theresa May certainly appear to have different priorities and interpretations on the welfare of people. Women are also breaking with tradition by campaigning for gender parity and some men are resisting because it impacts the status quo, even though some men exhibit preferences for challenge and self direction. Men are considered to be more aggressive, but we are seeing an increase in violent crime among women as our cultures change.
So by this constant reference to “female values” we run the risk of digging ourselves deeper into gender sand traps which lead to further embedding unconscious bias. Leaders working in the D & I field should also take a look at their use of language which can be held responsible for limiting both men and women. We need to stop referencing female values, female skills and female leadership. It implies that they are different from the “norm.” It would seem that their base values are not different at all, but the interpretation of those values for some women might vary.
And even if we talk about female priorities – those priorities are not always the goals of all women. The time has come to have a fluid mindset relating to the notion of female values as well as female strengths and qualities.
Let us know if you think there is such a thing as “female values”. Take our poll here.