Posted by: katherinestine13 | November 17, 2016

Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions

So, I’m a Communication major with minors in Leadership and Spanish, and in my time as a student in these fields, there have been very few topics that I have studied which connect to each of these subjects. There have been many overlaps in between Communication and Leadership, and a good handful between Communication and Spanish, but rarely does a topic tie into all three concentrations. Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions is one of these rare cases. I’ve learned about this subject in at least two leadership class (three including this one) and two communication courses, one of which was taught in Spanish when I studied abroad in Spain. I’m also taking a Cross-Cultural Awareness class next semester for my Spanish minor and it will undoubtedly crop up there as well. As you might imagine, this is a pretty interesting topic to me.

Every time I’ve learned about this subject, the professors have had their own unique takes on it and different inputs about it. However, without fail, each time we discuss the Masculine vs. Feminine dimension, the professor has to preface it with something along the lines of “this doesn’t have anything to do with masculinity or femininity” before explaining that it’s actually about wanting being the best vs. liking what you do, essentially. And each time they say this, I think to myself “then why is it called that?” What’s the association there between the words and their meaning? Are we supposed to see this dimension and think that being the best is a masculine thing to do and liking what you do is more feminine? Even though it’s always prefaced with the aforementioned disclaimer, we still associate these traits with these words (otherwise there would be no need for the disclaimer in the first place).

So what does this mean for women in leadership? What does it mean for women who are leaders in more “masculine” cultures, according to Hofstede’s dimensions? Likewise, what does it mean for men who are leaders in more “feminine” cultures? Additionally, what are your takes on the other dimensions and how they affect women in leadership?


  1. This was a very interesting post to read. I completely agree that the masculinity verses femininity is a strange dimension to have in the first place. All the other dimensions seem to make sense, but this one seems to stick out. I also believe that there is a strong connection between particular words and meanings. The use of femininity and masculinity in this context definitely sets a hidden meaning. We use masculinity to refer to traits such as ambition, dominance, and assertion. When people are described using these qualities they are seen as successful, talented, and valued. Femininity is used to describe qualities such as collaboration and cooperation. These qualities are seen as less important and less valued. So yes, I do believe that the use of this dimension does further facilitate differences between the genders.

    Regardless of the gender or the context of the leader, the use of such words can create negative associations. For example, a male would feel weak or worthless in a feminine context. While a female would feel out of place and at odds with a masculine culture. These words further idealized males using masculine qualities and females using feminine qualities. We than continue to associate masculine qualities as better than feminine qualities. In my opinion, I think that subtle biases like these continue to be one of the biggest motivating factors behind gender inequality. Such practices are extremely hidden and written between the lines of a culture.

    Given the large negative implications attached behind word choice, our society needs to pay attention to the words we use, and the associations we create. If we hope to continuing eliminating gender inequality and open pathways towards leadership, we need to remove implicit and explicit biases. The choice of words we use should not elude to certain qualities or the importance of qualities. These words can have negative implications for women.


  2. I think that the masculine and feminine cultural dimensions can be interpreted in different ways, but shapes how rigid or collectivist a society is. A masculine society is much more rigid and may be harder for a woman to be a leader because there is often some form of hierarchy to adhere to. A woman leader would likely find it more difficult to be a leader, because more masculine values such as assertiveness and being agentic are more commonly utilized by leaders. While more masculine countries may cause all women to act in an agentic fashion this is usually not the case because women are usually more nurturing and communal and are seen as mothers. Therefore, it would be harder for women to become leaders, but once they start to occupy the positions it works to change the culture and society.

    It is interesting how the Globe study and Hofstede were able to break down the entire cultures and societies of countries into a few categories to attempt to give people insight into how other countries problem solve and create solutions. While the identification of masculine and feminine societies may give some people bias about the leadership of a country, in general we are better off by learning how these traits affect people that we may work with in the future because of globalization. And us as leaders can only become better off and more relational by learning how to interact with other cultures in our careers.

  3. I don’t know the origin of how this dimension came to be- I don’t know the history of Hofstede’s findings and how he named the competing traits, but it is odd that the others are so self-explanatory and this one has immediate connotations that don’t necessarily have anything to do with the meaning behind it. Unless… the “masculine” trait of being the best is directly tied to ambition, a trait that we’ve discussed must be disguised and masked in women and is expected in men. And therefore the “feminine” trait is tied to submission. That would be somewhat discouraging… it would tie back to women having to maneuver the double-bind and having to manipulate the culture and the societal standards. This is a good question, one that I will definitely continue to ponder.

  4. I have been very fortunate and have been able to travel to a lot of foreign countries. One of the most interesting things is how the different cultures work. I do not remember where it was, because I was little but I remember one of the men was shocked that my mom was a stay at home mom. In other countries men and women get treated both equally and unequally. I think we can all agree that the United States has taken big strides in trying to improve the women and leadership. I think something that could be very interesting would be how societies run by women end up behaving (corruption, government efficiency, etc.).

  5. I’m not sure how the dimensions were created. I could probably look at an old reading of mine and figure it out. But I do know that the masculine and feminine characteristic was chosen based on how the culture typically behaved. These were either considered “masculine” or “feminine” traits. So yes it does have to do with gender. How women are typically perceived or supposed to be perceived are labeled as feminine traits. What does this have to do with women in leadership? Well im not really sure because I feel like we would have to take a poll to figure out how women feel about women in leadership in their countries based on these characteristics. How many women or men actually know these exist? And if they exist…do they even care about them?

  6. I think that the labeling of “masculine” and “feminine” in the cultural dimensions are indicative of how society did, and maybe still does, see men and women. According to society, men are supposed to work. Men are supposed to be the breadwinners and they are seen as adequately contributing to society and family if they work a job and bring in money. Women are supposed to, if they work, do what is well suited for them because it isn’t a requirement. It may be seen as a luxury in some cases. This has totally changed over time, but it is not erased. So I wonder if thats how masculine and feminine labeling came into play.

  7. I think the masculinity dimension in Hofstede’s leadership dimensions is more of a reference to societal order, and it has everything to do with men and women. Here is an explanation I found: “This refers to the distribution of roles between men and women. In masculine societies, the roles of men and women overlap less, and men are expected to behave assertively. Demonstrating your success, and being strong and fast, are seen as positive characteristics. In feminine societies, however, there is a great deal of overlap between male and female roles, and modesty is perceived as a virtue. Greater importance is placed on good relationships with your direct supervisors, or working with people who cooperate well with one another.”
    So it seems pretty clear to me that there are gender defined roles in each society, and having travelled a decent amount myself I’ve certainly recognized that. In the US we are so quick to deny that things are gendered because we don’t want them to be, but it’s important to recognize that most societies aren’t like that. Which is the purpose of the GLOBE study- to recognize the differences in values among nations.

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