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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 September 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I read this book for its content rather than its message. I find the idea of masculine and feminine a bit daft. Not male and female, clearly not daft; well defined when it comes to baby production. The book is written by two people who are certainly 'in the know.' The breadth and depth of insights does keep me reading. Especially the following paragraph.

'Much studied and much lamented, the alienation of modern life flows, at least in part, from the feeling that we don't know enough about how our world works...we know less and less about how objects are imagined, designed produced, and delivered. The feeling that we are isolated from the origins of things is relieved when we see a cook toss dough into the air at our local pizzeria...' (p 34). I might disagree with the authors' direction from this perspective but the root is right.

They are clearly addicted to the idea of profit. I prefer balance as a goal. Balance as a way of being. 'Creativity and the need for connection' are described as 'two basic human drives.' Here, as in much of the analysis, their disconnection from the real is apparent. We are all different. The urge to compartmentalize should always be resisted. But, like reading a Tory newspaper, I like reading of strange places and where they go.
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on 7 November 2013
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This is a complex issue to approach and the authors are in many ways brave to do so- the basic premise is that a more feminised culture would be a more successful one. Perhaps. But what I find difficult to get to the bottom of with this book, is why the authors think this should be the case. Is it so that the planet can be saved, or just that business and government would run more successfully/effectively/equitably? Unfortunately, I didn't find any clear conclusion on that here.

Having said that, there are a load of conundrums regarding the central thrust of the book, and the authors do as good a job as many of tackling them. Culture- particularly western culture- though, throws up some curveballs as it develops and we may find ourselves in a place now regarding the 'feminisation 'of society, that we may not of imagined 30-40 years ago. The most successful women have achieved what they have by acting more like men, not feminine, 'matriarchal' goddesses and the feminist movement appears to have collapsed under the corporate weight of a Big Business model that sees women's femininity in terms of a sexual product for even selling music to children, so...what a mess. Books like this however are useful to try and make sense of it all, but I suspect as a very confused and capitalistically dominated culture, we still have a long way to go.
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VINE VOICEon 18 August 2013
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This is a clever and interesting book that makes a valuable contribution to the vital debate about how we should build the organisations of the future (since our current organisational structures are clearly failing). So criticising the book seems perverse and small-minded - like taking a pop at Mother Theresa. But I can't help myself. So: this is an interesting book and I urge you to read it, but...

My first problem is that I have an aversion to the approach that takes an interesting idea and tries to turn it into a programme or, indeed, a doctrine - so much so that if a young entrepreneur were to tell me that they were starting a new venture and that it was a, like, you know, Athena Doctrine kind of thing? I would be obliged to poke them in the eye. Which would not be very Athena Doctrine of me.

But I have some more grown up quibbles too. My main issue is that I really do not think that it is useful to attach a label of any kind to sets of valuable human characteristics - like empathy, creativity, intuition, adaptability etc. In the case of the 'Athena Doctrine', of course, the label that Gerzema and D'Antonio have attached to these and other valuable characteristics is 'feminine'. Since they themselves argue later in the book that we should attempt take a 'gender neutral' approach to people, it's hard to see why they think that it is useful to say, in effect, that we should all get in touch with our feminine side.

Funnily enough, the authors recount in their introduction how they ran their ideas past a female academic who 'scrunched up her face like a professor listening to a student offering a terrible answer' and concluded, "I object to you calling these things feminine." I'm on her side. But the guys went ahead and did it anyway.

The authors had surveyed 64,000 people around the world and found that (surprise surprise) we are pretty consistent in perceiving certain characteristics as feminine and others as masculine. You could probably write the list yourself. 'Masculine' attributes include rugged, dominant, rigid, ambitious, overbearing etc. and feminine characteristics include trustworthy, flexible, social, emotional etc. etc. Now this just tells me that we are disappointingly stereotyped in our thinking about gender and that we really should perhaps start thinking about 'useful' and 'damaging' behaviour traits rather than 'masculine' and 'feminine' ones. But never mind.

The next bit in the authors' research is the part that I really do have a problem with. They went on to ask the same audience to rate the importance of the attributes that have now been categorised as masculine or feminine to such things as leadership, success, morality and happiness. The answer is: a majority of people around the world tend to associate 'feminine' attributes with these things.

Now, when the authors talk about 'leadership', it is easy to agree that having leaders who are more empathetic, caring, reasonable, concerned etc would be a good thing. But when the authors talk about morality, for example, I don't know what they are trying to say. The fact that we associate the so-called 'feminine' characteristics of 'loyalty, reason, empathy and selflessness' with morality really does NOT mean that morality is, in any meaningful sense, 'feminine'. Men are clearly capable of moral behaviour, and it seems nonsensical to say that they are calling on their 'feminine' characteristics in order to be moral. There is a hint of a logical fallacy here, as in: All lemons are yellow; Canaries are yellow; Therefore canaries are lemons.

There is another problem with the authors' general methodology. Gerzema and D'Antonio are saying, essentially, that their survey shows that a majority of people around the world think that many 'feminine' qualities are strongly related to, for example, leadership. Therefore leaders should strive to be more feminine. When you say that quickly, it sounds quite reasonable. But it is entirely possible that another survey would show that a majority of people believe, for example, that the characteristics strongly related to being a successful attorney (for example) are predominantly masculine (analytical, logical, aggressive, assertive etc). Would we be so happy to draw the conclusion that female attorneys should therefore strive to be more masculine? I wouldn't, personally speaking, want to say that to an agressive female attorney's face.

Putting to one side my nevertheless fundamental problems with this whole approach of classifying human characteristics in such a simplistic way based on the results of a survey (be it never so grand), the authors also fall into a trap that any self-respecting statistician should be able to avoid. They start to assume that respondents to their survey are walking the talk: they assume that, if a majority of respondents in any particular country, for example, have said that they think 'feminine' characteristics are desirable for this that and the other, then these respondents are fully signed up to a feminist agenda. But a majority of respondents to a survey about health may very well agree that eating less and keeping fit are highly desirable characteristics, and yet themselves be lazy and obese. When Gerzema and D'Antonio argue that there is a correlation between 'countries with higher levels of feminine thinking and behaviour' and per capita GDP, they are making an entirely unwarrantable leap. I can also think of many men who would agree that leaders need to be empathetic, nurturing, caring and sharing but who are, in fact, unreconstructed male chauvinist pigs who run their own empires like particularly malevolent sergeant majors. You may know a few of those yourself. There is (as the authors should well know) a huge gap between what people may say in response to a survey and the way in which they actually behave. In the context of leadership, it is also worth considering what your average respondent is likely to say are the ideal characteristics of a leader. 'Dominant, aggressive and stubborn' (all 'masculine' characteristics, of course)? Probably not.

The authors, by pinning their colours to the mast of gender, are in danger of the kind of stereotyping that they presumably wish to avoid. They don't help their case by falling into a couple of elephant traps of their own making. On page 19, having simply announced that non-profit organisations have 'feminine-leaning ideals' and that 'much of the non-profit sector is feminine in style and focus' (why should non-profit organisations be the exclusive domain of femininity?) they commit this complete howler: 'Of course', they write, 'non-profit organisations also depend on lots of masculine energy.' Masculine energy? I beg your pardon?! The sexist lapse is even more unforgivable since, a few pages earlier, they had shown that 'energetic' was one of the characteristics considered by their survey panel to be gender neutral.

Another example of the thin ice on which they are skating is revealed when they discuss the role of women in the Israeli military, While acknowledging that Israeli women can and do serve in combat roles, they write (p79) that 'Those who possess such traditionally feminine qualities as patience and empathy can prove invaluable in danger points like checkpoints.' So, women soldiers could serve on the front line but, really, their feminine qualities are best used defusing the aggression of (presumably male) motorists at checkpoints. Careful guys - you could be losing your women readers at this point (and, again, I wouldn't like to debate that particular point in person with an Israeli woman solider).

My final, perhaps biggest concern, lies with the enterprises that the authors use to illustrate the reality of the Athena Doctrine. It is very impressive that the authors have taken the trouble to trek around the world, meeting people face to face and recording their conversations. Maybe someone should tell them that the telephone has been invented, but their efforts undeniably give the book a sense of journalistic realism. The enterprises that they describe are often fascinating - this is the book's greatest strength - and they are all in some way, undeniably 'modern': there is a vague thread connecting them that has something to do with networking, trust, higher purpose, social contribution and the like. All wonderful things. But the authors are often reduced to merely asserting that these are 'Athena Doctrine' ('feminine') kind of enterprises. I couldn't for the life of me see what justification they had for making that claim in the majority of cases.

Here are a few examples, chosen at random. The UK-based WhipCar: a clever idea that lets people rent other people's cars when they would otherwise be sitting unused in the driveway. It works, largely because people rent off other real people and feel obliged not to trash their cars. Israel's Tmura organization persuades young entrepreneurs to donate shares in their currently worthless start-ups to the charitable venture. The accumulating value of shares in the few enterprises that become commercially successful is used for charitable purposes. Nice idea. Germany's Friendsurance allows groups of people who have some form of connection to buy insurance: low numbers of claims results in rebates of premiums; peer pressure encourage people to behave responsibly. Sign me up. What is essentially feminine or 'Athena Doctrine' about these enterprises? You tell me.

Other examples, such as India's Self Employed Women's Association or Peru's Women's House, have a clear feminist agenda - but where's the news in that? My favourite non-example was Peru's celebrity Chef, Gaston Acurio. He's a celebrity chef, and he is helping to bring the world to Peru and Peruvian food to the world. Good for him - but what, in the name of Athena, is feminine about that?

I think that it is of genuine interest (and is potentially a hopeful sign) that a majority of people around the world are saying that the successful leaders and organisations of the future are likely to be those that are empathetic, concerned, trustworthy, emotionally intelligent and all the rest of it. It is also undeniably true that these qualities are traditionally seen as feminine, for good reason: I buy into the idea that women are biologically 'wired' to be more like this than are men because of our deep past.

But shouldn't we be trying to rise above our biological nature and our old-fashioned stereotypes? Is saying 'men need to get in touch with their feminine side' really twenty-first century thinking? I'm probably being a miserable old (male) curmudgeon. Read the book anyway.
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VINE VOICEon 25 June 2014
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It is because of my personal working life as a male nurse for 40 years in a predominantly female workforce that drew me to reading this book. I would assess that I probably have more feminine traits than male if I had to fill in some kind of score chart, and on reflection these have helped me enormously in managing a variety of different situations in the workplace. In fact I truly believe I have survived some potentially disastrous situations in dealing with others because of this.

This book validates my simple conclusions that such feminine traits do confer something different and beneficial in the whole relationship game. I appreciate in particular the macro, global approach to this idea that the book concentrates upon. Of course this book is related more to the business community, but of course the basic tenets and conclusions are exactly the same as in social situations. I found the book quite revelatory and a fascinating, intriguing read.
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VINE VOICEon 31 July 2013
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Ever occur to you that the planet is going to the dogs? Well, Good News! Apparently, it's going to be fine. You see, the people who've been messing stuff up for the past 10,000 years all have something in common: a Y chromosome. They were blokes, you see, which is why they invented war, money, property, competition, capitalism and unhappiness. How different the history of the human race would have been if only the ladies had been allowed a voice. We'd have, y'know, shared stuff, hugged more, learned to play nicely, shared our feelings. Not convinced? Well, Gerzema and D'Antonio have done a big survey and found that people increasingly prefer feminine values to male ones. Then they zoomed round the world to visit their friends and relations in far off places and have come back with touching anecdotes of People Being Lovely To Each Other.

Actually, if the book did no more than this, I'd have no complaints. In the midst of war and riots, bombings and murders, the despoiling of the environment and the fomenting of super-plagues, a book of heart-warming tales of human goodness from around the world deserves a place on anyone's bookshelf. But Gerzema & D'Antonio (G&DA) go further than this. They have a thesis. Their thesis is that feminine values are replacing masculine values in politics and business, leading to a new way of solving interpersonal problems, organising communities and relating to rivals and customers. Not just a new way, but a BETTER way. One that's more nurturing and cooperative. This, you see, is how the future is going to be. So, if you happen to like crushing your enemies, self-identifying through material possessions and relating to other human beings in the abstract, your days are numbered. The Women are coming - and the blokes who think like Women - and evil patriarchal capitalism is on the way out. Hurray.

Now if the authors were just a pair of frazzled old hippies or gullible New Agers, we'd just dismiss this as tired old Age-of-Aquarius optimism and be done with it. However, Gerzema & D'Antonio have slightly stronger credentials than that. They're Baby Boomers, sure, but not exactly dropouts. Gerzema's done some pioneering stuff with data analysis and D'Antonio's got chops as a jobbing journalist and writer. So let's consider what they have to say.

In the introduction, G&DA describe their unusual and interesting survey. They try to identify descriptors that can be broadly attributed to feminine and masculine behaviour and thought, especially in terms of morality and leadership. The results surprise no one: masculine is identified as analytical, aggressive and independent, feminine as flexible and intuitive and empathetic. It's your basic Mars/Venus thing. Then people are surveyed on their attitudes to government and community from a gendered perspective. Sure enough, everyone thinks things have been done badly in the past, ought to be done differently in the future and, yeah, now that you mention it, it would probably be a good thing if feminine values influenced us more in the future than they did in the past.

All of this is, of course, so anodyne as to be instantly dismissed, but G&DA are determined to build a thesis on it, so they set off to conduct a series of semi-structured interviews to give weight to their contention that the zeitgeist is shifting and some sort of new paradigm is emerging, that Athena is replacing Apollo as mankind's tutelary deity. Essentially, this is the gimmick from Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, applied to business and politics.

Now look, if you have patience with G&DA's theory, the rest of the book consists of chapters illustrating it in India, China, Iceland and Belgium, among other places. If you like ethically high-minded travelogues, you can drift lazily through and there's a strong feelgood factor to it all. Some of the businesses and political initiatives they describe are thought provoking and the overall effect is to make you think better of your fellow men and women.

But of course, the book fails to make its case. This is partly because (despite Gerzema's expertise as a statistician) their opening survey is transparently skewed and leading in its questions. This is alsobecause, as Aristotle observed, one swallow does not a summer make and the sample here is too limited and unrepresentative. But it's mostly because of the sheer starry-eyed naivety of the writers. The final chapter describes their visit to Bhutan and describes the tiny state's emergence into modernity as if it were Shangri-La. Scant mention is made of the fifth of the population "cleansed" by the Bhutani government in the Nineties to preserve its Tibetan Buddhist culture - a culture the authors identify as quintessentially feminine and reflective. The hapless Nepali emigres meanwhile live in refugee camps, although the ghastly patriarchal USA has taken in 31,000 of them. Emerging modernity is indeed a complex and fraught process, but G&DA's binary gender perspective is insultingly superficial.

This is not to denigrate genuine reforms being pushed through in Bhutan - and the solid achievement of, for example, Israeli-Palestinian business partnerships. If you ignore the authors' contentions about gendered values, this book is an uplifting read, albeit an aimless one. But the 'Athena Doctrine' itself has no substance.
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Masses of research, but the conclusions aren't new. To put this in perspective, you would learn more about modern business success from Last Ape Standing: The Seven-Million-Year Story of How and Why We Survived.
John Gerzema and Michael D'Antonio are well respected and have run enormous surveys across the globe. Their conclusions are that people who collaborate rather than dictate, people who communicate rather than domineer, will be the successful leaders of the future. That's a great story, even if it is already well understood by the kinds of people who will to read this book, and the people who need that message won't pick up this book (or probably any other).
Anyhow, having made these important conclusions, they then wanted to make it sexy. Hmm - let's think of a controversy and wrap the whole book around it. I know, "why women are better than men". So the whole of the research is stretched and distorted around that some characteristics, like talking and listening, are mainly the domain of women, and other characteristics, like ordering and fighting, are mainly the domain of men. Therefore (natural conclusion), the winners of the future will exhibit "womens" characteristics.
Coming back to "Last Ape Standing" - this is the probably reason why the gracile runner (us) won out over Neanderthals. They actually had bigger brains than us, were stronger, faster, better in every way except that they didn't collaborate as much. In small tribal groups, they could never take their technology to the next level. Because they weren't sexist, they lost far too many potential child-bearers in hunting accidents. It was as much as they could do to keep going for 200,000 years. Meanwhile in the 'gracile runner' race, men knew their place - taking the risks to ensure the survival of the race. They developed new technologies like nets and things that could be thrown (which means you aren't still attached when the target turns around to find what hit it), and there's no suggestion that men only developed these technologies.
Wind forward to the present day. Life isn't dangerous - there's no risk for a woman of child-bearing age in the workplace (mostly). So we aren't subject to the same pressures. The thinking processes in Gerzema and D'Antonio's book don't seem to me (or anyone else I know) to be particularly male or female. After all, these leadership characteristics are illustrated with great leaders like Mahatma Ghandi (I thought he was male) and Warren Buffet (ditto), whilst the authors studiously avoid using Margaret Thatcher as an illustration (domineering if ever anyone was).
As I said in my opening sentence, strong leaders may be admired, may even get promoted, but they don't last. The unfortunate thing is that the people who promote them won't read this book anyway.
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VINE VOICEon 20 May 2014
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This is a clever and interesting book that makes a valuable contribution to the vital debate about how we should build the organisations of the future. Uttering engaging and insightful.

The authors surveyed 64,000 people around the world and found that we are pretty consistent in perceiving certain characteristics as feminine and others as masculine. Yes this just tells me that we are disappointingly stereotyped in our thinking about gender and that we really should perhaps start thinking about 'useful' and 'damaging' behaviour traits rather than 'masculine' and 'feminine' ones. Yet putting to one side my nevertheless fundamental problems with this whole approach of classifying human characteristics in such a simplistic way based on the results of a survey.

The authors, by pinning their colours to gender, are in danger of the kind of stereotyping that they presumably wish to avoid. It is very impressive that the authors have taken the trouble to engage with a global constituency. It's heartening to see the majority of people around the world are saying that the successful leaders and organisations of the future are likely to be those that are empathetic, concerned, trustworthy, emotionally intelligent and all the rest of it.

Athena thinking is intriguing and rich narrative learning. The Great Britain chapter well unpacks the Occupy movement, the whipcar neighbourhood borrowing system and much more. Whatever you might think of the development curve of our gender wiring and our old-fashioned stereotypes there is so much here that's worth your time. This middle-aged man says, go on, read the book!
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on 15 December 2013
Disclaimer: While I aim to be unbiased, I received a copy of this for free to review.

I have to give the authors credit here - I disagreed with a fundamental principal of the book, and yet I still immensely enjoyed it. Loosely speaking, the Athena Doctrine is the theory that women and the men that think like woman will lead the way in to a brighter and better future where people work together for a common good.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure if I disagree with the classifications of which traits are masculine and which traits are feminine - they don't match up with my own experience, and I think that assigning genders to character traits is a dangerous game. That said, the author's did it fairly, asking survey respondents to assign traits to either one gender or another.

And they needed some way to do it, because I agree that the character traits that they opted to focus on are great attributes for a leader to have, whether they're a CEO, a politician or an entrepreneur. The authors have backed their argument up with countless case studies from around the world, and it's eloquently put by two talented writers. It's just difficult to get in to a book if you're not sure whether you agree with the central concept.

That said, I do think it's well worth reading this if you're a businessman who wants to change the world and the workplace for the better. Just take it with a pinch of salt (as you always should) and use this book for its true purpose - to inspire you to make the world a better place.
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VINE VOICEon 12 April 2014
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The authors' premise is that the world would be a better place if we all followed more feminine characteristics, such as empathy and avoided overly masculine behaviours such as excessive risk taking. If we had a more feminine approach to business and politics it might have prevented the financial crisis. They start by saying that when they discussed this idea with a feminist colleague, she was not impressed and they ended up with a somewhat heated critique of their view. I find I agree with her. It is a rather out-dated set of divisions, but the first chapter shows that these "stereotypes" are in fact embedded in most, if not all cultures and societies.

That is the strong point in the book. The careful use of surveys and statistics in the first chapter. This shows clearly that there are some feminine traits as perceived by the public and not academics, and that people value them more than masculine traits and think that they are more important in times of crisis. So after that chapter I would give the book 5-stars. The problem is what follows is a series of chapters from different countries involving interviews with key "movers and shakers" using the feminine traits in business and politics. There is no suggestion as to why these people were chosen, except that they illustrate what the authors want to show. There are no counter-examples and as an argument it does not stand up to closer scrutiny. So the rest of the book rather undermines the good work done at the beginning. Many of their positive examples do not feel like they are going to be long lasting. so for example WhipCar closed its service in March 2013 shortly after being interviewed. This is cherry picking. The authors find an ideological position and then filter the evidence to support it. This reduces five stars down to three stars.

Then there are the real howlers. "That these examples of entrepreneurial spirit can be found in Europe may surprise Americans and others who assume that the continent's tax regulatory systems pose almost insurmountable obstacles to creativity." I Could respond by saying that it may come as a surprise to Europeans that there are still arrogant and ignorant Americans that believe that their economy and government is superior to the social democracies of Europe. This is as stupid as Bush saying that the French have no word for entrepreneur. Where do the authors think that the mercantile settlers of the US came from? Which mercantile Empires do they think dominated the world for the 19th century? Where did the industrial revolution begin? The weakness of Europe was complacency, not taxation. They continue their rather stupid and ill-informed critique of the European model - "The classic critique focuses on slow-moving bureaucracies that inhibit innovation. Surely the cliches are based on some measure of truth. Social welfare states become sclerotic and dysfunctional." This is not a valid argument - there is a stereotype, so there has to be some truth in it. As for the social welfare states, one second Sweden is top of the league tables and now it is branded as dysfunctional. Actually the US is dysfunctional with regard to both health care and education. Its greatest growth period was during The New Deal when they adopted social welfare practices. This is where the book drops from three stars to scraping a two and they are lucky not to get a one star.

Ultimately I find their arguments unconvincing, and I think that they suffer from the same masculine bias that they are telling others to avoid.
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VINE VOICEon 12 January 2015
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I approached this book with an open mind and was intrigued by the idea that if the workplace thought along "feminine" lines it would be a better and more productive place. Pretty quickly I began to bridle at the notion of some every day characteristics such as "empathy" and "compassion" as being feminine, while "domineering" and "assertive" were wholly masculine. In my experience, it simply isn't the case. I'm in my mid 40s and have a professional career and have worked for a number of male and female managers. Yes, I have had my share of domineering and assertive male managers who have shown themselves up to be wholly ineffectual when really tested, but the best two managers I've ever had have both been male and have shown the sort of characteristics that would be termed as feminine according to this book. On the other hand, I have also had several female managers and the characteristics I associate with most of them do not feature strongly in this book: paranoid, insecure and indecisive. Oh yes, and domineering.

The book has an interesting concept and it's worth exploring as the identified characteristics that help bring about success as I think the concept is probably viable. However, the feminine and masculine labelling is very flawed, unhelpful and rather outdated.
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