When It Comes To Corporate Culture, Are Men And Women All That Different?

As a corporate anthropologist, I’ve been keenly aware of the recent shift in thinking surrounding how cultures should be restructured in order for women to thrive in the workplace. This has caused me to ask, What type of culture do women really want and is it that different from what men want, too? To find out, my firm, Simon Associates Management Consultants, conducted research using the cultural diagnostic tool, the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI), to see how women and men would prefer their organizational culture to operate in the future as opposed to how it operates today.

The results, which truly surprised us, also caught the attention of Forbes, which recently ran my article highlighting what we found. 

We wanted to learn what type of culture women and men preferred

In our research, survey respondents (3000 men and 3000 women in the U.S.) were given 100 “points” to divide among their answers to six questions. What we were trying to determine was which characteristics each gender would prefer their corporate culture to exhibit: Clan, Ad Hoc, Market or Hierarchy. 

Interestingly, males and females both preferred a strong Clan culture that emphasizes collaboration, teamwork and a focus on people. Clan-oriented businesses emphasize the long-term benefit of individual development and place a premium on teamwork, participation and consensus. Company morale is important, and success is shared and celebrated as part of a collaborative accomplishment. 


So in the office, what matters more: culture or gender?

If, as our research revealed, women and men both value the same things in a corporate culture, then does business success depend not so much on gender but on the type of culture? Following this logic, if companies were to adopt the values, beliefs and behaviors that encourage people to work together, care about each other and cultivate a sense of belonging (Clan culture), would this have a greater influence on a firm’s performance than the presence of women in leadership positions (what Sheryl Sandburg’s book Lean In claims)?

Searching for an answer, we looked at how the male and female respondents would change their cultures if they could, and found that they would change them in almost the very same way. In their answers to the survy, there was an overwhelming preference for a more Clan-oriented, innovative, empowering culture — by both women and men. 

Clearly, men and women are both searching for cultures different from today’s.

Given what we now know about what women and men want in their workplace culture, we believe that success is much more likely for those companies with cultures that foster community over solo achievement, that act more like a family and less like a business. Maybe, just maybe, this means that the era of egomaniacal Masters of the Universe may soon be coming to a close. To that I say, hooray.

Could your business use a little anthropology?

SAMC’s anthropological research into men’s and women’s preferences regarding corporate culture hopefully could lead to changes in the way workplaces are structured. How could similar research help your business, revealing problems, solutions and possibilities for growth? Give us a call for a complimentary consultation.

Better yet, buy my new book and read all about how “a little anthropology” has worked for our clients.



Andi Simon, Ph.D.
Corporate Anthropologist | Blue Ocean Strategist

President, Simon Associates Management Consultants