Is "feminine" the answer to a troubled world?

Last week—or maybe it was two weeks ago—we hooked up the Casita and drove 22 miles to one of our favorite camping sites on the river. It was very hot, so mostly we sat in the shade and read. I got through two-and-a-half books during our brief three-night stay, and felt that my time had been amply rewarded.

I finally got round to finishing the second half of the third book this morning and though I'm not enamored with it, I think it's worth talking about. It's called The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future, by John Gerzema and Michael D'Antonio.

A few days before I picked this book up I was having coffee with a friend, sitting at an outdoor table shaded by a large tree. We were well into our second hour of conversation and about to wrap things up when I heard myself saying, "What we really need is women running the world."

"That's right!" agreed my table companion, "But we won't see it in our lifetime."

These are not new or original thoughts. But if Gerzema and D'Antonio's thesis is correct, a more feminine approach to business, government, and everything else, might be just around the corner. The authors begin by reporting a survey of 64,000 people across thirteen nations. Two-thirds of respondents said the world would be a better place if men thought more like women. Other not-too-surprising findings included these:

86% agree that "There is too much power in the hands of large institutions and corporations."
76% disagree that "My country cares about its citizens more than it used to."
74% disagree that "The world is becoming more fair."
51% disagree that "Life will be better for my children than it is for me."

As the authors say, "these big-picture anxieties seem consistent with the tenor of our times." But what they found when they dug into the data was that "a clear majority of people around the world are unhappy with the conduct of men . . . and the rate of dissatisfaction is nearly equal among men and women."

After two more surveys (of 32,000 people each) to help them define terms as masculine, feminine, or neutral, the authors then visited ten countries to find people who were successfully using those "feminine" traits to change the way business, nonprofits, and government worked. (Both sexes, of course, have access to both masculine and feminine traits.) What they found was encouraging.

The bulk of the book, which is well written and engaging, consists of the stories of these creative, successful people and how they reflected the author's theory of an Athena Doctrine—the power of feminine traits to accomplish more for the betterment of most. There's no disputing that traits like "expressive, flexible, patient, empathetic, and selfless" will get you further in most cases than the "decisive, analytical, aggressive, independent and proud," though I rush to say those aren't necessarily bad things to be.

What I found annoying about The Athena Doctrine is what I find annoying in many books of this type. The authors have noted a trend and their research supports their theory. But, for me at least, their reach exceeds their grasp. It's not that there aren't people heading in this more creative, flexible, empathic (feminine) direction and making a success of it. There are, and I welcome them. But much as I'd like to be convinced by the rosy, everywhere-you-look-there-it-is "doctrine," I wasn't. Not yet.

But if our leaders—corporate and governmental—don't wake up to the real life needs they are ignoring, the feminine in all of us will soon be adopting some of those masculine traits (decisive, independent, aggressive) to force the change. And on this I agree with the authors: I'm optimistic that a fairer, more just and empathic world is coming. Because it has to.

What do you think?