"Why can't a woman be more like a man?" When Alan Jay Lerner wrote those words for My Fair Lady and stuck them in the mouth of an arrogant whiner, he was sending up the tired stereotypes that paint women as hypersensitive, clingy, illogical. But men have had a hard time shaking off a few stubborn stereotypes of their own. They refuse to ask for directions, we say. They won't talk about their feelings. They swagger and boast and take up too much oxygen in the conference room. Who do they think they are, anyway?
But do they know something we don't? Their manly virtues get them pretty far in the world, so maybe we should be taking notes. Admittedly, characterizing some traits as classically male means generalizing shamelessly, but a number of interesting women think we can learn a thing or two from the hairier sex.
The Strong, Silent Type
Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal columnist and Fox News political analyst
There's a lot women can learn from studying men, from watching how they proceed through the world. I admire and have often been instructed by the silence of strong men. They're silent not because they have nothing to say but because they don't have to fill up the air with words. And they don't need to be looked at to dominate. They already dominate, just by being themselves, but they're serene about it. If you ask a quiet man you know well what he's thinking, chances are pretty good that a lot of interesting things will come out.
Here's the utility of all this for women: Other people wonder what silent people are thinking and respect their silence and their secrets. And being silent if you're not naturally the silent type might become a good discipline. Also, the beautiful air around us is rarely improved by the sound of words, and if you're not improving on silence, why talk? There's already enough jabber.
The Will to Win
Robin Roberts, co-anchor of Good Morning America and former ESPN anchor-reporter
Women are supposedly better at collaborating than men, but from my experience men are the ones who really understand teamwork. A lot of them played organized team sports when they were growing up, and they learned how to set common goals and work toward them together, which translates well to the business world. CEOs I interview always turn out to have been captain of their lacrosse team, or something similar, in college. Some who are very successful aren't even that bright—they just know how to surround themselves with the best team and how to delegate.
From team sports, men also learn that it's all right to get angry at each other—women should take a lesson from them. You can't say, "Oh, it's not fair if Suzy doesn't get to play." If Suzy sucks, she has to take a seat because the team won't win with her playing. Sometimes we're our own worst enemies. We hold one another down by worrying more about the individual than the team and the goal of winning.
Women have always done well in individual sports, but we've lagged in team sports. We're now seeing the first generation of Title IX babies—who grew up with team sports in school—benefiting from that with success in the business world.