Leading Globally: Understanding Cultural Gender Equality

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One of the most fundamental ways in which societies differ is the extent to which each prescribes different roles for women and men (Hofstede). Some societies seek to minimize gender role differences while others seek to maximize these differences. This blog focuses on gender equality and is installment 3 of an 8 part series designed to help you improve your global leadership skills.


The chart below illustrates some of the most common differences between cultures or individuals with high and low gender equality. At the bottom of this blog you will find a reference chart which provides specific results for the 62 countries in the GLOBE study.

Gender equality chart 1









An interesting conclusion of this study is that societies which have higher gender equality were more prosperous, had longer life expectancy and experienced greater overall life satisfaction. They also enjoyed higher standards of living and acquired greater levels of knowledge.

It is easy to look at this information and determine that we need to help low scoring countries improve their gender equality. However, those who have worked in different cultures understand that the approach of indoctrinating others with your beliefs is both rude and ineffective (something which is called ethnocentrism). Instead, I encourage you to use this information to change your thinking. If knowledge is truly power, then this knowledge should enable you to identify individuals or cultural gender equality and respond in ways which are both culturally sensitive and effective.

Earlier this year I blogged about my experience with ethnocentrism while in Indonesia (The Wrong Side of the Road). At the beginning of my visit I referred to driving on the left side of the road as “the wrong side of the road”. By the end of my trip, I learned a lesson about ethnocentrism and changed my language to “a different side of the road”.

Effective leaders must become cultural catalysts. They must be able to identify and appropriately respond to the different norms they find themselves in. Since the roles of men and women differ greatly around the world, the ability to identify gender equality is a critical skill for global leaders. Before you look at the list of countries below, take a guess about your national gender equity bias. Knowing where you stand is the first step in meeting others where they stand.

NOTE: The content above has been adapted from the seminal work on global leadership commonly called The GLOBE Leadership Study. It assessed 62 different countries and identified important cultural and leadership norms. The results of this massive research project provide us with a goldmine of information which helps us understand cultural differences.


Jeff SuHead Shotderman is a professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He partners Gender equality chart 2with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and their FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman


House, R., Hanges, P.J., Javidan, M, Dorfman, P.W., Gupta, V. (2004). Culture, leadership, and organizations: The GLOBE study of 62 societies. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.

Hofstede, G. (1980). Cultures consequences: International differences in work-related values. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.


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