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The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future Hardcover – April 16, 2013

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Editorial Reviews Review

Q & A with with coauthors John Gerzema and Michael D'Antonio

John Gerzema
John Gerzema
What are "feminine values" and why do you see them on the rise today?

We asked 64,000 women and men in 13 countries to classify 125 human traits--half of the sample by gender and the other half by which are most important to leadership, success, morality, and happiness today. They consistently picked what they considered "feminine traits" or values--such as selflessness, empathy, collaboration, flexibility, and patience--as the most important.

The majority also rejected masculine notions of control, aggression, and black-and-white thinking that underlie many of our business, political, and social structures. And two-thirds thought the world would be a better place if men thought more like women.

What's driving this shift, and why is it important that we learn about it now?

Technology, the financial crisis and globalization mean we live in a world that's increasingly social, interdependent, and transparent. Also, young people around the world don't see differences older generations do--we found that Millennials of both genders have a much stronger appreciation of femininity and the role of women in their society.

We want to make clear that we're not saying women are "born this way" or that they are "naturally" more empathetic or open. Rather, these are skills that have been traditionally segregated or labeled as part of women's domain, and often are undervalued, when in truth, being "feminine" actually make all people more human, and helps them become the best version of themselves. These skills will help people match the needs of the future economy. In a collaborative world where value creation is increasingly based on services, economic growth and standard of living are enhanced by including feminine values. In our surveys, 81% of people said that man or woman, you need both masculine and feminine traits to thrive in today's world. It's a big, global value shift, and it's gaining momentum.

What should businesses and government leaders learn and apply from this book?

"The Athena Doctrine" is our name for an emerging form of leadership that is ideally suited to a rapidly changing world. We've had people tell us that this is a great book for women, but it's equally, if not more importantly, for men. Business and politics are built on aggression, control, conflict and command. These models are losing currency fast. Shimon Peres put it this way to us: "We are in a new season with many old minds, and the task is to adapt yourself. The modern leader is here to serve."

We traveled the world to find examples of how leaders in every kind of organization are already applying the tenets of the Athena Doctrine. Inspiring, innovative models are everywhere, and we found some of the best.

Are these tenets just for leaders, or can ordinary people apply them in their own lives and work?

The tenets-based on the traits that we found were most highly correlated with success, morality, and happiness-are widely applicable to daily life. We had this amazing experience traveling around the world to find stories of people leading and solving problems in business, politics, and every realm of life. We met a doctor from Pakistan whose vulnerability disarmed (and charmed) his colleagues in the ego-driven world of medical research. We visited a city farm in east London where underprivileged kids taught investment bankers about beekeeping and the lessons of responsible risk-taking. We met ordinary citizens in Japan who rose to their highest levels of humanity to help others after the tragic earthquake and tsunami.

These values are broadly applicable to anyone in everyday life. We found that people who are thinking in a more feminine way are twice as optimistic about their future. If we can all tap into our feminine side, we'll be better, happier, and stronger-both individually and collectively.

What do you hope to achieve with this book?

We're both dads in all female households with three beautiful daughters between us. We are excited about what we found because feminine values are really a form of innovation and competitive advantage for today's world. The proceeds of our book benefit the United Nations Campaign's Girl Up program and we aim to include men and boys in this very important discussion.


“Captivating... a fascinating case study of human nature, this book provides insight into future world leaders.”
—Publishers Weekly

"With a wealth of data and even richer stories from around the world, The Athena Doctrine offers convincing proof that the future requires us to embrace traits and values traditionally linked to women. Leave it to two fathers of daughters to show us how men and women alike are using empathy and collaboration to solve problems big and small. If you care about leadership, creativity, and the world of tomorrow, you must read this book."
—Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief, The Huffington Post

"The Athena Doctrine is a powerful book. Extraordinary research. Great story telling. A message both timely and of monumental importance."
—Tom Peters, leadership guru and bestselling author, In Search of Excellence

"Goddess of both craft and wisdom, patron of Odysseus, and inspiration for legions of smart girls, Athena is an icon for our times. The Athena Doctrine offers a gender-neutral approach to embracing a set of values that underpin a new generation of innovation based on connection and creativity. It is an optimistic and energizing book."
—Anne-Marie Slaughter, professor of politics and international affairs, Princeton University; former director of policy planning, U.S. Department of State

"The Athena Doctrine offers more than ample evidence of the rebalance needed in global leadership. Painstakingly researched and documented, with interviews of amazing people all over the world, the ideas in this book will influence the leaders of tomorrow and, more importantly, make the case for more women leaders."
—Pat Mitchell, president and CEO, the Paley Center for Media; curator, TEDxWomen

“Rich in data and stories from around the world, this fresh analysis will certainly provoke healthy debate in the workplace and hopefully smash through a few glass ceilings.”
—Tina Brown, Editor-in-Chief, Daily Beast and Newsweek

“…this is a book for everyone, and I have no doubt that your life and your work will be enriched by reading it.”
—Jack Covert, 800-CEORead


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (April 16, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 111845295X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1118452950
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #454,561 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

John Gerzema is a pioneer in the use of data to identify social change and help companies anticipate and adapt to new interests and demands. A best-selling author, columnist, speaker and social strategist, his books have appeared on "best of" lists at FAST COMPANY, Inc., and THE WEEK Magazine. His research, writing and interviews have appeared in The Harvard Business Review, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, CNBC, NPR, Forbes and many others. As a Fellow with the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College, he is an expert on emergent leadership strategies and executive chairman of WPP Group's BAV Consulting. John oversees the world's largest database of brands and consumer behavior. His new book, The Athena Doctrine: How Women (And The Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future with Michael D'Antonio. John's TED talk 'The Post-Crisis Consumer' has been viewed by over a quarter of a million people.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Gifford on August 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover
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.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By SAS on April 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Starting from the premise that people have lost faith in many of the major institutions in society - government and big business in particular - institutions which happen to be built in a male-oriented paradigm - the authors quite insightfully diagnose that the underlying values that have led to this collapse in trust happen also to be ones that people across cultures identify as male. The solution follows naturally, and is backed up by overwhelming data - namely that we need to evolve to a more balanced male/female approach to leadership, government, and even morality. But what is even more compelling is the enormous and cross-cultural range of stories that illustrate how this can play out in every sphere. The whole approach is really very different from the many books documenting the rise of women in society, and instead is about a new set of values and principles that are on the rise, embodied in a whole new class of male and female leaders. If you are in any kind of leadership position, or want to understand what the attributes of success and happiness are in today's world and tomorrow's, this truly is a must-read.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By perlovka67 on April 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Although on the surface it seems like this is a book pitting men and women against each other, when you delve into it you see that it is, in reality, a commentary on modern leadership. The authors spent a great deal of time and energy formulating and fleshing out their ideas and it shows. For those who can't see past the characterization of the values as "feminine", they are missing the main message. These traits can be a competitive advantage, if you open yourself up to them.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Julia Feldmeier on April 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover
As a woman who has been closely following the End of Men/Lean In narratives, I found the Athena Doctrine to be a great reframing of the gender discussion. It moves the debate away from contentiousness of how much women can or cannot accomplish, and instead examines what we can all accomplish -- men and women -- by embracing more feminine values like empathy, collaboration and humility. Reading this book made me think that maybe if gov't & corporate leaders were a bit more feminine in their approach (and yes, this applies to both men & women), then maybe I wouldn't have to think so hard about whether I can have it all and how far I want to lean in to get it. Instead, success would be more abundant and, hopefully, more widely shared.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By 67241 on February 19, 2015
Format: Hardcover
Tedious, tired writing that assigns emotions or behaviors as either feminine or masculine .... and guess what, folks -- all the negative emotions or behaviors are masculine. Yawn. How about a kinder world with equal opportunity for all instead of bashing one gender? How about not putting one gender on a pedestal just because they are that gender? The way the argument is structured, if you disagree or question it -- guess what folks (again) ... you must be gender-biased.

This books just seems so outdated and biased itself that it doesn't add anything to the real goal of equal opportunity for everyone based on merit and skills.
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Hopewell on July 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover
"The world would be a better place if men thought more like women. (66% agree)--results from authors' proprietary study."

From this survey result, the Athena Doctrine posits that qualities that are traditionally thought of as `feminine' will become increasingly important in leadership and business over the course of the 21st century. Gerzema and D'Antonio cite an exhaustive, global study they conducted with over 64,000 respondents from countries representing 65% of global GDP.

They presented half the respondents with a list of qualities and asked which were more `feminine' or `masculine.' Then they asked the remaining half- without gender attribution- to rank those qualities in their importance to success and morality. Without exception, the feminine qualities (among them cooperative, loyal, flexible, friendly, dependable) were ranked more important than masculine ones (aggressive, analytical, daring, decisive, ambitious, et al).

From this, the authors conclude (through numerous anecdotes about women who have brought positive change in their society and men with feminine characteristics who have been `successful') that the 21st century will belong to those who exhibit and practice feminine characteristics.

The author's hard work and rigor is apparent even before you're finished with the introduction. But there are several issues with their approach.

First, they're asking average people in a snapshot in time what is most important and then saying it holds for the next century. To put that in perspective, in 1976 a Time poll asked Americans what they most wanted in a leader. In the wake of Viet Nam and Watergate, the overwhelming response was "honesty." And Americans elected Jimmy Carter, the candidate who rated highest on that trait.
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