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Year : 2008  |  Volume : 17  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 39-45 Table of Contents   

Personal effectiveness as a function of psychological androgyny

1 Scientist 'B', Defence Research & Development Organisation, 19 Services Selection Board, Selection Centre East, Allahabad, India
2 Assistant Professor, Department Of Behavioral Health & Allied Sciences, AMITY University, Jaipur, India

Date of Web Publication13-May-2010

Correspondence Address:
N Maheshwari
Scientist 'B', Defence Research & Development Organisation, 19 Services Selection Board, Selection Centre East, Allahabad
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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Background: 'Think-manager, think-male' stereotype had lived its age and the time is ripe to give way to a Psychologically Androgynous manager, who is more personally effective. Irrespective of one's sex, he/she possesses both the masculine as well as feminine attributes and practices them as the situation so desires. Material & Method : 350 male management students were categorized under three groups viz. Typically Sex-typed, Androgynous and Undifferentiated by using Bem's Sex-role Inventory (1974). Their Personal Effectiveness scores were obtained using Pareek's Personal Effectiveness Scale(2001). Mean, S.D., t-ratio and Pearson's Correlation was calculated. Results : Three groups were found to be significantly different in terms of their Personal Effectiveness. Psychologically Androgynous group was found to be most personally effective on the dimensions of self-disclosure, benefit from feedback & perceptiveness or sensitivity to others' feelings. Also, significant correlation existed between Psychological Androgyny and Personal Effectiveness vis-à-vis the other sex-role orientations.
: Androgynous sex-role orientation predicts personal effectiveness in management students.

Keywords: Psychological Androgyny, Personal Effectiveness

How to cite this article:
Maheshwari N, Kumar V. Personal effectiveness as a function of psychological androgyny. Ind Psychiatry J 2008;17:39-45

How to cite this URL:
Maheshwari N, Kumar V. Personal effectiveness as a function of psychological androgyny. Ind Psychiatry J [serial online] 2008 [cited 2022 Nov 26];17:39-45. Available from: https://www.industrialpsychiatry.org/text.asp?2008/17/1/39/63063

Gender stereotypes are people's beliefs about how men and women behave (Myers 2002). Differences amongst gender have been eulogized since times immemorial and continue to be strong in today's society, whereby men and women are perceived to be possessing a totally different set of attributes. Eagly and Karau (2002) expressed that sex-type qualities or gender roles are still flourishing in the 21st Century. From the moment an individual is born and these days, with in-utero gender testing, before one is born, he/she is being socialized into the gender based societal role. Gender is an easy way to categorize people and when he/she is the member of one group, it's easy to notice differences rather than similarities in people from the other group. Gender schematic associative network is reinforced by toys, clothing, occupations, hobbies, domestic division of labor.

The differences have an evolutionary basis. In pre-industrial societies, the biological differences between men and women were used to explain these attributes and justify the division of labor into hunters and gatherers. Men were hunters, explorers, and warriors - while the childbearing role kept women close to home and hearth (Gray, 1992). Gradually, gender-role imprinting pronounced the manipulative effect of society in the form of sex-role stereotypy and individuals as typically sex-typed; dividing males with exclusive masculine attributes of instrumentality and assertiveness, while, females with exclusive feminine attributes of expressivity & empathy. Hosoda et al (2003) found twelve "key" masculine attributes associated exclusively with males. These were handsome, aggressive, tough, courageous, strong, forceful, arrogant, egotistical, boastful, hard-headed, masculine, and dominant. And, nine were considered "key" feminine attributes. These were affectionate, sensitive, appreciative, sentimental, sympathetic, nagging, fussy, feminine, and emotional. This suggests that people believe that men and women generally behave differently from one another as a function of their sex.

In organizational behavior, this division translated in the form of 'think manager- think male stereotype', whereby effective managers were attributed with masculine attributes which are considered valuable in the occupational sphere & feminine attributes were under-valued because of their unconscious association with the domestic sphere (Fletcher, 2003). In many organizations, for example, assumptions about competence and "real" work overemphasize technical capability and individual achievement, while de-emphasizing other, equally important skills such as facilitating collective achievement, team building, or the ability to relate effectively to peers and external customers. Therefore, as per conventional wisdom, in sex-typed industrial societies - to be masculine or 'instrumental' is to place a cognitive emphasis on job and task completion, be dominant, aggressive, self-reliant, and in control. While, to be feminine or 'expressive' is to be concerned with the affective needs of others, nurture, and exude warmth and compassion.

However, with the progression of Human relations theory & rising graph of women workforce, the Androgynous sex-role orientation has come in vogue. In 1970's , Dr. S.L. Bem was the first to raise her voice. According to Bem (1974), gender should be defined more in terms of masculine & feminine rather than male and female. This is because traits associated with "masculine" (e.g. leadership and assertiveness) and "feminine" (e.g. warmth and emotionality) are common to both men and women. If this argument is extended further and communicated across organizations and societies then the very difference of men vs. women would minimize. While comparing men and women in organizational context the focus should not be on just biological difference; rather the comparison should cover behavioral and psychological differences mainly. Further, she emphasized that, 'androgyny' suggests the possibility that both masculine and feminine behaviors reside in varying degrees in each individual, rather than so called feminine behaviors being assigned to women and masculine behaviors to men. Thus, the sex-role orientation involving both male & female attributes such that the person becomes highly flexible in adopting both instrumental & expressive functions as per the situational demands, irrespective of one's sex, is known as an 'Androgynous' orientation. Initially, Bem defined androgyny as a balance of masculine and feminine traits, but later operationalzed the construct as having high levels of both masculinity and femininity (Bem, 1981).

Androgyny provides a significant integrating concept for a number of areas within the field of organizational behavior. It provides both a theoretical framework and a practical process for helping men and women become effective managers while retaining and expanding their concepts of themselves as human beings. Stereotyped sex roles can become conceptual prisons from which it is difficult to escape (Sargent, 1981). Androgyny, by encouraging an individual to encompass the entire range of human behaviors, provides an open-ended path to growth and development. Further, Waterman and Whitbourne (1982) examined the relation of androgyny to psychosocial development in the context of Erikson's life-span theory of personality. Samples of male and female college students and adults completed the Bem Sex Role Inventory and the Inventory of Psychosocial Development. The highest scores on psychosocial development were obtained by individuals with an androgynous orientation, followed by those with masculine, feminine, or undifferentiated orientations, in that order. These results support the view that the simultaneous endorsement of both masculine and feminine qualities represents an added adaptive capacity. Fletcher and Kaeufer (2003) indicated that feminine attributes, historically undervalued relational skills in "growing people", are what organizations need to compete in today's knowledge intensive world.

Androgyny & Personal Effectiveness

Personal Effectiveness is the ability to make a positive & energetic impact onto others by conveying ideas and information clearly and persuasively. It involves planning and prioritizing available means by using interpersonal skills to help build effective working relationships with others and reduce personal stress. It encourages managers to develop self-knowledge and apply this to their behavior, both in relation to their own job performance and in the role of leading and managing others. At micro level, individual benefits of being personally effective include:

  • making a positive personal impact
  • adding value to working relationships
  • managing personal development.
At macro level, the organizational benefits are:

  • Development of skills that enhance rapport and relationships with others
  • Creating high performing team members
  • Building a culture of reflection and self improvement
'Androgyny' as a flexible sex-role orientation, facilitates in managing mixed teams of diverse individuals, male or female, with different behavioral modalities and conceptions of self. Effective is the one who accomplishes this arduous task by assuming a balanced orientation of self. Analysis indicated that managers perceived by their subordinates as being androgynous were rated as better handlers of conflict situations than their masculine or feminine peers ( Karen Korabik, 1994). Kapalka and Lachenmeyer (1988) found that individuals employed in supervisory leadership positions were more androgynous and obtained more internal locus of control scores.

Daewoo Park (1997) studied the relationship between sex-role identity and leadership style; on the basis of which an androgynous leadership style model was developed. It indicated that stereotypically masculine behaviors characterize task-oriented leadership style and that stereotypically feminine behaviors characterize relations-oriented leadership style, both of which are devalued. In contrary to them, an androgynous leadership style can be the most appropriate for achieving high performance and effectiveness in many organizations. Also, Burchardt and Serbin (2004) in a comparative study on Psychological androgyny and personality adjustment in college and psychiatric populations found that androgynous subjects are significantly less deviant than sex-typed and undifferentiated subjects, and tend to score lower on the Depression scale.

Lefkowitz and Zeldow (2006) studied optimal mental health in terms of psychological androgyny in a sample of adults seeking career consultation (N = 154). An "observer-by-proxy" measure of optimal mental health was employed that, although based on self report data, provides an empirically based estimate of ratings that clinicians would make using the California Q-set. High levels of both masculinity and femininity were associated with higher levels of optimal mental health. These findings represent support for the additive androgyny hypothesis suggesting androgynous sex-role orientation for better mental health. Similarly, a study was performed to describe the involvement of gender-role and personality traits in a cluster of tests to ascertain individuals' creative ability. Participants were 200 students at Karlstad University. Five gender-role types, based upon masculinity/femininity scales were derived, namely the androgynic, stereotypic, retrotypic, midmost and undifferentiated types. Results indicated that the androgynic group scored higher than the other groups on creativity, creative attitude (trend), dispositional optimism and graffiti/scrawling . (Norlander et al, 2000).

In an investigation of scientists (Helson, 2000), a prestigious group of successful mathematicians was compared with another group of mathematicians adjudged as having average ability. The successful & creative group received significantly higher judgments for the following characteristics: individualism, originality, concentration, artistry, complexity, courage, emotion, fascination, self-orientation. This gives an assortment of typically female and male gender characteristics postulating that, creative persons cross the boundaries of commonly accepted gender roles thereby acquiring greater freedom and more divergent experiential material to work with. Harrington and Anderson (1981) found that creative boys possess more feminine characteristics than their peers, and that creative girls are perceived as more masculine than other girls. It is due to this divergence in their perspective that they are better adapted to situations of varying complexity. This observation may be associated markedly with research relating to the androgynous person "who does not rely on gender as a cognitive organizing principle" (Bem, 1981).

Korabik and Roya (1990) hypothesized that sex-role orientation is a better predictor of managerial leadership than is biological sex. Study was conducted taking actual managers as subjects, to extend the proposed conceptual model by incorporating other variables relevant to managerial leadership which also pertain to the dimensions of instrumentality and expressiveness. Male (N=121) and female (N=126) middle to upper level managers completed the Bem Sex Role Inventory; the Job Description Index; a job stress scale; and adaptations of the Ohio State Leadership Behavior Description Questionnaire, the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Resolution Scale, and the Profile of Organizational Influence Strategies. Subjects rated their leadership effectiveness, how good a manager they were, and how well their subordinates performed. The results strongly support the contention that biological sex is not an important factor in determining managerial style. They provide empirical evidence for a conceptual synthesis of androgyny, leadership, and effective conflict resolution strategies.

Looking to the various researches in the area of sex-role orientation and effectiveness, yet, another attempt has been made to establish the significance of Psychological Androgyny in predicting Personal effectiveness especially in management students.

   Material and Method Top


350 male students undergoing last semester of their M.B.A. program from various private management colleges of Rajasthan were chosen randomly. The age range was from 20-25 years. All those students were told about the aims & objectives of the study to secure their consent.


1) Bem's Sex-role Inventory by S.L. Bem (1974) : Comprises of 60 adjectives including masculine, feminine and socially desirable but neutral traits, which are to be rated from 1 to 7 depending upon the extent to which it suits oneself. 1= 'almost never true', 2=rarely true, 3=seldom true, 4= half true half untrue, 5=often true, 6=mostly true, 7=almost always true. Thus scores are obtained across three dimensions: Masculinity, Feminity and Androgyny.

Using median-split method, individuals who are high on masculinity & low on feminity or vice-versa are termed as Sex-typed. Those who are high on both mascunity & feminity are termed as Androgynous and those who are low on both masculinity & feminity are termed as Undifferentiated. Androgyny increases with a decrease in a difference between masculinity & feminity.

Coefficient alpha for the inventory ranges between .75 and .90 .Test-retest reliability over a four week period (Masculinity r = .94; Femininity r = .82; Androgyny r = .93). Validity coefficient is .75 for feminity and .72 for masculinity.

2) Personal Effectiveness Scale by Udai Pareek( 2001). Contains 20 items across three dimensions as Self-disclosure, Openness to feedback and Perceptiveness. Each statement has to be rated on a five point scale ranging from 0 to 4. 0=not at all true, 1=occasionally true, 2=somewhat true, 3= fairly true, 4=mostly true.


Each student was contacted individually and was asked to be honest in his responses. After establishing rapport, BSRI & Personal Effectiveness Scale was administered and scoring was done as per the manual. Those 350 students were differentiated into three categories viz. Androgynous (106), Sex-typed (128) and Undifferentiated (116) by using BSRI. 100 students were retained randomly in each group. Personal Effectiveness scores obtained across three groups were compared using Mean, S.D. and t-ratio. Also, Pearson's correlation was obtained between the BSRI scores & Personal Effectiveness scores across three groups.

   Results and Discussion Top

Results reveal a significant difference t = 2.81, p< .01, [Table 1] between the Personal Effectiveness of androgynous & sex-typed management students. It expresses that sex-typed students have an internalized sex role standard and are motivated to maintain consistency between their behavior and this standard. Thus, the masculine sex-typed students would inhibit behaviors that are stereo-typically feminine and vice-versa. It also claims that the assertiveness of a highly masculine student might have a self-defeating, abrasive quality, and the gentleness of a purely feminine student might have an element of ineffectual passivity. Both these students might show serious limitations in how they handle difficult and delicate personal and interpersonal situations.

Moreover, masculine students assume competence and 'hard' work by overemphasizing technical capability and individual achievement, while de-emphasizing other, equally important skills such as facilitating collective achievement, team building, or the ability to relate effectively to peers and external customers. They also believe that Androgyny softens their style of managing and living. The situation is vice-versa for the feminine students. Most of them feel awkward in stepping out of a role to which they have become habituated, especially when they become aware of the need to be more collaborative, to be less competitive, and to seek greater openness instead of coolness. Resultantly, they have lower levels of Self-disclosure t=1.65, p<.05, [Table 1], are only conditionally open to feedbacks t=0.87, p<.10, [Table 1] and lesser sensitive to the affective changes in the interpersonal environment t=1.66, p<.05, [Table 1] as compared to the androgynous students. On the other hand, androgynous students might deal with conflicting situations more effectively by virtue of being forceful and assertive at one occasion and gentle & sensitive, at the other. In Bartolome's study ( 1972) , sex-typed American business executives reported great reluctance to reveal their 'feelings of dependence' even to their wives , which was presumed by them to be their signs of weakness and that culture doesn't accept these things in men. Hence, the characteristic behavior of sex-typed individuals is reinforced in the fashion it is. It clearly indicates that students who eschew softer, relational skills, such as listening and inquiry in favor of more stereotypically masculine skills as persuasion and advocacy resorting to hyper-aggressive sales/management style are going to be fraught with problems leading to lower personal effectiveness ( Hosoda et al, 2003).

Results reveal a significant difference t=6.31 p<.001, [Table 2] between the Personal Effectiveness of androgynous and undifferentiated students. Androgynous students are found to be optimally adaptable to contingencies involving varying combinations of task and social challenges. They personalize their experiences rather than relying on objectivity and rationality, build support systems by sharing competencies with other men, learn how to fail at a task without feeling one has failed as a 'man', value an identity that is not so totally defined by work and assert the right to work for self fulfillment rather than to play the role of provider. Both Masculinity and Feminity contribute uniquely and positively to the prediction and sustenance of self-concept.

While, students with undifferentiated sex-role orientation are neither task-focused nor relation focused because of which they are susceptible to feelings of insecurity, lacks confidence in others and has a diluted self-concept. With a decrease in the level of sex-role standards, they are neither able to disclose themselves to their co-workers and subordinates, nor able to receive input from them. Moreover, they experience inability to imagine or perceive viable options, along with feelings of despair and a resistance to initiating any form of action falling into a state of 'anomy'. Orlofsky and Windle (1978) found that androgynous subjects exhibited greatest behavioral adaptability, performing well on both masculine and feminine tasks while undifferentiated subjects performed poorly on both tasks, but particularly so on sex-reversed tasks. Thus, behavioral flexibility was shown to derive from strong identifications with both masculine and feminine roles (androgyny) rather than from a simple lack of identification with either role. A similar position was advanced by Glazer and Dusek (1985) who specified that in the assessment of instrumental self-concept domains, masculine and androgynous persons will be advantaged, and in the assessment of expressive domains, feminine and androgynous persons will accrue maximum benefits. But, individuals who fail to hold neither domain of self-concept, will be the most disadvantaged. Also, androgynous subjects scored high in personal integration than undifferentiated peers (Barnett & Hyde, 2001; Fletcher & Kaeufer, 2003).

As per [Table 3], non-significant relation has been obtained between Masculine r=.0602, p>.05, [Table 3] and Feminine r=.0481, p>.05, [Table 3] sex-role orientations with Personal Effectiveness. While, significant relation r=-.2123, p<.01, [Table 3] has been obtained between Androgynous sex-role orientation & Personal Effectiveness of management students. Results clearly indicate that neither masculine nor feminine attributes alone, but, greater amount of both the masculine & feminine attributes together, contribute to personal effectiveness of management students. Negative correlation indicates that with a decrease in the difference between the level of Masculinity & Feminity in an individual i.e. increase in Androgyny; there is an increase in the level of Personal Effectiveness. Phillips & Ziller (1997) emphasized that persons with more complex self-concepts involving both masculine & feminine behaviors attend to a broader range of stimuli, are more open to feedback from others, and are more responsive to a wide variety of other people. They have dialectical thinking with the ability to understand that opposites can stand in a complimentary fashion rather than contradictory relationship. Also, at supervisory leadership positions they are rated as better handlers of conflict situations than their masculine or feminine peers (Bailyn et al, 2002) .

Similarly, androgynous students with a complex self-schema, consider a broader range of information about self and doing so creates a means by which the self-schema can be further elaborated or changed. They act as Participant Observer: who participates in an action as well as take one step back to gain perspective whether one has selected the most effective behavior to meet the objectives or not. Hence, such students are stable individuals with flexible cognitive structures. They not only disclose themselves to others but also welcome others' feedback on their actions. In addition to it, they are sensitive to the outcome of their actions. Thus, along with strategy planning they are also better at listening and responding to the customer needs which improves their professional skills & in turn self-efficacy. Shifren & Bauserman (1996) proposed that androgynous persons are psychologically advantaged when compared with sex-typed and undifferentiated individuals in terms of behavioral flexibility and psychological well-being. Androgynous strategies are active coping approaches that are related to greater feelings of satisfaction and wellbeing and to less psychological strain and distress. Thus, in dual expectation situations they lead to better psychological outcomes than instrumental or expressive strategies alone (Jayne , 1997).

   Conclusion Top

Psychologically Androgynous students are more personally effective than Sex-typed and Undifferentiated students. They are better able to disclose themselves, more open to feedbacks and highly perceptive than other students. Psychological Androgyny predicts Personal effectiveness vis-ΰ-vis the other sex-role orientations. Thus, Personal Effectiveness is a function of Psychological Androgyny.

In the present study only male students have been studied. Future Studies may include females also in a study group to give better understanding of the relationship across genders. Implication of the study suggested, while hiring managers, the androgynous orientation can be assessed for predicting their personal effectiveness. Promotion of Androgynous sex-role orientation should be integrated with behavioral-science training programs, especially human-resource-management programs, for enhancing personal effectiveness of managers which will in turn enhance their organizational effectiveness.[23]

   References Top

1.Alan, W.S. & Whitbourne, S.K. (1982) Androgyny and psychosocial development among college students and adults. Journal of Personality; 50: 2 , 121-33.  Back to cited text no. 1      
2. Bailyn, L., Rapoport, R. & Pruitt, B. (2002) Beyond Balance: Advancing Gender Equity and Workplace Performance, NY: Jossey Bass.  Back to cited text no. 2      
3. Barnett, R.C. & Hyde, J. S. (2001) Women, men, work and family: An expansionist theory. American Psychologist; 56, 781-796.  Back to cited text no. 3      
4. Bem, S.L.(1974) The measurement of psychological androgyny. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 42, 155-62.  Back to cited text no. 4      
5. Bem, S.L. (1981) Bem's Sex Role Inventory professional manual. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.  Back to cited text no. 5      
6. Burchardt , C. J. & Serbin, L.A. (2004) Psychological androgyny and personality adjustment in college and psychiatric populations. Sex Roles; 92, 34-38.  Back to cited text no. 6      
7. Daewoo, Park (1997) Sex-Role Identity and Leadership Style: Looking for an Androgynous Leadership Style. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies;3, 49-59.  Back to cited text no. 7      
8. Fletcher, J. K. & Kaeufer, K. (2003) Shared leadership: Paradox and possibility. In: Shared Leadership, (2nd Eds). Pearce, C. & Conger, J. London: Sage. pp 46-57.  Back to cited text no. 8      
9. Glazer, C.A. & Dusek, J.B. (1985) The relationship between sex-role orientation and resolution of Eriksonian developmental crises. Sex Roles; 13, 631-34.  Back to cited text no. 9      
10. Gray, John (1992) Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: Practical Guide for Improving Communication and Getting What You Want in Your Relationships. New York : Harper Collins.  Back to cited text no. 10      
11. Harrington, D. M. & Anderson, S. M. (1981) Creativity, Masculinity, femininity, and three models of psychological androgyny. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; 41:4, 744-757.  Back to cited text no. 11      
12. Helson, R. & Pals, J.L. (2000) Creative potential, creative achievement and personal growth. Journal of Personality; 68, 1-27.  Back to cited text no. 12      
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16. Korabik, Karen & Ayman, Roya (1990) Androgyny and Leadership Style: Toward a Conceptual Synthesis. Journal of Business Ethics; 9:4, 283-292.  Back to cited text no. 16      
17. Lefkowitz, E.S. & Zeldow, P.B. (2006) Masculinity and Femininity Predict Optimal Mental Health: A Belated Test of the Androgyny Hypothesis. Journal of Personality Assessment; 87:1, 95-101.  Back to cited text no. 17      
18. Myers, D.T. (2002) Gender in the Mirror: Cultural Imagery and Women's Agency. London: Oxford University Press.  Back to cited text no. 18      
19. Norlander, T., Erixon, A., Archer, T. (2000) Psychological androgyny and creativity: Dynamics of gender-role and personality trait. Social Behavior and Personality; 12, 34-39.  Back to cited text no. 19      
20. Pareek, Udai.(2001) Training instruments in HRD & OD. N. Delhi: Sage, 34-40.  Back to cited text no. 20      
21. Phillips, S. T. & Ziller, R.C. (1997) Toward a theory and measure of the nature of nonprejudice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; 72:2, 420-434.  Back to cited text no. 21      
22. Sargent, A. G. (1981) The Androgynous Manager. New York : Amacom.   Back to cited text no. 22      
23. Shifren, K. & Bauserman, R.L. (1996) The Relationship between Instrumental and Expressive Traits, Health Behaviors and Perceived Physical Health . Sex Roles; 34, 45-52.  Back to cited text no. 23      


  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3]


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