Toxic Femininity: Machiavellian Mary in the Workplace

“Toxic femininity” refers to women who are hostile to nurturance and cooperation, opting instead for aggression and backstabbing to get ahead. In this regard, the type of leaders and team builders who are hired is critical to a successful business. Certain personality characteristics are associated typically with leaders who are willing to be risk takers, assertive, fighters, and task-oriented. Nurturant is not a typical descriptor of leaders. It suggests a “mothering” approach and evokes images of passivity; that is, being a supporter rather than a leader, and being someone who is focused on relationships rather than tasks. Men who hire women to be leaders may not consider “nurturers” as competent for the role. Therefore, women in business leadership positions, may consciously or unconsciously, shy away from these and other “feminine-centric” images.

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