08/02/2013 02:41 pm ET Updated Oct 01, 2013

How Masculine and Feminine Traits Influence Science

The world of science is traditionally dominated by male patterns of behavior. Women have had careers in the sciences, but many had to fulfill stereotypically masculine roles in order to succeed. I believe bringing out the woman and man in every person will further the world of STEM today. Encouraging more girls to enter STEM is one way to do that.

Traditionally masculine patterns of competition have contributed greatly to science. This isn't meant to disparage the contribution of men to the sciences. Let me state that men and their rational, concrete, logical gifts have literally been the founders of scientific inquiry. By asking how and why, they, along with a few women leaders, opened up the field to scientific inquiry. The masculine traits that have influenced scientific discovery are competition, pursuit of fame, and hierarchies of power and status. Daniel LeMire, professor of Cognitive Computer Science, Montreal, PQ, suggested that "Science is a winners-take-all game, at least some of the time." Secrecy and armed guards are standard protocol in some labs. It doesn't end there. The object of the game is to be first to publish and/or solve a problem, even driving some scientists to paranoia.

This has had the unintended consequence of increasing competition in the sciences, rather than facilitating greater collaboration. This isn't to say that collaboration doesn't happen in science, because it sure does. Typically a feminine trait, collaboration is what we need to see even more of in science today. When girls enter STEM and promote the presence of the whole person, by simply being themselves, collaboration can happen organically.

Collaboration and integration at its deepest level, teaches us about who we really are. If we are willing to listen to others, and honestly take in their unique point of view, we can assist them in bringing forth their true nature. This can happen on large scale as well. Just as women bring male and female children into the world, women in the lab can bring about more wholesome people to science.

The lab culture has been influenced by typically masculine patterns of relating and as such, also engendered competition. Perhaps, scientific discovery would proceed at a more accelerated pace if increased cooperation and collaboration became cornerstone. When girls enter STEM fields of study and work, they bring a different way of relating. Females bring more concern and compassion for their coworkers, which literally transforms the workplace. Females are naturally compassionate; they want to see others succeed with them. These are qualities that will change the landscape of science as our young women enter STEM fields and make waves beyond their discoveries. It's extremely important for young women to embrace their authentic nature and not pursue typically masculine stereotypes in pursuit of success.

In Clayton Christenson's book Disrupting Class, he wrote about the profound influence his wife has had on his thinking and the lessons she has taught their children. He wrote, "Christine has inspired them to love learning, to love each other, and to love doing what's right. She is a sterling, world-class teacher. One by one, each of the ideas in this book came home some evening in my head in muddled, half-baked form and returned to Harvard the next morning having been tested and refined through my conversations with Christine and my children."

As Christenson lauds his wife for teaching their children to love one another and love doing the right thing, he also underscores the feminine contribution to business and education. By simply bringing our own savoire-faire to all our endeavors, we literally have the power to change the world one lab at a time, through relationships.

When I was a young and excited undergrad student at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, I was eager to learn everything I could about the brain and behavior. I took an independent study class that led to volunteer work in a neuroscience lab. I also didn't know then, that there was a lot more going on behind the scenes in the lab. There were politics, lab romances, and rules of conduct unique to the setting.

I ended up leaving the lab after college to pursue a career that is based in the sciences, but lives in human interaction. The lab was too far removed from the human element for me, but it was the perfect starting point. As a clinical psychologist, I've had the pleasure of using all of my studies in the sciences in my work with people. I've found modern methods of addressing trauma and promoting peak performance, success, and happiness. The methods chosen in my work all herald from the foundation science offers. To be successful and happy in the world, we need to embrace who we are, which always includes honoring our masculine and feminine qualities.