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Type and gender

Surprisingly little has been written on gender and type. Experts mainly adopt the view that as most women prefer feeling and most men prefer thinking we can use the MBTI™ to explain most of the differences that we tend to ascribe to gender. However, male and female Ts often express views which are in sharp contrast to those expressed by male and female Fs.

Different gender perspectives

Research shows that there are significant differences between how men and women see themselves in relation to the world and so it is not difficult to argue that there is really a male and female variation of each type. A female with a preference for ENTP, for example, shares a lot with other ENTPs regardless of gender. She is likely to feel on the same wavelength as ENTP men but … . And the but is that on certain issues, despite the preference for thinking, an ENTP woman is still likely to have “a typical female perspective” on the world. What does this mean?

Sociolinguist and author, Deborah Tannen argues that women see the world in terms of a web of connection and want to feel themselves to be part of this web. For women, equality in relationships is of great importance. Men, on the other hand, tend to see the world in terms of hierarchy and status and jealously guard their independence.

When we combine Tannen’s theory with the MBTI we see that thinking reinforces men’s view of the world and feeling reinforces women’s view of the world. This means that male thinkers and female feelers are not pulled in different directions by their gender and by their decision-making preference. This is in contrast to both female Ts and male Fs.

Female thinkers are often aware at times of being torn between the desire for harmony which most women tend to share, irrespective of type, and their thinker’s desire for objective reasoning. For example, when a female thinker completed the MBTI years ago, she agonised about some of the questions as they brought these tensions to a head. For example, one word pair question asks her to choose between “sympathise” and “analyse”. As a woman, and a mother, she felt she really should put “sympathise” but she chose “analyse” as she felt she was betraying something important about herself if she didn’t. In everyday life it is common to see female thinkers struggle with similar issues. 

Male feelers also commonly feel a tension between their masculine desire for independence and their feelers’ desire to respect and pay attention to others’ feelings and values.

Swimming upstream

The writer and therapist Otto Kroeger is one of the few MBTI experts to emphasise the importance of gender. He maintains that all T women feel they have to “swim upstream” in a male world which expects women to be sensitive and emotional. He argues that T women find it harder to negotiate a sexist world than F men. Feeling men when acting in accordance with their preferences can be hailed as “new men”. If they decide to deny their feeling preference and act macho that gets them plaudits too. But, as Kroeger, says T women are seen as “ball breakers” if they make decisions impersonally and, if they decide to reject T and try to masquerade as Fs, they get derided for being ultra feminine.

The interpreters

The types who find it most difficult to understand each other appear to be male thinkers and female feelers. This difference can undoubtedly fuel sexual attraction but  male Ts and female Fs don’t tend to become platonic friends or close colleagues. It is often female thinkers and male feelers who are most likely to have close friends of the opposite sex. Female thinkers usually enjoy the company of male thinkers and feelers. And male feelers usually enjoy the company of female thinkers and feelers.  In organisations it is often obvious that the female thinkers and the male feelers operate almost as interpreters and go-betweens.


© Carol Craig

MBTI, Myers-Briggs, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator are registered trademarks or trademarks of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust in the United States and other countries; OPP Ltd. has exclusive rights to these trademarks in the U.K.

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