Earlier this month Shane Snow, Tech journalist and co-founder of @Contently, opened up a can of worms with his article “Hug vs. Handshake”. When he, a “married dude”, runs into a male acquaintance both in and outside the workplace, a handshake is an acceptable and preferable greeting for both men. But “with females, I feel like I’m trapped between two walls of a deep-space garbage compactor. On the first meeting, we shake hands. Easy. But the next time we cross paths? Is a handshake now too formal (especially if we got along well in the first meeting)? Will a hug be awkward?”

Jessica Roy, a reporter for Betabeat and the New York Observer, offers a different angle on this conundrum:

The problem with shaking hands, of course, is that you might fracture our brittle bones with your manly monster shake. But the problem with hugging is that you might accidentally touch our delicate lady areas. What’s a dude to do?

And Tim Sackett, a journalist at Ragan.com, summarises the whole debate in his (literally) bold words:

Women will hug anything.

What are we talking about here? Our desks? Coffee machines? A lion at the nearest zoo?!

Tim’s generalisation, which may I point out is not supported by any facts or data, has promoted a number of women to comment and publically declare themselves to be “not a hugger”. To which Tim has replied:

“It wouldn’t be remotely entertaining if we didn’t cross some stereotype boundaries! I appreciate that many women don’t want a hug – but you have to admit, as compared to men, women are huggers!”

Earlier this week, I attended a seminar at Cisco by the inspirational Lynne Coop from the @worklifecompany. A number of female employees from Cisco joined together to hear about how women can achieve work-life balance whilst striving to achieve their career objectives and also how companies should strive for Living Leadership which embraces the balance of both male and female leadership qualities. Companies with the highest percentages of women in their executive ranks achieved 35% higher returns on average, but we need to create the right climate for women to reach these higher positions. This means fighting for equal pay, fighting for equal opportunities and, in the words of Sheryl Sandberg having “enough men at the kitchen table to relieve their wives of responsibility for child care and household chores so women can compete on an equal footing for the top jobs.” We aren’t going to achieve this if we are branded as a gender of enthusiastic huggers…

Maybe this is an American thing; have we Europeans got it right, following in the words of King Henry VI “I can express no kinder sign of love, than this kind kiss”, with our cheek kissing routine? But either way, before I add “professional hugger” to my resume I think we should work together to dispel the stereotype boundaries that keep women beneath the glass ceiling and not embrace them for comical purposes.


Shane Snow’s article: https://medium.com/women-and-work/1c4f35dec45b

Jessica Roy’s article: http://betabeat.com/2013/05/to-hug-or-not-to-hug-hacker-news-commenters-unsure-of-how-to-interact-with-real-live-human-ladies/

Tim Sackett’s article: http://www.ragan.com/Main/Articles/46752.aspx


Laura Earle

No Longer at Cisco