It’s safe to say and we can all agree, that just as all women are not all the same, men are not either. In this episode Gina Lazenby spoke with three men who discussed masculinity, and the many different shades of this takes.
We already heard on the Rise of the Feminine Radio two weeks ago from Jim Myers, author of The Future of Men, that young men in particular are struggling with finding their way to adulthood while more young women are increasingly focused on their education, achievements and planning a well-paid career. They see a relationship as a distraction that can hold them back, so relationships are less of a priority in their 20s.(Listen to that episode here).
That’s one perspective on what’s happening with young men while many older men, particularly white males, can be feeling the squeeze as organisations try to make space for women leaders and people of different ethnic backgrounds. In this episode Gina referred to author Dr Roy Baumeister who says in his book Is There Anything Good About Men, that it is currently taboo to speak good about men. “To be sure, men still outnumber women as top achievers in some domains. Does that mean that in some respects men are better than women? Hardly. We have all been taught to dismiss superior male achievement as evidence of prejudice and oppression.”
The rise of the feminine is about the ascension of women and the increasing values BUT it must not be a movement that puts men down. It is about the rise of women, about finding the feminine within all of us, and for men to connect with their feelings and emotional expression.
Kenny D’Cruz, the Man Whisperer, says that men are asking “where are all the women?” Women can very much resonate with this as this is a question on many single women’s lips.
Kenny says that men are likely to find a relationship if they become a “man” and not a boy who, he says, are not looking for a real woman. Being a man is more about a life stage than an age and becoming a man involves a process of self-awareness and growth, something that can be done alone, but is more effective by the support of good role models and even attending an increasing number of men’s groups.
David Brower reflects on French masculinity. While sexism still exists in France as it does in many countries, David observed that the French culture and appreciation of beauty, arts and cuisine was a way that helped to get French men out of their heads and to open up their hearts.
Secondly David noticed that expressing an opinion was much more acceptable than in his native America where David felt the restriction of black or white view viewpoints. In France there is more openness to expressing and hearing the many shades of grey in between.
As the father of three boys, Nick Haines valued giving his son is a good grounding in Emotional Intelligence, giving them permission to feel and express as wide a range of emotions as they wanted without feeling inhibited by any old sense of what a man “should” do or show.
In Nick’s household the roles of parenting were flexible so both parents were taking on the roles of breadwinner and carer together. This modeled an adult life that will not confine his sons to feeling pressured to perform to a stereotype but be free to create any household or relationship dynamic that they chose.
Among a sea of women…… 5000 at the sold out Lead On Women in Silicon Valley conference … I saw a man standing alone at a pillar, between breakout sessions. This was a huge networking event, a superb opportunity to connect with so many fascinating women and in that moment …. I thought, who better to speak to at a women’s conference than a man?! I mean …… why was he here?
So I introduced myself and asked him. “I’m curious” I said. Very politely he shared that as a senior executive at Meryl Lynch, he’d taken notice at the lack of women. Not just at the top of his organisation but at all levels. So a few months prior to this conference he had decided to take on the issue: Why was that the case and what could he do about it? He identified a female co-worker to collaborate with and see what they could champion. They conducted a focus group session for research and now they are even looking at creating different financial products just the women.
I probed further into his motivation and he warmly shared the inspiration of his mom, a hard working single mother and I could see he had real empathy for the broad ranging challenges that are faced by so many earnest, capable, hard-working, family bread-winning women today.
I asked another man his reason for coming to the event. Research he said. Finding out more… Oh… And by the way, not all men are bad he told me. “Don’t criticise us then expect us to be your advocates. You need our help”.
My best conversations of the day!
It’s not the men we are up against in our quest to advance women and bring about change. It’s the system… the hierarchy created by previous generations of men over a long period of time, mostly with the best of intentions. But this system, our current way of working, doesn’t just trap women, it limits men too. And now many brave ones are choosing to step out of an OLD way of thinking and look for something new. That is definitely something that we can work on together.
And now I have arrived in Australia I am excited to catch up with the Male Champions of Change programme where 20 + of the country’s leading male CEOs are really taking on the challenge to bring more women to the top of their organisations. As the project’s founder Elizabeth Broderick, Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner, has said: “After 6 years in my post I concluded that to deliver equality for women we have to focus on men”.
So I voice my gratitude to all the men who are waking up to the needs of women and stepping out to take some kind of action. Thank you guys.
The group who gathered this morning on the 28th floor of the Deutsche Bank building, with spectacular views over Sydney harbour, were almost gender balanced. The conversation about Feminine Leadership was aimed at men so it was refreshing to have over half the group representing the male gender. Everyone was open-minded and the consensus at the end was: how do we get some of the other guys who don’t “get this” or are not as tuned in to their feminine side, to show up for a conversation about the changing role of women and the rise of feminine values in society?
Breakfast pre-working meetings always have to be quick so we honour that little gap we have to give some new ideas between people getting up extra early and being at their desks for their normal routine. With just over an hour I jumped straight in with a 40-minute slideshow and talk which I so wished we could have expanded into at least double the time. We made time for small group discussion and report back afterwards but both segments, equally valuable, could have gone on for much longer.
After sharing my passion and interest in the domain of women’s empowerment, feminine leadership and more balanced decision-making, I highlighted recent press coverage about the lack of women at the top of corporations and on boards. It’s a big conversation in Australia since the numbers seem to be going down, plus the just-released Global Gender Gap (GGG) report published by the World Economic Forum shows that Australia has dropped down nine positions in the rankings from within the top twenty down to 24.
This is an unusual move in a developed nation expected to maintain its leadership. When I asked if this was a concern the men in the room said Yes… quite clearly they do appreciate the important role women play at the highest levels and the positive impact which their influence has.
Despite girls and women having very equitable access to education and opportunities (Australia is number 1 in the GGG’s report category for education) this does not translate into women moving through the ranks of work and getting to the top. Somehow they are getting lost in the pipeline. A Sydney Morning Herald article highlighted this in an article last week called “Ahead at School but behind in the Workforce”. My talk addressed the reasons why women disappear from, and take themselves out of, the pipeline that supplies the top jobs.
I wanted to share three main areas of data with a few insights into why the feminine mindset, values and characteristics can change the reality for women.
1 Brain Difference:
The gender equality conversation has been stuck in talk about “sameness” and now desperately needs to move on to address “difference”. Equal but not the same. And we must respect those differences and leverage them.
I referenced the recent discoveries made in the new field of brain science and particularly the work of Dr Louann Brizendine and Dr Daniel Amen. Very clearly, little girls grow up differently to little boys and it’s not any old family programming and cultural stereotyping being played out. A girl baby has an exceptional ability to read faces while little boys are interested in activities and things. Girls are wired for connection. Dr Brizendine points out that the centre in female brain which processes emotions can be likened to an 8-lane super highway. Meanwhile in the male brain that same centre is, relatively speaking, a narrow country lane. (see the slide)
Dr Amen says that his study of 45,000 brain scans show that female brains are radically more active that male brains in 85% of the brains. With dramatically more activity in the front of the brain Dr Amen asserts that women are actually wired for leadership since their brain structure pre-disposes them for:
All of these traits and qualities, which women find much easier than men because they are more naturally embedded in their brain structure, are qualities increasingly being required of a modern leader in our turbulent, uncertain times. Latest research also shows the ‘plastic’ and flexible nature of the human brain (common thinking was that it was fixed and unchangeable) which means that we can learn and take on new skills and traits, with conscious practice. So we are not trapped in old circuitry that was developed there for a purpose millennia ago.
2 Why bringing Caring into the Economics conversation is a game-changer
I quoted the work of Dr Riane Eisler, social scientist, attorney and bestselling author of a number of paradigm shifting books. Her work on Caring Economics in her latest book “The Real Wealth of Nations” shines some light on how most of humanity has a tendency to hierarchical thinking from a culture of a Dominator mindset. This leads people within the system to believe that one party/group/individual is either superior or inferior. We have ended up with a hierarchy of races, ethnicities and religions etc (the basis of all conflicts) and a clear belief in the superiority of the masculine gender over the feminine. This hierarchy of belief is held in place by control and fear and expresses itself to greater or lesser degrees in societies, organisations and governments around the world.
Dr Eisler talks about how this way of seeing the world is sitting on a continuum where at the other end of the spectrum, the Partnership mindset is one where there is greater equality. Here a more collaborative culture exists where power is used in relationships to empower each other through mutual respect and mutual benefit. She cites the Nordic countries as all being examples of this ‘advanced’ cultural thinking. All those countries have emerged as prosperous economies and happier places to live (OECD reports.)
What happens where the Dominator culture prevails or still has influence is that inequality remains. Equal rights laws may be in place but there still exists within the conscious and sub-conscious mindset, deeply embedded codes which play out as the subjugation of the female gender and anything associated with feminine values, roles and work. We end up with a world where all work and money making endeavours are held as significantly more valuable than the daily human work of caring, care-giving, household, home-focussed nurturing tasks and roles largely provided by women at no or little cost.
That is what makes the value system associated with the word “feminine” loaded with often negative meaning and being worth ‘less-than’. Dr Eisler is a huge advocate of establishing the work of caring and care-giving as valuable work that should be respected and valued in the economy in a way it is not now. In her book she gives numerous examples of companies that have realised the value of caring for people, as a priority over money and other stakeholders, and have found it the most effective route to profit. Caring pays dividends. Watch my video interview with Dr Riane Eisler
3 Feminine Traits are needed for the new leadership paradigm
Another brilliant book is called “The Athena Doctrine: How Women (& the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future by John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio. Their research involved 64,000 people and the authors travelling 150,000 miles for interviews.
The authors made a long list of human traits and characteristics and asked half their participants to rate these as being masculine, feminine or neutral. The other half were then asked which human traits are now important for modern leaders to be successful in these times, which traits were important for success and which for happiness. In summary, some of the skills that people felt were required to thrive in today’s world were honesty, empathy, communication, collaboration, most of which come more naturally to women and were seen as feminine traits by the group. Their extensive data showed them that feminine qualities were now being more highly valued, whether these are expressed in women or men.
Two thirds of the 64,000 people surveyed in thirteen nations, feel the world would be a better place if men thought more like women. This marks a global trend away from the winner-takes-all, masculine approach to getting things done. Drawing from interviews at innovative organizations in eighteen nations and at Fortune 500 boardrooms, the authors reveal how men and women alike are recognizing significant value in traits commonly associated with women, such as nurturing, cooperation, communication, and sharing. The Athena Doctrine shows why femininity is the operating system of 21st century prosperity. Book Link.
Andrew Sinclair also tweeted this link after the event which is a very succinct 2-minute summary of the book.
Action is needed to correct the imbalances which unconsciously and unwittingly penalises one gender that has a different way of operating, different needs that can revolve around caring and different drivers and motivations.
A summary of suggested actions follows:
Be better at really listening – create structures where people can be heard. Women often hold back in their verbal contributions in a mixed group.
Change the way promotion is done: reach out to support women who hold back in putting themselves forward. Men more naturally step forward and women can tend hold back, they are culturally supported and conditioned to do so.
Look at the values that underpin the organisation culture – note the importance & impact of caring. Where is it in the culture.
Acknowledge, celebrate & leverage difference. Each individual has a contribution to make and will do so in a different way. Diversity is crucial for businesses to innovate and be more creative with problem solving. Once the gender gap is fully closed the increased participation of women with inclusive thinking will help reduce the gaps that exists for older people, other ethic groups and social class etc
Understand the differences in communication for both genders: training would be helpful so people could really get what is invisible and unspoken yet which influences and pervades everything creating misunderstanding and disengagement.
Men: consult the women in their life more. Female mentors for men would open them up to new thinking and also help them express their emotions more, if they are not already doing so.
Men: can think like fathers. Daughters help men be more empathetic, generous and other-directed.
Consider: what is the new masculine? The old thinking of the male provider and the man’s identity wrapped up in achievement, financial success and sometimes aggressiveness no longer works or has value. It is a massive conversation about men and women now want and expect from each other.
Create a women’s community. Women’s circles of mutual support inside organisations will be hugely beneficial in helping women become more empowered.
Better mentor structure for women. Create champions for women.
Recommended video: good for fathers to understand what their daughters take on board consciously and unconsciously from their parents. Called: “Watch A Student Totally Nail Something About Women That I’ve Been Trying To Articulate For 37 Years”.
In my presentation tomorrow, Tues Nov 26th for the Brooklyn Institute about what Feminine Leadership can mean for men, I will be talking about the need to re-think the whole nature of work. One of the (many) reasons that senior women drop out of the pipeline of opportunity for promotion that will get them to the top (and potentially Board level where women are currently so under-represented) is the dilemma they face in creating a work / life / family balance. Stepping out of the hot career trajectory can reduce the chances of women getting promoted as they take time out and/or move into a part-time role during the early years when their children are younger. This choice is usually the preserve of women as men forge ahead with an unbroken pattern of good work opportunities and senior positions as they aim for the top.
Today’s issue of Women’s Agenda (a fabulous woman-centric daily news hub based in Australia) had a great story about a senior politician who is stepping down from the cabinet and his leadership position in the Western Australia government. His reason is that he wants to spend more time with his family and children. Hurrah! It is rare for a man, especially one in a reasonably high profile position in public life, to make that decision. Maybe it is slightly more possible in civic political life than it is in a corporation where the young ‘uns are yapping at your heels. Still, the more role models we have for different positive behaviour it opens up the choice and possibilities for everyone else – mothers and fathers. Read more from Georgina Dent’s news story.