Gender Physics: Finding Energy Balance in Our Lives
As a woman who climbed to the top of the corporate ladder, I've long argued for the importance of having more women in senior management. Numerous studies have shown that the presence of women in the boardroom leads to a more responsible corporate climate, and makes the company less likely to take unnecessary risks. Indeed, many of those companies with a healthy proportion of women managers reported much better results during the economic meltdown than their male-dominated counterparts.
My writing on this topic has led me to develop a new kind of "science" that I call Gender Physics. Like many of the physical sciences, it is predicated on the idea of balance and equilibrium - in this case, the balance between masculine and feminine energy. We all have an abundance of one energy or the other, which is often (but not always) dictated by our actual gender - that is, men will usually have an abundance of masculine energy and women will have more feminine energy. But just as a corporation will benefit from the infusion of feminine energy that women will bring to the table, so too do I believe that individuals will benefit from developing the opposite energy in themselves.
The Two Energies
Masculine energy is action-oriented and forceful. It is a spear that cuts its portion, stakes its claim, and protects its territory. Masculine energy is primarily motivated by external concerns; it emphasizes independence, reinforced by a "can-do" spirit. If properly balanced, masculine energy can be a force for good: the father lovingly providing for his family, the government enacting regulations with a social conscience. In an organizational context, it is the impetus for action, for taking good ideas and seeing them through to completion.
Meanwhile, feminine energy is internally-driven. It is the source of creativity, imagination, and introspection. In contrast to the independent and forceful masculine energy, feminine energy is all about co-existence, cooperation, consensus, and nurturing. Feminine energy can likewise be a force for good in the world, as it resolves conflict and helps people band together in times of need. Its internal focus also provides the creative spark of innovation.
For all the good that these energies may provide, though, they do more harm than good if taken alone. Excessive masculine energy without the counterbalance of feminine energy leads to mindless, risky action. We'll eat too much, spend too much, or work too much, without the introspective feminine impulse to ask why. Masculine energy also seeks to dominate the outside world; in the absence of the value system provided by feminine energy, this impulse can quickly lead to conflict and war.
An excess of feminine energy can result in co-dependency, as we become devoted to others at the expense of ourselves and follow their opinions without developing our own. This leaves us depleted and unable to make good decisions for ourselves regarding various aspects of our lives. Fear also comes with too much feminine energy, as our focus on cooperation leads us to believe that we need someone else to take care of us. Masculine energy also compliments feminine energy by providing that spark of action and decisiveness; without it, nothing gets done. I've often seen this in charitable organizations that are afraid to make any decisions for fear of offending donors and volunteers.
The solution, of course, is to be balanced - to use both our masculine and feminine energies. If we are in a balanced state our thoughts, emotions, and actions easily flow back and forth between the two energies; we will be able to use the most appropriate energy for every situation. I call this state "Good Gender Physics," and it's a goal that every individual and organization should strive for. On an individual level, good Gender Physics can have far-reaching benefits. I often use the example of Thomas Edison, who called on innovative feminine energy to conceive of the light bulb, then masculine energy to see his invention through.
Organizations and even the world at large can also benefit from good Gender Physics. Even though women constitute half the population, the world is very much dominated by masculine energy. Society reveres the achievements of the self-sufficient individual and view the emotional feminine energy as weak - after all, feelings can be an impediment to getting things done! Furthermore, the attributes of masculine energy are rewarded financially, so both men and women aspire to them. The result is a masculine energy-dominated world characterized by war, conflict, and reckless decision-making.
This trend is perpetuated by the fact that the business world is dominated by men; those women who do attempt to climb the corporate ladder tend to suppress their feminine side in an attempt to "fit in." While it's not a bad thing to see these women develop their masculine energy, the big-picture result is that they don't bring enough feminine energy to these masculine institutions. And the men at these companies are not actively encouraged to develop their feminine energy; companies may have paternity leave available, but in most cases men know that it is career suicide to take it. Businesses and organizations must encourage the growth of feminine energy, not only by hiring and promoting more women, but also through family-friendly policies and a more responsible corporate culture.
The Six Steps
I frequently speak about finding a state of Effortless Energy by following the Six Stilletto Steps. The truth is that gender balance plays an important role in this process. The Six Steps are a journey, similar to the quests of ancient mythology when an ordinary boy or girl steps out of their comfort zone to face their destiny. On the journey, they discover who they are inside (feminine energy) and learn that they can depend on themselves (masculine energy). In changing their internal world, they develop the confidence that they can change their external world.
Indeed, every step in the process requires both masculine and feminine energy, which develops both our energies as we work our way through them. Step 1, Self-Awareness, is the most introspective (and thus feminine) step, yet it is also masculine insofar as it also involves awareness of external signals. The second step of Self-Acceptance again has two elements: it takes the feminine energy of compassion to accept what we have learned about ourselves, but also the courage of masculine energy to stand up and "dare to be different." Step 3, Self-Assurance, is all about the masculine energy of actively seeking support systems through friends and family based on the feminine energy of your self-knowledge. It is important that our external action reflects our internal value system which is established by our feminine energy. Again, it is an inner, to outer, step.
Step 4 is Self-Care, in which we arm ourselves with the tools and weapons we need, be they messages, affirmations, or knowledge. Self-Care tools can be as individual as what gives us energy. Again, it's the masculine energy action that fills the tool bag as we "invest in ourselves," but it's based on our internal value-system of restoration (feminine energy). The fifth step is Self-Reliance, the moment where we set out on the quest. This is clearly the most masculine of the steps, as it is the point where we stop planning and start doing; yet we also draw on internal strength and resolve in times of peril, and that resolve has its roots in self-knowledge. Even the final step, Self-Celebration, has a masculine and feminine side. While much of the celebration is conventionally external, it is also a matter of internally showing gratitude - whether to yourself, to your god, or to the support system that helped get you there. And the best form of celebration is laughter, which always brings you back into balance.
Sometimes people ask me why I call them "Stilletto Steps." For starters, it's because I've always loved stillettos! But the real reason is that Stillettos represent a perfect blend of energies - the feminine stilletto heel evolved from the stilletto knife, the ultimate symbol of forceful masculine energy. Each step is a precarious balancing act between the two energies - but if we can keep our balance, we'll reap the benefits.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
After a highly successful career in business, including 26 years with PotashCorp where she was Senior Vice-President, Betty-Ann retired in 2007, the same year that she was named to Canada‘s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Hall of Fame™. She now works as a speaker, author and mentor and is committed to using her personal and professional experiences to inspire and empower other women. A firm believer in the value women bring to organizations, Betty-Ann explores changing perceptions of male and female roles including candid observations about what she calls "Good Gender Physics” on her blog at www.stillettochick.com. She helps both men and women understand the primary energy of their gender but also accept and appreciate the strengths of their opposite.