Home » Sustainability » EQUALITY OF THE SEXES IN THE WORKPLACE STARTS WITH WOMEN

EQUALITY OF THE SEXES IN THE WORKPLACE STARTS WITH WOMEN

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Angela Conte, Owner Axis4 Group

Sustainable Building, Construction and Design; Community Development ;.

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“Two sisters sit on a bench to bring up a brother: Two brothers sit on a bench to sell a sister” (From an Afghan women’s verbal heritage poem. In Afghanistan, it’s illegal for women to write ideas down or share them with others but they do it anyways, at the risk of death.)

Human Rights are about everyone having a fair and equal right to take part in society; but the individual cannot, nor should not, be satisfied with just being equal. Here are my quick thoughts on the subject: 1) Everyone deserves social and cultural rights but there will always be differences in skin color, personal beliefs and aspirations that make us unique individuals 2) Women are statistically paid less than men in the United States for doing the same job but this doesn’t mean they should do the same job as a man, if they can do better. 3) Women aren’t getting paid the same as men, not because of men, but because they don’t expect it. 4) Women need to understand that if anyone is doing their job well and their employer wants to keep them, they’re in a good position to ask for more money and get it. The worst that could happen, if they ask for a raise and don’t get it, is they’re given some reality and find out they’re actually not keeping up there end of the employment bargain, (and can improve); or their employer doesn’t value their work, (so they can move on).  Either way, its useful information that they’ll get from asking, even if they don’t get it, (Note to women:  If you’re turned down, don’t hesitate to ask what you can do to get it the next time. Better yet, try to get it in writing). Men understand all this, but women don’t and until they do, they won’t change the system that pays them less than men. Bottom-line: If women don’t start asking for more money, their employers won’t give it to them, whether they deserve it or not. Even the asking is an important part of career growth. However, this article isn’t about inspiring women to get more money or ways to improve their careers. It’s about why they don’t do it in the first place and it’s up to them to change it for us all because men and women are not equal, nor should they be. They’re like two sides of a whole, and together they create social balance, but only if they value the differences in themselves and others while seeking the change that benefits the culture we all share. Until women step up and take responsibility for the value they contribute to the system, everyone loses. Here are a few quick notes on where I developed this philosophy of social wholeness:

  1. In Eastern Chinese philosophy, the concept of yin-yang is used to describe how opposite or contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world…Many natural dualities (such as light and dark, high and low, hot and cold, fire and water, life and death, and so on) are thought of as physical manifestations of the yin-yang concept…Yin and yang can be thought of as complementary (instead of opposing) forces interacting to form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the parts…Yin is characterized as slow, soft, yielding, diffuse, cold, wet, and passive; and is associated with water, earth, the moon, femininity and nighttime. Yang, by contrast, is fast, hard, solid, focused, hot, dry, and aggressive; and is associated with fire, sky, the sun, masculinity and daytime.
  2. In Western Jungian theory anima and animus can be identified as the totality of the unconscious seeking to find its whole self through the masculine and the female that seek to be balanced by its opposite. The male seeks the feminine/anima for psychological balance and the female seeks the masculine/animus.
  3. Most recently a team of scientists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) has uncovered many genes influenced by the male and female sex hormones testosterone and estrogen that, in turn, govern several specific types of male and female behaviors in mice…Female mice in the laboratory normally exhibit what one might consider classic motherly behavior: mating with male mice and nurturing their young…male mice in the laboratory display behaviors tending toward aggression. This means that we are genetically different and that there’s value in our combining these differences to make a more balanced society.

In spite of thousands of years of human beings learning how things work by observing the many variations of personality traits in people, combined with today’s common access to empirical data, aggressiveness is still more socially acceptable in men and passivity is more acceptable in women; and being socially outgoing and analytical is expected of men, while being shy and submissive is expected of women. These are just some of the common stereotypes that put men and women into separate forms of acceptable social behavior where the male’s resource gathering skills is encouraged in the workplace, while the female-whether she works outside the home or not-is expected to be compassionate and giving, which are traits associated with homemaking and child rearing. More simply put:  Women are still thought of as the givers and men as the takers, despite everything we know about real life behavior. If we consider the values of the yin/yang and the anima/animus’ desire for a more balance world, where men and women can both use their personal attributes to bring in an income and care for others, than neither sex is better or more valuable than the other. Even if we admit an individual, of either sex, is better at something, it has less to do with their sex and more to do with their life experience and personality. There are aspects of all behavior that is useful at different places and times for anyone, so isn’t it time for society to begin to see these differences, not as good or bad, but as complementary and that men working together with women as equal partners is an opportunity to create a more whole and balanced society for us all?

To paraphrase something *Anthropologist Susan Parker once told me, “Its women who control society, even though its men who have gone out into the world to work for centuries, because for thousands of years women have been at home helping each other learn to survive together, while men have been competing with each other in the world of resource gathering including fighting to the death for survival.” I’d like to believe that women, with their gentler genes sides, do have this power for working together but why are they not using it now in the modern workplace? The problem is that even though women are becoming worker gathers and western men are participating more in child rearing at home, these shared compassionate female traits are still not acceptable outside the home by anyone. The idealized business person is still someone who is all business, competitive, aggressive and doesn’t take things personally or emotionally, which are male dominate traits. This means it’s still expected that the working women change and fit into this idealized cutthroat business persona, which requires squashing their sensitive sides if they have them. This also means that women who are having the most upwardly mobile success outside the home are often getting it by acting like men. It’s also why even in politics, we still see so much anti-human aggressive war mongering coming from women and being encouraged and applauded by them in men. Even though we have shifted the positions of the sexes in social place and time; allowing men to become more compassionately connected with their children and families, it’s only socially acceptable behavior in the home; so we still haven’t begun to benefit from the best that women have to offer the workplace. It may start with considering that no behavior is right or wrong, that aggression and compassion, both have their benefits when used appropriately. Sometimes everyone needs to focus unemotionally on the task at hand and be competitive and forceful; and other times they need to consider the people involved when making decisions: both at home and in the workplace; and if we want to reach a higher civilization plateau, we all need to stop regulating these behaviors to one place or another or to one sex or the other.

Even if we accept that both men and women need to use more feminine traits in the workplace, we still have to understand that its up to women alone to stand up for their innate sense of compassion and ability to work together before change can happen. It’s up to them to value and support6 these feminine traits in themselves and in others. Continuing to expect men to change the statuesque is not the way to do it. Why, because it would be another example of women not taking responsibility for their own power and worth in the social system; and it means they’re still waiting for men to make the changes for them. Women have to start believing in and respecting their own power as natural carriers of the social connecting gene and respect it in men and other women. This social paradigm shift could become the start of both men and women using all of their abilities and natural traits for aggression and compassion at the right time and in the right place. Once women give themselves permission to be fully themselves, I believe men will follow by helping to change the way they view what is appropriate behavior in the workplace too, leading to the hiring of more smart compassionate socially balanced women in upper management.

We know that public policy law hasn’t worked because equal employment legislation has been around for a while and it’s still only about companies filling hiring quotas or used for marketing purposes and it’s not been used for creating social systemic change. Yes, a few women are getting hired for more male dominated positions today, but only after they prove that they have extraordinary abilities beyond their male counterparts who they are competing with and willing to accept less pay. Once lucky enough to be hired, they’re expected to compete like a man to keep their jobs which often means not acting like women, or not working with women who act like women, if you want to succeed up the power ladder. Highly accomplished women don’t only have to do twice the work of a man in a similar position; and they feel they have to change their personalities to fit into a mens club or find a way to succeed alone outside it. Just image what could be accomplished if women could bring all their natural abilities at teamwork to the table. Unfortunately, few people-men and women-see the real benefit of more qualified women in the mix who bring a humanistic level to the business world for it’s owe sake. Changing this view would mean accepting that human survival and success in today’s global society is not only about standing up for ourselves and staying competitive, but it’s also about learning to support the larger whole and creating long-term social sustainability for the common good; and these are the very things women are naturally good at because of their gene’s, chemistry and intuitive social abilities that have supported human survival at its most fundamental level for centuries. Once we begin accepting everyone’s attributes and abilities equality, it will be easier to put women in charge of the decision-making process at the upper management levels for the right reasons and not just to meet arbitrary equity laws.

Even with the most progressive companies out there, it’s still about meeting equity quotas, even if some of their higher-ups are more progressive thinking; because the company culture hasn’t changed. Nor will it change until women make it happen. Until this happens, from the inside out, many companies will think their building a workforce of the most talented people available regardless of their sex, color or age but in reality their best people will still be working in a closed social system that makes their work unnecessarily harder. I believe change will happen once it’s not just about companies accepting women into advanced places of power; it will happen when we let them be women too. It will happen when we also let all company men be more compassionate and able to work at bringing people together as a principal of corporate cultural integrity. As individuals, we can’t wait for governments or companies to decide to change anymore than women should wait for men to change their attitudes about women in the workplace. Women have to change how they view themselves first and expect the people they choose to work with, also have an open fair perspective. From this starting point begins the social cultural change within the workplace that’s needed to change minds to the cellular level. It will happen when women find the courage to bring all of themselves to the table; including their self-respect, compassion, appropriate aggression, competitiveness; and the ability to value everyone’s full spectrum of attributes while showing others how to embrace these same qualities in others. If we want our workplaces to evolve and our culture to grow, we all have to step up and start the change in us that leads to a more balanced whole society but nothing changes without women stepping up first. .

“The worst thing about being a woman is that no one expects much from you. The best thing about being a woman is it’s easy to impress people. Now if only they’d get it that everything great I do is not a onetime fluke.” – Socrates’ Wife

Notes and credits:

1-Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yin_and_yang

2-Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anima_and_Animus

3-http://www.ucsf.edu/news/2012/02/11440/male-and-female-behavior-deconstructed 

** http://www.sonoma.edu/users/p/parker

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