Battle of the Sexes?
Several global thought leaders have started to explore why women continue to struggle to survive, let alone thrive in the male dominated business world. Recent statistics issued by the US State Department in January 2012 suggest that in corporate America only 17% of board level positions are held by women. The Inter-Parliamentary Union revealed that throughout Europe the figure was just 14%. In politics the situation in both the US and Europe is similar, with women holding far fewer seats in congress or parliament than their male counterparts.
For many decades women have attempted to emanate men as a means to gaining equality in the workplace. While this arguably helped us to make progress in the past and, in the words of Jessie J, prove that we can ‘do it like a dude’, doing it ‘like the mandem’ is now hindering us from moving forward. Dressing in a black suit and scraping back our hair disconnects us from our true sense of inner power, passion and potential.
The ability to connect with the core of who we are does not come from imitating men, but from going within and bringing forth a deeply abundant source of innate wisdom and graceful strength. This is something that feels very different to male power, yet can be equally impactful. Harnessing it collectively could completely clear the way for the next generation. Our focus in the workplace needs to shift away from competition towards collaboration. The challenge in the digital age is no longer about women needing to prove their worth, but about women owning and acknowledging their true brilliance. In doing this we teach men how to treat us. This means being vulnerable enough for them to come along side us as equals both at work and in the home, yet strong enough to stand together and support each other in finding solutions that maximise mutual potential.
We all hold ourselves back (both as men and as women) whenever we experience suppress the expression of our whole. We do it through lack of self-confidence, hesitancy in saying no, tendency towards perfectionism, neglect of self care, high activity and performance disposition, over exposure to multi media messaging, or whenever we buy into false beliefs. Instead we need to encourage free expression and harness the strengths of both sexes. We need to make it acceptable for both men and women to integrate the masculine and feminine qualities and capacities that reside within us all, regardless of our sexuality.
One of the biggest challenges we face is coping with stress. We have conditioned ourselves to live our lives in a constant state of high alert, handling each event in our day as if it were a threat to our very survival. In doing this we continuously trigger our primitive fight or flight response. As a result our mind handle deadlines as if they were actual lions, releasing adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol into the blood stream to help prepare our bodies to run or fight.
While this response helps us to be mentally alert and focus on problems at work, it is counter-productive because it also sends a surge of hormones to our muscles, which we are often unable to metabolize through physical exertion, due to the desk bound nature of most jobs. Stress hormones build up in our bodies as a result, which can lead to adrenal fatigue linked to disorders if the autonomic nervous system and immune system, in addition to psychological and emotional problems. A common consequence of the cumulative effect of ongoing stress, combined with poor life style choices is burnout.
What can we do to change this? To quote Ghandi, we need to ‘be the change’ we ‘want to see’. Here are seven steps for ending the battle of the sexes and creating a new beginning for men and women to stand together with equal honour and respect:
1. Start with self-care – Your inner power and wisdom of your intuition are hard to harness when you neglect self-care. Prioritise your wellbeing each day by making a commitment to yourself to get sufficient sleep, exercise, food that is beneficial for true renewal and time to switch off and relax.
2. Breathe deeply like a baby - Whenever you feel stressed, imagine have a balloon in your belly. Feel your belly expand as you breathe in and deflate as your breathe out. Take full, deep breathes. This will help you re-oxygenate your body, calm your mind and release powerful chemicals that help handle your stress hormones.
3. Connect to your inner power - Imagine a ball of energy just beneath your rib cage, in the area of your sternum. In this place we hold the essence of our true power. By focusing your attention on it you can connect with it and expand it. Various martial arts disciplines teach ways to bring this power forth into your thoughts, words and actions. Visualise bringing this energy into all that you do, to add impact you may wish to try adding a power shout. For a video to talk you through this technique watch this:
4. Honour your passions - Whenever we get caught up in busy thinking and running our lives on autopilot, many of us become disconnected from the things, people and places we truly feel passionate about. Make a list of your true priorities in life. How much of your energy and attention are you devoting to these areas? What might you be able to change so that you can spend more time or energy on that which matters to you the most? What small step could you take today to reconnect to one of your long lost passions?
5. Express your emotions – Recognize that tears are not a sign of weakness, but a powerful means of processing. Allow yourself and others to cry so they can authentically communicate emotion, both at home and in the workplace.
6. Use your body - as a means of self expression and exploration. Feel your feelings. Allow yourself to be creative, get messy, have fun. Move, play, make love, sing in the rain, draw, paint, roll in the mud, shout, dance, swim in the sea, make music – experiment with anything that makes you feel alive.
7. Support others - Be present whenever you share conversations with family, friends and co-workers. Allow yourself to truly listen to what they say, without rushing them, without finishing their sentences or jumping in with your suggestions. Often the best support we can give those around us is the quality of our attention. In doing this we hold them in a place of positive regard, equality, respect and care. This creates a space for them to connect with their own creative genius within. When you are in this space in you and you hold someone else in this space for them, brilliant shifts happen that can be felt far wider than we could ever imagine!