How to Bring Balance to Boardrooms and Beyond
Traditional eastern philosophies explain that in nature all matter consists of feminine (ying) and masculine (yang) energy that change in balance with each other. If we apply this to modern day society our corporate organisations are predominantly yang and not balanced with ying energy. As a result we are experiencing a global preponderance of masculine energy, widespread burnout and gender imbalanced boardrooms.
For many years men have been encouraged to embrace masculine propensity at the neglect of their ying energy. Many women have also disconnected from their feminine strengths in order to adopt masculine stereotypes. This has been necessary for them to survive and succeed in male dominated environments, but has ironically prevented them from breaking though to board level because this inauthentic approach prevents them from fully demonstrating the feminine leadership qualities they possess.
Masculine structures served their purpose when our economies were mainly manufacturing driven, but we are now living in a service led era, desperate for ying input to rebalance the scales and prevent the burnout pandemic.
Forward thinking leaders look beyond quick fix policies addressing solely energy imbalance symptoms. They appreciate that the shift towards gender-balanced boardrooms will only occur when we up-root the core causes of our outdated systems.
We need both women and men to rebalance their ying and yang by reigniting their feminine energies if this change is to happen.
It is somewhat easier for women to reconnect with their ying energy because it is already socially acceptable for them to do so – and by the very nature of being a woman there is a natural inclination toward feminine qualities and tendencies. Our biggest challenge is to ditch our black suits, connect with our inner strength and pursue success in a more authentic, collaborative and holistic way.
In my previous Huffington Post article ‘Having it all as a woman’ and in my best selling book Burnout to Brilliance: Strategies for Sustainable Success, I highlight the fact that studies show gender balanced leadership results in better decision making. Women are more creative and future-focused than men and innately value stability and sustainability. We intuitively seek to ensure that decision-making is collaborative and inclusive. It is time for us to honour these strengths.
Men arguably face a tougher challenge embracing their ying. Despite the desperate need for men to adopt a compassionate leadership style in workplace settings and to be equally valued as care givers at home; masculine worth continues to be measured on the extent of a man’s command and control management achievements and his ability to protect and provide financially for his family.
Even with societal trends towards career couples adopting turn-taking arrangements, alternating childcare and bread-winning responsibilities, we still have far to go for both men and women to fully embrace each other as equals. For example a man standing at the school gate to collect his children is still more likely to be met with suspicion by mothers, rather than mutual respect. As a result of such resistance in society, many men are caught facing an identity crisis.
Richard Branson recently unveiled a new policy to give new fathers up to a year’s paternity leave on full salary. Although this move treats an imbalance symptom rather than the root cause, it could be significant enough to act as a catalyst for change because other leaders may feel inspired to search deeper for root-cause solutions that enable the creation of workplace communities that are empowering, nurturing and fully supportive of employees and their families.
We are closer to a tipping point than ever before, yet we cannot afford to wait for our leaders to bring the balance back on our behalf. We must each step up and start to ‘be’ the change we want to see. As a starting point this can powerfully begin with the education of our children.
Young boys are typically told to “man up” and are belittled if they cry or express emotion.
Girls are taught that feminine equals weak.
We must change this.
Sanitary brand Always aired a commercial earlier this year during the 2015 Super Bowl series. The advertisement asks “What does it mean to do something like a girl?”. The answers vary depending on the age group. Those who were older demonstrated exaggerated, dainty behavior. Young girls demonstrated behavior of strength and speed.
Boys and girls are born equal. We condition them to believe otherwise.
As the Always ad suggests, we can rewrite the rules.
We can drop gender stereotyping and reinforce that as a boy and as a girl our children are equally important, capable and valuable. As adults we can demonstrate this by more authentically expressing ourselves, believing in ourselves and dropping our concerns of how other people with judge or perceive us when we are bold enough to break outdated societal norms.
We need to support each other in making this change. Due to cultural conditioning both men and women can find it challenging to reach out for help. Studies indicate that men in particular can find it extremely hard to ask for assistance whether from friends and family or professionals, resulting in an increased tendency towards depression and isolation. Wonderful organisations like the Samaritans offer free services that can help people process the emotional turmoil that can come with change and help them feel better understood. If you need someone to talk to, please pick up the phone.
If we are to carve out a new future for the next generation then we need to be willing to accept our perceived vulnerabilities, weaknesses and faults. Through them we will discover our true inner power, passions and potential for a more balanced and purposeful way of conducting global business and sustainably sharing the resources of our beautiful planet.