|In our six-part series we talk about shifts in mindset and behaviour that are required if we are serious about moving towards sustainability. So far we have covered ‘Understanding connectedness and thinking in systems’ – looking at the bigger picture, ‘Letting go off the illusion of control control‘ – accepting that what is truly within the sphere of our influence is rather limited, and ‘Thinking into the future while acting now’ – which is about making decisions today that ensure that there will be a worthwhile future for our children.
What is the shift required?
Before saying anything else: it will take all of us to save us. The call to give more importance to the feminine side it not about ‘better or worse’ nor ‘right or wrong’. It is also not about ‘women versus men’ but about female and male values, both of which are in all of us. It is about looking at what is ‘different’, and what might most appropriate, given the world we live in today.
There has been much debate about how much these differences are due to social conditioning or ‘hard-wired’ – in his book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus (1992) John Gray has made a strong argument for the latter. A study that involved scanning nearly a thousand brains of both men and women, led by Ruben Gur of the University of Pennsylvania, found that the brains of men have a stronger connection between the front and back whereas women’s brains connected better from left to right. The former is associated with being better able to connect what you see with what you do – which is what is needed when hunting, whereas the latter is associated with potentially showing greater emotional awareness, and multitask.
Whether this is so, it seems that certain values and behaviours are more frequently observed in women, others in men. That is not really the problem. The problem is that one set of values and behaviours is valued more than the other.
Let’s take a look at the status quo of gender balance in positions of power in business and politics; in 2019 we find the following:
- 87% of global businesses have at least one woman in a senior management role.
- 29% of senior management roles are held by women globally (the highest number ever on record). Eastern Europe leads with 32%. Latin America lags with 25%.
- Out of those 29% in senior management roles, 15% hold the role of CEO / managing director (human resources director is with 43% the most frequently held position).
- 24.3 per cent of all national parliamentarians were women as of February 2019.
- As of June 2019, 11 women are serving as Head of State and 12 are serving as Head of Government.
There is no doubt, the world is strongly dominated by male leaders.
Are people happy about it? According to a 2-year study by John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio, involving 64,000 people in 18 nations, and 80 on-the-ground interviews in 13 countries with start-ups, political leaders, NGO’s, educators and more, it seems that many of us are not.
If the questions is asked differently, whether the world would be a better place if men thought more like women, the percentages are even higher – something confirmed by a more recent study.
The call for more femininity is becoming even louder when looking at a further aspect of the study. Half of the participants were ask to categorise 125 human traits as masculine, feminine of neither. The other 32,000 were asked to indicate how important they felt these same 125 traits were for solving problems and leaders in the 21st century.
8 of the top 10 traits considered to be key in the 21st century had been classified as female traits.
Returning to our first three topics the connection becomes even clearer:
- ‘Understanding connectedness and thinking in systems’ relates to collaboration;
- ‘Letting go off the illusion of control control relates to being flexible, patient and intuitive;
- ‘Thinking into the future while acting now’ relates to ‘plans for the future’.
It was not only the traits thought essential for leadership that were predominantly female, the picture for morality and happiness were similar. More details can be found in the book The Athena Doctrine (John Wiley & Sons, 2013).
John Gerzema sums up the argument for embracing female values more in a speech he gave April 2013 At Columbia Business School, “Feminine values are an unlocked source of strategic advantage in the 21st century.” You can listen to that speech below.