Farnaz on Cultures and Archetypes, Negating Stereotypes, Redefining Archetypes, Women, Emerging Power
The gender gap continues as the hottest topic as both business leaders and women’s movement continue their focus on underrepresentation of women in high government positions, C-suites and corridors of power. You don’t have to like politics or follow partisan conventions to know that the gender gap is at the forefront of political campaigns as well. The empowerment initiatives are overtly celebrated, but little to no honest discussions are taking place in regards to the real social, cultural and business barriers women face.
This is the Republican National Convention week. Judging by the line-up of speakers, it is easy to see how the GOP is going out of their way to show that this is not just the party for the older white men. Last night, Condoleezza Rice and Susana Martinez gave brilliant speeches. Paul Ryan referred to his mom as his role model. Ann Romney saluted moms, specially working moms who have to work a little harder. All clearly designed to bridge the gender gap for the Romney campaign. Again, empowering but no mentions of the real issues and barriers, nor any solutions on how to overcome them.
Ann-Marie Slaughter wrote an amazing, honest article, Why Women Still Can’t Have It All. I personally wouldn’t use that title, because asking whether women can have it all is a rhetorical question. We never seem to ask if men can have it all, and the question itself is airbrushing reality for both men and women. It’s the same ironic label as “working women” when women represent over 50% of the work force. We don’t seem to ever say “working men.”
Slaughter stepped down from her high power government position so she can spend more time with her sons. She notes reasons such as, inflexible schedules, unrelenting travel and constant pressure to be in the office, conflicts between school schedules and work schedules, and the insistence that work be done in the office. This is not unique to Slaughter. These are the barrier most women face with our current social and business policies, particularly in positions of power. What is more unique is her financial independence and the ability to choose family over career. A choice most working mothers, with the same maternal instincts, do not have….they struggle to simply keep what they already have. This may explain why we have over 50% women representation in low-to-mid-management positions but a very small token in top positions.
Do we want social/business policies and political platforms that keep women at home or a better gender balance in leadership that has proven over and over again to grow the businesses and economy? This brings us up to the honest dialogue about the gender gap.
When given a choice, women seem to make compromises that men are less likely to make. Of course, fathers do not love their children any less than mothers do, but men seem more likely to choose their job at a cost to their family, while women seem more likely to choose their family at a cost to their career. Whether this “choice” is culturally driven or maternal instincts (I think it is both), the reality remains that positions of power provide that choice, while lower positions are occupied by those without one.
Work-life balance is not a women’s issue—it is a social and business issue for all of us. Slaughter offers good solutions for flexible working hours, investment intervals and family-comes-first management culture….shifting the false notion of when, where and how work will be done. I agree and implemented all these suggestions in my previous C-suite position, while generating great financial results. I’d add longer maternity leave, better affordable child-care, and women’s health issues to this list—particularly pertinent for those working mothers, without a choice, who are our future leaders.
Many men, just like women, would like this cultural change too, but we need to redefine what success looks like. Her article sites research proving that organizations with extensive work-family policies have better performance. So, what do you think is stopping politicians, specially female politicians who fight so hard for women’s votes, from addressing these issues? We keep hearing that children are our future, but are they paying any respect to our future when it comes to working mothers?
I don’t have any kids, so this is not personal for me. But I care and believe in policies that support women not to choose between family and career. I can afford my own insurance, so taking away women’s right to have health insurance pay for birth control is not personal for me. But I care and believe in women’s reproductive rights, equal pay for equal work, and the freedom to “choose.” Professional success with real commitment to family life–with or without kids–is important to everyone. Don’t you think it’s more about country’s social and business policies than women’s lack of ambition, as often repeated by the status quo?
Political campaigns are rightfully centered on job creation and keeping women and men employed. But they are missing a greater point on how to support families when they are employed. A big opportunity in closing the gender gap in leadership, as well as political votes. You see, it’s time to have an honest dialogue about the gender gap.
We’ve come a long way from Cinderella and Snow White stories. Our pop culture only remembers the beautiful young women being saved by the strong handsome Prince and Hero archetypes. We often forget there was always the powerful, evil force in these children movies who was always a woman too. We can see both these archetypes play out in Halloween costumess: sexy or deadly.
Today, Angelina Jolie is the new James Bond and we even see Helen Mirren handle a gun as a deadly spy. Even the fall 2011 TV lineup is full of intriguing portrayals of women, from NBC’s Prime Suspect to Against the Wall on Lifetime, a channel traditionally portraying women as victims. You don’t have to like Sex and the City or the fashions to appreciate the four female archetypes the characters play. As we see and experience a rise in women’s power and diversify women’s social roles, are we merely replacing gender for the same social roles? Would women do it differently?
Different female archetypes in movies, stories and TV shows represent beliefs and values that enable modern society to understand and appreciate the evolving roles of women. We’ve always had, and still have, Demeter-style nurturers, the Aphrodite-like lovers as well as Artemis huntresses. I view archetypes as powerful forces and energies that operate within us, versus cultures and stereotypes that are forces operating and acting upon us. Culture is a way of life, collective learned behaviors reflecting shared values and beliefs. As history and environment change, culture evolves by adapting to those changes.
Although more than half of prehistorical pieces have been destroyed and lost, there is overwhelming archeological and historical evidence that proves both men and women worshiped the Goddess-Mother. Property was passed through the mother’s lineage. Goddess worship was equated to responsibility, nurture, give and love – rather than domination, destruction, oppression, privilege and fear. Her powers were oneness with nature – humans, animals, plants, water, sky and earth – a popular theme that is emerging in ecological survival in modern times. Why and how we shifted to a Patriarch society and whether there is a correlation between return to the “Mother” values and rise of women is a whole chapter in my book. But the question remains would gender balance in the top 1% change the infrastructure of our social and financial model. I started thinking about the old 70s movie Planet of Apes. Didn’t the Apes do the same thing to humans when the power was shifted? Would any of us do anything different if we were billionaires facing threats of loosing some of the billions that we own?
These are the questions that each of us should be asking ourselves if we truly want to experience a cultural transformation where performance and prosperity meet ethical values in leadership. Power, lust and greed can be very gender neutral. I for one like to believe that women will do it differently. We do have the “natural” capabilities of nurturing and giving. The key is not to loose those qualities in positions of wealth and power. Because that’s easy to do, specially given our history and social model. There is much talk about soft (feminine) versus hard (masculine) powers. I’d like to call it smart, ethical powers that is very androgynous. Think of Gandhi and Nelson Mandela as male role models. Think of Shirin Ebadi and Kavita Ramdas as female activists who integrate aspects of tradition and community to overturn oppression, challenging the very notion of western models of development.
I am working on defining a modern woman archetype, and would love to hear your thoughts.
We are living in a business world of downward forecasts, slipping GDP growth, shrinking middle class, declining consumer confidence and spending, erratic stock market, and…yes…financial earthquake. And yet, behaviors and mindsets are all the same. Most economists don’t forecast an improvement until 2018. What should leaders do in a time when everyone is pinched so hard? How do we shape the path forward?
I attended a leadership seminar earlier this year in Atlanta, and was amazed by how all speakers were saying the same things for years with slightly different terminologies. The new buzz word in the business world is influential leadership. While that’s good, it lacks the fundamental shift that we need in our thought process and actions.
A few thought leaders have touched on the high need for “feminine values” and “soft powers”, but none of them clearly defined these terms that seem to be loaded with polarizing reactions. That’s why I have developed emotional and cultural frameworks for my consulting business, to steer away from gender stereotyping of these critical business and leadership models. This will be explained in details in my book, but I’d like to share a few highlights with my loyal readers.
Riane Eisler in her book “The Chalice & The Blade” explains a remarkable Cultural Transformation theory with two very different social models: Dominator and Partnership. The Dominator model is the ranking of one half of humanity over the other. The Partnership model is based on the principle of linking rather than ranking. Feminine values are associated with creation, life generating nurturing powers and giving – versus taking, conquest and domination that are often associated with masculine values. This is not the battle of the sexes or genders, for we all know not even in our male dominated world not all women are peaceful, giving and nurturing and many men are. I am referring to human values that have become a business and social imperative in our current economic climate.
As both technology and society have grown more complex, the survival has become increasingly dependant on the direction of cultural evolution. The virtual worldwide web reveals both possibilities and cultural shadows. It reveals collaborations and alliances as well as exposing famine terror and epidemic greed leading to global financial collapse. As a result, we’ve seen a step backward to our defensive needs (food, safety, basic living essentials) instead of shifting to higher needs of growth, actualization and our interconnectedness with all of humanity. It’s time to consciously and collectively choose our own cultural evolutionary path.
Sounds too woo woo or too soft? Not really. The need to control and dominate is a feeling of powerlessness…control or be controlled. I believe it is time to redefine power as less need to limit or control other and define power as affiliation, linking and partnership. That means leaving behind the hard, conquest and domination oriented values. Replacing conformity and uniformity with individuality and diversity. Focusing more on relationships than on hierarchies. Balancing of intuition with reason and logic. Balancing competition and cooperation. Making conflict productive rather than destructive. Embracing equality, justice, freedom, openness, trust, honesty and integrity. A New World leader ought to possess all this power, and must know that it is time for a partnership society where neither half of humanity is ranked over the other, nor inclusion equated with inferiority or superiority.
I use a unique emotional and cultural framework in my consulting and speaking business that revolve around beliefs and values. I thought it’d be a good idea to share a short blog on this topic with my loyal readers.
Beliefs are the assumptions we make about ourselves and others. Convictions and concepts we hold to be true, with or without evidence. How we expect things to be, what we think is true and real. Our beliefs grow from what we see, hear, experience and think about. And beliefs manifest in what we say and do. They are the basis for decision-making and drive consumption behavior for businesses, as well as how we communicate and relate with others.
Our values stem from our beliefs. Values are about how we think things or people ought to be in terms of qualities and guiding principles that are important to us – such as honesty, integrity, loyalty, trust, openness, freedom, peace, happiness, empathy, compassion, equality, faithfulness, etc. While some values are universal in unanimous global agreement – such as honesty, integrity, peace – many values vary based on culture, religion, and beliefs that are widely shared and rarely questioned.
I’ve seen many companies post their values on their web site. Some even mark leadership, innovation and customer focus as values. And why not. They are beliefs that are widely shared and rarely questioned. But I’d ask….are your values aligned with those of your customers and relationships that are important to you?
If you have any intentions to grab a piece of the $2 trillion marketplace that is multicultural and youthful where women have become key players, you may want to consider these values as thought starters in your cultural and emotional frameworks for marketing messages :
- Multicultural: Trust, Acceptance, Respect, Understanding
- Women: Trust, Equality, Thoughtfulness, Service
- Youth: Inspiration, Creativity, Freedom, Adventure
Yes, there are more…and with commonalities. Find them, communicate them, but most importantly, be honest and authentic about them. Your fans will know the difference.