There is a lot of hype and discussion around diversity and inclusion these days. Advocates believe that diversity will increase profitability and productivity. However, gender or ethnicity alone cannot and will not bring about the desired outcome of diversity. After all, a wolf in lamb skin is still a wolf. If you hire a bunch of women who for so out of touch with their femininity that they are for all intents and purposes men, how would this create true diversity?
Is it a step in the right direction? Absolutely! However, it is important to recognize that diversity and inclusion is complex and nuanced especially in the context of the current male-dominated system of many organizations. What will determine true diversity will be a cultural shift that honors, respects and embraces different values, point of views, and ultimately femininity.
What then is the femininity?
Holistic vs. Specialized
The feminine is holistic while the masculine is specialized. Neuroscientist have discovered the different level of development of the white and grey matter in the brain indeed support this statement. The grey matter which is the data processing centers are activated ten times more tin men. While white matter, which is the networking channels that connect the grey matter, is activated seven times more in women. This translates to focus and tunnel-vision in men while women are able to take a more holistic view of the situation.
In hunter gatherers societies, this allowed men to be able to focus on prey and successfully provide for the tribe. With the over developed white matter in women, women were able to make sure she can keep an eye on the young while tending the fire preparing a meal.
As civilization started to move away from these tribal societies to massive urban centers, men started to dominate and control the various social organizations with some not so desirable manifestations. One area where this shows up clearly is medicine. Hippocrates, father of modern medicine, believed in the holistic treatment of the body. His first course of treatment was change in diet. In modern times, with the specialization of different fields within medicine, holistic approaches are considered “alternative” not the primary course of action. This resulted in a sharp rise in chronic ailments that do not respond well to modern medicine.
Also, specialized and focused vision can result in short-term view of any situation which led to the current society addicted to instant gratification and tendency of loss of long term gain for short term results.
Intuitive vs. Empirical
Being more holistic in nature, the feminine is more intuitive than the masculine. Intuition comes from a “feeling” or “knowing that cannot explained or measured. The masculine is empirical. What cannot be witnessed or measured is dismissed by the masculine as mere superstition, woo-woo non-sense. We fail to recognize that tools of measurement evolve, and these means of measurement of even 30 years ago are considered crude by modern standards.
The human eye and ears can only capture a minute portion of the true range of light and sound that surrounds us daily. An insistence on empirical evidence at the expense of intuition can only result in a partial view of the world around us.
Collaborative vs. Competitive
Being the mother of two boys, while growing up with no male siblings or cousins around, I perused through a number of parenting book for boys. My main take away was the importance of “pack” and their pecking order within it. A masculine society is competitive by nature and Mother Nature designed it precisely that way to ensure the successful evolution of the species. The strongest, healthiest, and most desirable were able to mate and produce progeny. It is no wonder that there is so much ego and puffing up of the chest in the masculine world.
On the other hand, the feminine depended upon collaboration to survive in tribal society. To be likeable and procuring favors was the main currency among women. As the old saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. While the unbalanced masculine results in an over-inflated ego and a tyrannical nature, the unbalanced feminine gives way to self-doubt, lack of independent thought and overly giving nature, essentially a doormat.
Emotional vs Logical
The feminine is emotional while the masculine is logical. While the logical is conscious and mental the emotional is mysterious and embodied. Emotion is a physical experience. Take a look at this thermal imaging of human emotions. Does it leave any doubt in your mind that emotions are a physical phenomenon?
On the other hand, logic is a conceptual exercise. The mind unlike the human body, which is anchored to the present moment, is not limited by time and space.
Renown neuroscientist Oliver Saks described a fascinating case of a successful lawyer who had a car accident resulting in severe damage to the amygdala. After a lengthy recovery period, he seemed to have fully regained his brain functions and returned to work. However, after a few months, a curious development caused him to visit Dr. Saks. As a lawyer, he could precisely analyze and list pros and cons of any case, yet he could not make a decision as to course of action to take. Dr. Saks discovered through this patient that human decision making is ultimately emotional not logical.
Masculine society shames emotions as unprofessional, and this often used as the reason why women are not fit for leadership positions. If Dr. Saks’ assertions are correct, then an individual who is overly logical and lacks emotional competency is less capable clear and effective decision making thus less likely to be a successfully leader.
Embodied Being vs. Active Doing
The holistic, intuitive, collaborative, emotional leads to a state of being, while the specialized, empirical, competitive, and logical leads to a state of doing. Spiritual teachers have stated that the feminine is a magnetic force while the masculine is electric force. In magnetic force, its very nature is what creates movement (i.e. attract or repel), while an electric force affects change by an active disruption of its object.
In Neuro Linguistic Programming practices, the End State Energy, which is an emotional and embodied state of being when one achieves a desired outcome, is utilized to create momentum and clarity in the present moment. Without the right state of being, active doing will result in spinning your wheels with no tangible results.
But is femininity unique to and solely possessed by women?
The Taoist philosophy of Yin and Yang is perhaps a more accurate understanding of polarity in nature, often interpreted as feminine and masculine in the Western world. The Taoist definition of these opposing polarities is not limited to or dictated by gender alone.
I have met and worked with many women who were more specialized than holistic, competitive than collaborative, and more logical than emotional. In fact, many of my female clients fall in this category, and further, I have noticed how their inability to embrace and honor their femininity results in difficulty in romantic relationships and chronic health problems. Embracing and honoring feminine qualities in women, men, and society at large is what is needed to create a paradigm shift in culture and ultimately lead to diversity and inclusion.