September 26, 2012
Delee Fromm is one of those rare childhood friends whose life and interests have mirrored my own. As I have delved into a new area of interest it has been fun and rewarding to find that she is exploring it as well and we’ve had many wonderful discussions through the decades. I wanted to share our most recent conversation with you so she submitted this blog.
In a recent blog Betty Ann described a situation where senior women, used to the competitive work world, used one-up-man ship Masculine Energy in a networking setting with other women instead of more appropriate softer, Feminine Energy approaches. She used a quote of mine about senior women who had climbed to the top of organizations using predominately masculine energy and then were told they were too direct – a not-so-subtle way of telling them they needed to soften up and use relational behaviors more associated with Feminine Energy.
It made me realize that now, more and more, I am being asked to coach young women at the other end of the continuum who are correctly seen to have great potential by their firms or corporations, however, they appear to “lack confidence”; women who show feminine gendered habits that are incorrectly interpreted through the masculine lenses of business.
So what are these gendered feminine habits that are misinterpreted -- habits that have everything to do with being raised as a girl, and nothing to do with ability, intelligence or knowledge? They include, apologies when not at fault, avoiding self-promotion, taking up less space, self-deprecating verbally, striving for achievement and not influence, being more cooperative than assertive, asking a lot of questions but not asking for what you want or need -- in a nutshell, reducing inter-personally. Please don’t get me wrong – these gendered behaviors are all valid and meaningful ways of interacting when used appropriately but not when used habitually or excessively, especially in a masculine work world.
So how does one become more versatile and flexible? To be able to use both masculine and feminine gendered behaviors more appropriately? The first step is by becoming more aware. Aware of when we use them, how often we use them, how such behaviors are perceived by others, and how they align with our goals.
To put it into Gender Physics terms -- knowing how to flex back and forth between Masculine and Feminine Energy and balancing these energies appropriately for the circumstances; knowing when to support and when to command, when to collaborate and when to direct, when to fall back and when to charge ahead.
For example in the arena of self-promotion – the awareness piece comes from knowing why we don’t like to do it. In my seminars, without fail, women indicate their unease with self-promotion and realize the discomfort often comes from an authority voice recorded during childhood that says “don’t toot your own horn” and “no one likes a show off” and “others feel bad if you brag about your marks so keep them to yourself” and “the biggest nail gets the hardest whack”. This last phrase came from an Asian client with the wonderful recognition that national culture, like being a Canadian, can sometimes provide yet another layer of discomfort when talking about oneself.
This awareness of why we feel uncomfortable is the beginning of consciously determining when it’s appropriate to use our self-promotion skills. This conscious discernment allows us to fully express ourselves without any resistance and to tell others what we do, the unique skills we possess and the passion we bring to it. In a subsequent blog I will discuss in detail the specific skills and awareness involved in promoting yourself without the angst –what I call Bragalicious ©.
Staying in our socialized gender behaviours is what I call Gender Pull. Stepping over into our Masculine Energy and promoting ourselves is Smart Risk but it all starts with awareness. Thanks to the financial sponsorship of Areva Resources, Delee came to Saskatoon and gave a presentation to our Womentorship program at the Edwards School of Business. Our participants really enjoyed her ideas. Don’t you agree that it is important for us to have these conversations?