Gender Innovation Time

‘This is where I stand …’

A few years ago, on a trip to Ecuador, I stood for a second or two with one foot in the Southern Hemisphere and one in Northern Hemisphere, and in a triumphant moment I gleefully exclaimed, “I know no boundaries; I am a child of the universe!”

The tiny country of Ecuador sits perched on the shoulder of South America with the equator, for which the country literally takes its name, running through it at exactly zero degrees latitude, north or south.

For a moment, I was neither above the line, nor below the line. I was, in fact, occupying both spaces. It made me think of the effective practice of “Gender Physics.”

I believe we are at our best when we integrate the attributes of our opposite gender with the characteristics of our own gender and when we step seamlessly from one side to the other we can claim both, be both, experience both.

Getting Blogged Down 

My sense is that the world is, minute by minute, action by action, moving steadily forward on a revolutionary course whereby men and women are evolving towards a state of gender balance.

However, given our history, it remains a challenging destination, and a man posted the following comment on one of my blogs recently.

Men resist embracing female traits,” he wrote. “We don’t want to be feminized. We don’t want to become women in male bodies.

Wouldn’t it be better to drop the labels feminine and masculine and just have one class of ‘Human Traits’ he suggested. Then we can decide which human traits are better without the gender classification. Men will then be free to embrace them without “fear of becoming feminized.”

In principle I agree with the comment.

We should drop the labels and forget about saying some attributes are masculine while others are feminine. We are both part of the whole and complete human beings will use the attributes of both genders interchangeably.

Walk a Mile in My Shoes

Women who have been working in male dominated environments will sometimes lean to masculine behaviours for simple survival. That’s the easy route, of course, because our society is in general lead by a belief that masculine trumps feminine every time.

Expecting men to step in our shoes (can you even find a size 14 stilletto?) is a tad more difficult. Our society views all things feminine to “less than.” What man will want to experience our hemisphere if it means a step down?

Even women will denounce ‘girlie stuff’ so as to show no any sign of weakness and I admit to behaving that way from time to time. We have learned from men, and we have much to share with them about how we work best.

Fear of the Feminine

The fear of the feminine holds us all back and, until men can accept the feminine in themselves, they will have trouble accepting in others. It prevents women and men from achieving equal status – and finding a true gender balance in the world.

I have, of course, been writing and speaking about gender balance and the need to move towards a metamorphous of male and female for some time and I am pleased to report I am seeing my thoughts re-enforced and coming back at me in the pages of some of our most respected publications.

New York Times columnist, Anand Giridharadas, writes recently that in post-industrial western-styled economies, maleness is becoming less relevant as “words and clicks outrank brawn and relating is more important than commanding.”

An article in “The Atlantic” argues that women are moving forward at lightning speed and that every success of a woman is metal for the success of another.

The “International Herald Tribune” follows with the idea that there is worldwide transition to a gender-equal, globalized services-dominated economy where one’s chromosomes do not determine advantage or disadvantage.

Success at work and in the world comes from the capacity to innovate – and we are not just talking about widgets – we are talking about innovating with actions, attitudes, ideas. Men of strength with realize the advantages of the feminine within.

Innovation of Genders

I’m not advocating that men should start lighting scented candles or dressing up as “Tootsie.” But, it is time for them to quit longing for the past when “women were women and men were men” and start developing their feminine side

There are lots of ways to do this. For example, a program at Columbia Business School teaches sensitive leadership and social intelligence including better reading of facial expressions and body language.

All it takes is motivation which will come from setting aside fear and embracing the feminine. It’s a great compliment to the masculine and that’s where wholeness resides.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all move forward together as complete children of the whole universe?