Betty-Ann's Both Sides Blog

Build Trust in an Eroding Environment by Developing the Feminine

At a recent social gathering, I floated from group to group and listened to concerns of rising global terrorism, suspicions of unbiased media reports and fears of populist world leaders who are playing to supporters rather than upholding the laws of their systems. Trust is increasingly becoming untethered but it is not yet time to throw up our hands in hopelessness. Instead, there are actions we can engage in to stem deteriorating trust, while fostering a feeling of safety and balance in our lives. We can do this by tapping into our feminine side.

According to the 2017 Edelman Global Trust Barometer, only 15 percent of the general population (globally) believe the current system is working. Their research found that two-thirds of the countries surveyed now distrust institutions to do what is right, that trust in leaders is at an all-time low, and that people are pessimistic this has any chance to improve.

Despite these discouraging findings, Edelman’s report showed that businesses are the most trusted of the institutions calling them ‘the last retaining wall’. They have the greatest opportunity to reverse the current trust implosion and to do so, they recommend businesses offer high quality products and services, treat employees well (as they are the most trusted spokespeople), and listen to customers.

Businesses can attain these goals by hiring and promoting those who embrace their feminine energy to counterbalance the often overly masculine culture that plagues many companies. Being of service, forming relationships and listening are all attributes we attribute with the feminine and achieving these behaviours will come most readily by increasing the profile and responsibilities of women in organizations.

Society believes that women should be nurturing and ‘other-oriented’ so girls are socialized to stop a game if other’s feelings are hurt and repair the relationship. Females are also conditioned to be collaborative, consensus seeking managers, concerned for the collective. While not ‘all women’ display these attributes, based on my experience, approximately 70 percent of them do, especially when they operate in larger groups and are given the opportunity to reinforce one another.

Exercising these ‘feminine’ skills are what is needed in our current environment to build bonds and break the trust death spiral. Many organizations do not embrace the concept of the importance of this need for balance, and fully one third of global businesses have no women in senior management and that number hasn’t changed since 2011, according to Catalyst.

While females are socialized to be inclusive, males are praised and appreciated for being competitive and autonomously acting in their own self-interest. When too many of them come together, these attributes are often amplified. This can result in the belief that rather than listening, they have the right to monopolize the conversation and rather than taking the time to build support they have the right to find power by domination. It is not uncommon for them to believe ‘what is good for me is good for everyone’ and these attitudes are the genesis of our current crisis of trust. A new word has developed from this dominating behavior- mansplaining, which is the act of explaining something to a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing. While this term to some may seem humorous, it is a snapshot of what is prevalent and unfortunately acceptable behavior in our society.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Each of us are individuals made up of a myriad of characteristics, many of which are not aligned with stereotypical gender conditioning. Men can change the leadership narrative by bringing themselves into balance and demonstrating these crucial feminine attributes. When they do, it can garner tremendous results. Take, for example, the Paris Climate Change Talks in December 2015. World leaders, both men and women, came together to discuss the runaway climate change and it was the first time in history that 196 countries joined forces in a determined effort to save our planet.

Nigel Topping, the chief executive of We Mean Business, a coalition of hundreds of the world’s biggest and most progressive companies, told HUFF Post that bringing the feminine into the diplomacy was critical to reaching an agreement. And that it was present partly due to the women at the table but also because the men who participated looked beyond an egocentric need to compete and fostered the power of collaboration in their desire to reach an agreement.

When men come to appreciate the feminine in themselves, they will appreciate it more in others, making them more prone to elevate women with these characteristics in their organizations. Increasing this power of the feminine will bring more balance to the system and provide our greatest opportunity to assuage the concerns of global citizens who are losing their trust in their world. It doesn’t matter what your gender, by exercising this important feminine energy part of yourself you can be part of the movement to give up gender and get down to business!