There is a real risk that in the pursuit for parity and equality of opportunity we may miss the real opportunity for transformational growth. The more equitable appointment of women into positions of power, authority and control may merely represent a shuffling of the deckchairs. The real transformative change is to shift not only who plays the game of business, but also how it is played and ultimately transform the very game itself.
At its core the game of business is played on the core economic assumption of scarcity. This is a breeding ground for our patriarchal society. There is not enough to go around so the competition for limited economics resources is fuelled by power plays, combative strategies, fear and greed and competition. We start business from this paradigm and regardless of who sits in the big chair it is still a combative world. This is the masculine world. It is primal.
Our business lexicon is full of metaphors of war. Sport and business are also metaphors of war. We compete, takeover, hire and fire, target customers, launch products, take massive action, seize control, buyout, churn and bone staff.
It is my contention that there are three stages on the pathway to a more heart centric model of business. This model is less reliant on institutionalised business entities. In fact it thrives outside the corridors of power because the corridors of power are part of the problem of our patriarchal society. The three stages are:
1. The old (masculine) game of business is played in a dominant masculine way.
2. The old (masculine) game of business is played in a more feminine way.
3. A new feminine game of business is played in a more feminine way.
It is worth exploring what exactly masculine and feminine means in this context for it is not based on gender.
What is the masculine?
There are many ways to describe the masculine. Drawing from ancient wisdom, shamanism, spiritual teachings, eastern philosophy and holistic perspective we can see that the masculine is individualisation. We you stand apart, aside, up for a cause you are exercising your masculine aspect. It doesn't have to be an aggressive energy but it all too often is. When you do any of the following you are expressing your masculine – make a decision, have a preference, say "No", promote yourself, take action, quantify a measure. The linear thought processes of reading, writing and arithmetic are masculine modes of learning, as are logic, linear thoughts. Science through the study of observable facts is also masculine.
What is the feminine?
The feminine is the field of infinite potential. It is unrealised. It is the potential for something to arise or be made manifest on this earthly plain. If it were a number it would be infinity whereas the masculine would be one. When you are broadening your perspective you are exploring your feminine aspect. It diversifies rather than narrows. It holds space into which possibilities may arise. The space is the feminine, the arising is the masculine. They go together. They are inseparable.
In business we see the feminine commonly through symbols, stories, metaphors, images, spatial elements. We listen during conversations, we pause. We regenerate. The notion of work/life balance is relevant because it is the silence or the quiet contemplation or reflection that reconnects us to our spark of life itself. The feminine is spiritual in its essence because of this interconnectedness.
Towards a path with heart
In practical terms the rise of this feminine energy will transform how we do business and why we do business. it is less about profit maximisation than it is about the collective sustainability of our planet, resources and wellbeing of mankind. For this reason we find it prevalent in small business, private enterprise and self-employed people because they aren't in pursuit of profit maximisation. They aren't working to an agenda of maximising shareholder value. For sure, they seek profitability but it is this obsession with growth that is different along with balanced representation of all stakeholders interests. It is inclusive.
* originally published 1-Nov-12