Balance for Better: Reflections on International Women’s Day 2019

IWD 8th MarchAs a speaker and trainer, especially in the Diversity and Inclusion sector, International Women’s Day can be an day of overwhelm.  It can almost become three of four days of overwhelm.  The number of events that you can get invited to speak at or to attend. For me it often involved multiple cities, as it did this year.

This year it started on the 7th March in Livingstone, which is in the Scottish Central Belt between Glasgow and Edinburgh (although it is closer to Edinburgh), in  Oracles offices there.  I was invited by the West Lothian Women in Business Network to speak at their International Women’s Day Event looking at Balance around Mental Health and being a woman in male dominated fields.

It was a great morning, sharing the stage with two other amazing women. The most interesting thing was that even in getting what on the surface appeared to be three very different women, we did have quite a bit in common and it did draw together under balance theme, with a little adventure thrown in! You can find out more about that event in the LinkedIn article I wrote that afternoon.

I was then off to London that evening, as I had originally meant to be speaking at an event on the 8th but as often happens they failed to get back to me in a timely manner, so I decided to treat myself, and rather than speak at event (especially since I was speaking at an event on Saturday), I enrolled to attend an event instead. I headed off to spend a day with business women, and a few like minded men, gaining wisdom and insights from Fabienne Fredrickson on growing business the ‘feminine’ way.

Whilst I got some great insights and learned so much that I will be applying to my business from this event, it is actually some of the comments that came out in it that have given me more food for thought. Comments such as:

For 5000 years we have been rewarded for leading and succeeding the masculine way. This is so ingrained that we don’t even question it. (Fabienne Fredrickson)

The masculine way in question here is a business format which rewards 90 hour weeks, having someone Gender balance else stay home and look after the family (although a truly successful business leader has a family!), and it is all about beating the competition down any way you can.

The feminine energy side of this, will bring balance. It looks to collaboration at its core. This masculine feminine split goes back to the men going out, mostly on their own, to hunt, and the women staying at ‘home’ and working together in order to look after the children, gather agricultural based foods and look after the home space. If you take this further, they also worked together to protect each other. Hence the reason we assign these energies the way we do.

If you want to look at it from a modern perspective, it has been found that collaboration works. Working together to help business grow from a business to business perspective. From a inside business perspective, when inetrnatl teams collaborate productivity increases, systems come together better and the organisation experiences growth and sustainability as they are able to move together in order to overcome problems for a common goal.

We all use both energies. It is part of the balance of who we are as human beings. So why do we find it so hard to accept this balance into our businesses?

Why do we feel the need to just look at one energy for business?

This leads me to the second statement that resinated

I feel chocked, I feel stifled

EnginerThis was from a fellow female engineer with regards to the feeling of being push to be more feminine when in actual fact she feels more comfortable with the ‘masculine’ traits she has.

This one raised one of my pet points on gender and personality. Whilst as an engineer and physicist I believe in energy and the fact that it balances and cannot be destroyed, I do not believe in the often subscribed view that there are masculine and feminine personality traits. I could totally relate to this woman, and it is something that often comes up, not just on International Women’s Day (but a little more often) for me. As a female that has personality traits that are given a male gender, I get frustrated not just with the men say I’m one of the ‘boys’ because of them but the women who accuse me of taking on masculine traits to get ahead.

Let us look at competition. We do say this is a masculine energy and in truth there is a mahority of men that have this trait.  There are also women who do and we didn’t pick it up from men. I have been a competitive wee thing from my early memories of me. Even as a small child I was extremely competitive. As someone who is dyspraxic, this didn’t work too well for me in the athlectic arena but I will say it did academically. A bit of health competition never hurt anyone. Having said that it is one of the key personality traits that I am often accused of being male with.

The other is the fact that I am very logical. It is part of what makes me a good engineer. Once again, logic and reasoning based in things is not of itself masculine, it is just when we look at things like the Myer-Briggs Profile, approximately 72% of males have this trait whilst only 26% of females have it, with the majority, 74%, of females being more at home with the logic and reasoning based in people trait.  I am guessing at the moment that those males who sit in the minority will be able to understend where I am coming from.

I get frustrated with this because I am very much a female. I identify as a woman, I look like a woman and I most certainly have tastes and desires that are considered to be feminine but put me in a boardroom and I am often tarred as being ‘bossy’ or a ‘bitch’ because I am being ‘masculine’.

Actually, I am being me. The full me I have always been. A blunt, honest ‘Aussie Sheila’ who loves a challenge.

The final statement that hit me and had me think was:

I don’t need [male partner] but I chose him.

I will take this a step further, we can say this for partners male, female and everything in between. The point is that if we create balance in our personal lives it is someone we have chosen (and been lucky enough to have them chose us back) that helps to make us a more balanced person. Often they will fill gaps in our experience, knowledge or way of doing things. If they are anything like my partner, who I most definitely chose, they balance us out. My partner brings me back down to earth when I go to fly off, he brings the human back into the equation when I get  lost in the technical logic, as I said he balances me.’

So this does bring me round to my conclusion. We need to create more balance and this is only going to be created in we have true inclusion.  The real issue is not that we should be more masculine or feminine or more something else but that we should be inclusive. When we force someone to be someone they are not we are excluding them.

The current business model is exculsive.

It is based upon a white male ideal that has been in place for thousands of years. In order to create sustainability into the future, close the gender pay gap, close the gender (and so much more) leadership gap, we need to get inclusive.

We need to do more than tick boxes.

At the end of the day the real reason International Women’s Day leaves me feeling overwhelmed is because every year I get reminded my men and women alike just how much it is still needed because we still haven’t got the fundamentals of change in place.

We are still ticking boxes when what we need to be doing is changing practices to make them truly inclusive.

IMG_2231As the comic that does the round saying that we are creating an ‘equal test’ by getting everyone to climb a tree regardless of they are shows, ticking a box on paper does not translate to inclusive practices. Until this happen we will still skew to the past of imbalance rather than balance.

 

About The Author

Maggie Georgopoulos

Author | Speaker | Consultant Maggie works with women who are looking to reach their full leadership potential through her Up the Ladder in a Skirt Program.

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