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Posts Tagged ‘Occupy Wall Street’

With Herman Cain’s candidacy on suspension and Occupy Wall Street protests being shut down (though not silenced), I got to thinking about some things. Things like inequality, male privilege, and the circumstances that allow them to continue–and which are the forces that tie such seemingly disparate things as political sexual scandal and outrageous economic inequality together.

Let’s start with the sex. (This ain’t my first time to the rodeo: I know how to keep a reader engaged.) What do you think it is that allows a man to pull a woman’s face to his crotch with the smooth line, “You want a job, don’t you?”, cheat on his wife for 13 years–in a relationship that sounds to amount to little more than a cool exchange of goods for services–and then to run for the highest office in the land–basically offering himself up for scrutiny under the most intense microscope in the land–with nary a worry that he’ll be caught?

Some might say arrogance. I’d tend to agree. And I’d go further: when it comes to arrogance, the corporate world as it currently exists may be the greatest enabler around. In the context of the workplace, arrogance–and its close cousins: aggressiveness, ambition, and risk-taking–is rewarded. Power is a great big ego-stroke: people treat you differently when you’ve got it; you believe you’ve earned that special treatment. And that sense of entitlement leads to behavior of epically bad proportions.

The same could be said on the macro level: power (and money) is viewed as an end unto itself–what an organization might actually do with this wealth and influence is viewed as beside the point. He who dies with the most toys wins, right? And if that’s the paradigm, is the inequity encapsulated in Occupy’s rallying cry–we are the 99%–any wonder?

How did that happen? A case can be made that this inequity is a result of a totally lopsided definition of power and a completely unbalanced way in which it is valued and exerted. In a world where, for centuries, men have held the bulk of the power and built the very structures of this society unchecked, it’s not difficult to see how we’ve arrived at this point: What we’re seeing is the result of an overvaluation of the masculine strengths — machismo — run a-freaking-mok.

How can we be anything but completely out of balance when a man thinks it’s somehow appropriate to suggest a blow job in exchange for a job-job? When the top 1% of the people in the country control over 40% of the wealth?

When the woman who dares to speak out about her experience with the man in power is subjected to a complete autopsy of her “character,” while the man is allowed to deny–no matter that his accusers outnumber him by a factor of–well, what is it now? 6?

When women continue to be paid unequally for the same work (in DC, a woman makes 89 cents to the man’s dollar; in Wyoming, only 65 cents)? When

After the worst economic downturn in nearly a century, men continue to earn more than women in 361 metropolitan areas in the country, an annual survey by the Census Bureau found. If current trends continue, it will take 45 years for women’s salaries to equal that of men’s, research by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows.

So what would it take to bring things into balance? To redefine what it means to have–and wield–power in the world? To value compassion and equality as much as status and market share? To realize that a properly functioning human being has some measure of all of these opposing qualities–both the feminine and the masculine–and that a properly functioning society should, as well?

To quote Gloria Steinem:

‘Sometimes people say to me, at my age, well aren’t you interested in something other than women’s issues?’ she said. ‘And I say ‘show me one. Show me one that isn’t transformed by including both halves of the population.’

Indeed.

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What’s the Occupy Wall Street movement–an ongoing, multi-city protest against corporate greed, cronyism and inequity–got to do with gender politics, you ask? I say: everything.

The movement’s rallying cry is this: We are the 99%. As in, 1% of the population holds the bulk of the wealth and the power in this country, leaving 99% of us struggling to find enough of either to survive.

How did that happen? A case can be made that this inequity is a result of a totally lopsided definition of power, and a completely unbalanced way in which it is valued and exerted in the world. In a world where, for centuries, men have held the bulk of the power and built the very structures of this society unchecked, it’s not difficult to see how we’ve arrived at this point: what we’re seeing is the result of an overvaluation of the masculine strengths–machismo run a-freaking-mok.

As Dr. Judy Rosener told us, there are significant–and proven–differences in the ways men and women operate when they find themselves in a position of power. (Yes, we know, we’re not supposed to say that out loud! After all, if we’re different, one must be better, and one must be…worse, right?) Chief among them:

Women view power as a means to an end to do something; men view power as an end unto itself. Women negotiate in a win-win manner; men negotiate in a win-lose manner.

In fact, the very definition of what it means to have power is a paradigm that’s now, I’d argue, ripe for a serious shift; one that integrates more of the Feminine aspect into the way that power is wielded in the world. When the word power is understood to mean “Power Over,” all but the most powerful are left to find an unempowered place within the system. Whereas another idea–”Power With”–might emphasize collaboration and the empowerment of others, a system that can foster a real sense of ownership and caring.

We dug deeply into this subject in our book, and the more we learned, the more we became convinced. There’s science to back up gender differences in behavior–and there’s statistics to show what happens in corporations where women are included in the highest ranks, the benefits that are reflected in the bottom line.

For example, did you know that, according to Catalyst, companies with significant numbers of women in management have a much higher return on investment? Or that when work teams are equally split between men and women, they are more productive?

Additionally, women are far more willing to go out on a limb and act as the conscience of their organizations. Yes, it’s long been believed that men are the natural born risk-takers, but according to Dr. Rosener, it depends what kind of risk we’re talking about. The kind of risk that one takes with the encouragement of an audience (think Deal or No Deal… or shortsighted shareholders) is the kind at which men tend to excel. The other, which Rosener calls “moral risk,” is the kind that one takes in spite of the audience’s disapproval. And this is the kind at which women excel.

The thing is, historically, women haven’t had much power or position in corporate America. Only a generation ago were want-ads segregated by gender. So it’s no surprise that, as Elizabeth Lesser, author and founder of the Omega Institute, told us:

The feminine has been left out of what we consider to be the most important way of exerting power in the world [and] it’s not thriving in many women, and it’s not thriving in men.

Nor is it thriving in the structures and institutions built by men.

Of course in the opening salvos of women’s migration into the workforce our strategy was to blend in: We were afraid (and rightly so) that if we came at an issue differently, we’d be seen as weak–or worse, tossed out of the boardroom completely. There was a time for blending in. But we’ve shown we can play their game. The time has come to change the rules.

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