What women aged over 35 think of power

What women aged over 35 think of power

A very interesting piece of research on women and power was published by Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Melinda Marshall of the Center for Talent Innovation in 2015.

They surveyed professional women, between the ages of 35 and 50, in the US, the UK and Germany to find out what they wanted.

It was discovered that they want they same things that professional men want.

  • to feel in control of their career
  • to have their work recognised
  • to find meaning and purpose through their work
  • to be able to empower others
  • to have financial security

The difference that was found between women and men is this. Men in this age group sustain their interest in the importance of power and seek it. Women lose their interest in power, as they get older.

The report continued with recommendations for employers on how to encourage and retain talented women. They quote the following data from another US study.

Women without Power

Ability to flourish    18%

Ability to excel       70%

Feeling purpose      26%

Feeling empowered 14%

Contrast this with –

Women with Power

Ability to flourish    58%

Ability to excel       87%

Feeling purpose      63%

Feeling empowered 61%

Here the word power means ‘powerful position’.

I think the figures are on the low side even for women with the power of position, excepting the opportunity to excel. Those figures mean that 42% of women in powerful positions do not feel that they are flourishing. 47% do not find meaning and purpose through their work. 49% neither feel empowered nor feel they have the opportunity to empower others.

No wonder, in the UK, women leaders are the fastest growing segment of self employed entrepreneurs (reported by Jean Martin in the Guardian, May 2015).

The biggest drop out of women from the corporate world comes at the mid career point.

While it might be easy to assume that this is for work/life balance while raising children, this may not be the full story.

Apparently, a whopping 38% of American women, 39% of British women and 41% of German women aged 35-50 do not have children.

Do you think this could mean that as many women drop out due to disillusionment, as due to wanting better work/life balance?

In my experience:

People opt out when they believe their current circumstances won’t change.

People opt out when they are fed up with the feeling of hitting their head against a brick wall.

People opt out when the environment that they are in is not conducive to their growth or in alignment with their values.

In the 1980’s (yes I was in the workforce then and can speak from personal experience) women’s empowerment was all about breaking the ‘glass ceiling’. And some women succeeded.

Is it possible that the new wave of women leaders are not as interested in proving themselves within male dominated environments?

Just maybe they don’t lose their interest in power. Maybe they lose their interest in the forms of power that prevail!

If so, by opting out they are saying no to something that doesn’t work for them and yes to something that could.

It makes no sense that women would lose their interest in power as they get older, given that wisdom traditions the world over consider the menopausal transition as being a passage to power for women.

Is it possible that women that ‘drop out’ are really ‘dropping’ into tune with their innate feminine power? 

It interests me that women may be opting out in their peri-menopausal and menopausal years driven unconsciously by biological impulses.

If you are one of those women, I can help you to reframe the whole topic of power – in order to step into your most powerful and significant expression yet.

The difference between female, feminine and Feminine

The difference between female, feminine and Feminine

I’ve been dialoguing about the explosion of interest in Feminine leadership with the wise women that I know.

We agree that women are awakening and claiming power – spiritual, sexual, financial and heartfelt, hard earned wisdom.

But is female leadership the same as Feminine leadership?

I personally think there is a distinction to be made.

As interest in this topic increases more people use the terms ‘feminine leadership’ and ‘feminine power’ in their blogs and business offerings. The distinction between female, relating to gender, and Feminine, which is non gender specific, becomes important.

A respected leader, whether male or female, is likely to be able to harness both Masculine and Feminine qualities as appropriate to a situation.

Having said that, male and female bodies and brains are wired differently. It does make sense that women, by and large, will have greater access to certain qualities and men to others. But, women must take more than their gender into leadership positions.

Sadly, we are most familiar with stories of abuse of power in leadership. Female leaders are not immune.

My personal view is that a call for Feminine leadership is a response to abuses of power. For me, Feminine leadership implies a change to the patriarchal ‘power over’ paradigm.

Feminine leadership might be framed around an honouring of Feminine values, which include the honouring of women, the arts, the earth and all forms of life on it.

The importance of inner work for leaders is a newly emerging theme. The approach, which might emerge, to the benefit of both women and men, is neither patriarchal ego/male oriented nor matriarchal ego/female oriented.

Initiations to the Feminine are not new – neither for women nor for men.

Joseph Campbell identified ‘The Meeting with the Goddess’ as a key transformational stage on his model of the human journey, in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, published in 1949.

Often, Hero’s Journey is interpreted as being a man’s journey. But, there is another interpretation that deserves consideration. The Hero is a metaphorical term. When the Hero meets the goddess, he is changed in some way. He surrenders, stops fighting and starts to serve and support her.

There is deep longing in both women and men to meet the Feminine.

Food for thought:

  1. ‘The woman who does not require validation from anyone is the most feared individual on the planet.’ Mohadesa Najumi
  2.  The Feminine is the transformational aspect of Consciousness, according to tantric wisdom.
  3. It was at the Vancouver Peace Summit, in 2009, that the Dalai Lama made the statement that many women’s initiatives now quote. He gave the opinion that ‘the world will be saved by the Western women.’
‘Me too’ and the transformation of patriarchy

‘Me too’ and the transformation of patriarchy

The line has been drawn.

The fire has been lit and is now raging.

The women’s march. The ‘me too’ movement. President Trump. Harvey Weinstein. Michael Fallon and others.

Sexual manipulation by those in positions of power is unacceptable.

 The first step in any transformation is to bring what is hidden, denied or avoided into the open.
 
Thanks to social media, secrecy has become difficult.
 
A behaviour that has been normalized in the past is no longer acceptable.
 
That much is clear.
 
We also know that the repression of ‘carnal desires’ doesn’t work.  Sanctions don’t work. 
 
There is one solution that is genuinely transformative. 
 
That solution amounts to a transformation of the patriarchal paradigm in which such behaviours have been normalised.
 
The world seems to be struggling with what I would call right relationship between Masculine and Feminine right now.

In the current patriarchal paradigm, this is often made out to be a gender issue. But, patriarchy limits the potential of men just as much as it does women.

Patriarchy has done its best to de-power the Feminine. Men have an inner feminine aspect. The growth and development of that aspect has clearly been stunted and distorted in those that manipulate, objectify and marginalise women.

We’ve been presented with an authoritive, abusive, ‘power over’ framework.

Men, as well as women, have been denied knowledge of the true roles of the Divine Masculine and the Divine Feminine. 

Some of you will know that I have an ongoing and deep interest in the practices of the Indian traditions of Kashmir Shaivism and Sri Vidya.
 
What I love most about these traditions is that the metaphor and art are illustrations of right relationship between Masculine and Feminine.
 
Yes, much of the imagery is erotic. But it’s not meant to be interpreted through the lens of carnal desire. 
 
The Feminine Herself is the transformative force. She is inter-dependent with the Divine Masculine.

She is the expression of His power! He is the necessary containing and supportive force to Her expression. Her power lacks direction without this Masculine function.

Elevated from carnal knowledge to divine wisdom these images speak of the potential of every man and woman.

The Masculine and Feminine are energetic principles. When the Feminine is suppressed, the Divine Masculine is inaccessible too.
  

The ‘me too’ movement is bringing what has been hidden out into the open. This is just the first step in a healing process that if for the benefit of both sexes.

Eros as a Feminine power

Eros as a Feminine power

I have a considerable amount of passion for this topic. Eros, defined as the desire for union, is a powerful force, albeit one that is often misunderstood and disrespected.

In secular life, this desire is interpreted narrowly and directed towards other human beings. Of course, this is important. But without a broader understanding of eros, we miss opportunities to experience the gift of life in all of its erotic splendour.

Some of our best loved poets speak of the desire for union with the Divine, or with nature, in erotic terms. Rumi would be one that is often quoted. I’ve loved a Deepak Chopra publication of his love poems. Rumi speaks of the erotic face of God and not of a human lover.

‘You arouse me with your touch
although I can’t see your hands.
You have kissed me with tenderness
although I haven’t seen your lips.
You are hidden from me

But it is you who keeps me alive’

In some traditions this erotic aspect is considered to be feminine.

This month I’ve been reading the biography of the man who built the Devipuram temple in South India. The temple faced controversy for its use of erotic icons. The Goddess and the Guru by Michael M. Boden is recently published and a very fascinating read.

The book tells of how one of India’s leading nuclear physicists left his job, following a spiritual awakening in his 40’s, and devoted the rest of his life to a Feminine tantric (non religious) spiritual path and social causes.

The separation of the secular world from the divine has led many to believe that it is necessary to separate oneself from family, from a lover, from income generating work and from other material responsibilities if one wants to live a spiritual life.

What drew me to tantra, as a mother and householder, was the promise of relevance to my life and concerns. My quest started around 15 years ago, after reading a book called Passionate Enlightenment by Miranda Shaw. Further fuel was added to the fire when I discovered Daniel Odier’s book, Tantric Quest, a few years later.

Sensationalism of tantra, in both India and the west, has led to many misunderstandings of the erotic images and sexual metaphor.

Although I never met Guruji Amritandanda/Dr. Sastry, who died in 2015, I have been a student of one of his senior students for 9 years. I have some understanding, therefore, of this man’s incredible gift to the world. I appreciate teachers, such as Guruji and the qigong masters that I follow, for their deep knowledge of science as well as spirit. They have brought teachings out of the mystical closet and given clear explanation of their relevance to modern life.

Amritananda/Dr. Sastry, in particular, took a stand for the Feminine. ‘Patriarchal religion, untempered by matriarchal wisdom, he asserted, is the root cause of the world’s strife and misery today, and balance must be restored.’

He wasn’t afraid to restore eros to her rightful place as a Feminine transformational power. The book details his courageous stand against prejudice, ignorance and prudery.

Here’s an excerpt from a notice that he posted outside the Devipuram temple.

‘This unique temple is built to tell you that you are goddesses and gods. If you like, you can be like them too. You are free here. Nobody stops you. All the powers shown here are dormant in you subconsciously. Your sadhana (practice) consists in bringing these powers out to use them for loving yourself, improving yourself and all those around you. You gain nothing by leering or laughing at the goddesses here. You gain everything by understanding your own nature as reflected in them. You are beautiful and lovable, just as you are. You are erotic. Nothing wrong with that! You can create your identity and destiny. You are not powerless. You don’t have to be what others tell you to be. We are with you in empowering you to be yourself.”