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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.’

To take up this call for action and be at the leading edge of transformation is a huge responsibility that will require consciousness, integrity and preparation.

Premium travel at your personal edge? Or status quo economy?

Around 8am in the morning of May 3rd, I was eating breakfast in Pret-a-Manger at London Heathrow, Terminal 3….

Some of you will no doubt consider me somewhat weird when I disclose my love of airports.

I admit that I have travelled more for my own purposes than I have for business reasons. This may be why I have retained a fascination for people watching and window shopping that transcends any frustration or boredom, should I experience long queues or flight delays.

What I noticed on the morning of May 3rd was how alive I felt, despite the early morning start a 10am flight necessitates.  I remembered a remark from a colleague some years ago. When I told him I liked airports, he’d said, ‘That makes sense Cathy. You like transitional, edgy places.’

So true. The thing about transitional, edgy places is that they are full of possibility and potential. I think this is what airports represent for me. Whether I am departing to a far flung destination or not, the thrill of adventure and the unknown is present as I look at the departures screen.

New environments bring new perspectives. When we travel we may encounter unfamiliar situations that force new and creative responses. In the process, we may also have to face our fears and reactive patterns. We can feel more alive when we explore new ways of being and doing. We will also feel more alive when we unravel the habitual patterns that have caused repeating problems in our lives.

But the status quo is a formidable opponent to growth. When we return to a familiar comfort zone, we literally lose our edge. It is harder to act on insights received at edgy places from the midst of the demands of familiar, daily life.

There are times in life when the comfort and stability of the status quo is necessary and enjoyable. However, when our comfort is punctuated by longings for adventure, we might consider what part of ourselves is lying dormant and asking for expression.

While a holiday might ‘take the edge’ off that hunger for a short while, we will soon be back. Unless we’ve worked out what needs to change while we are away and acted on it, we may soon be re-experiencing the signals for the need for change, such as boredom, tiredness, frustration or restlessness. There may even be depression if a situation has become chronic.

After I boarded my flight to Philadelphia on May 3rd, I took out my phone and headphones and recorded the insights that form the basis of this newsletter. I didn’t want to lose them. By the time the plane was in the air, I’d also recorded insights regarding choices I need to make with regard to my own direction over forthcoming months. That included a decision re the right coaching support to invest in for the next phase of my life and work.

My question to you this month is to ask whether you are in touch with your growing edge? Are you feeling excited as you engage with the frontier of your life? Or, do you need help to decide where the frontier is? Or, having found the frontier, have you discovered inner saboteurs that seem to lie in wait to persuade you that the status quo really is acceptable?

Yesterday I was speaking to a friend who is selling the house that his grown up children and elderly mother are fond of. They would rather he didn’t sell. But, he has strong personal reasons to make a move that he has delayed for some time.

He said, ‘The status quo is no longer an option.’ I thought that was a great statement!

For a house move, the appropriate support comes from estate agents and solicitors. But, personal edges, which challenge us to call forward underdeveloped parts of ourselves in order to shift our work and relationships to new levels, are different.

Is it wise to wait until a crisis brings you to a forced edge? Might you prefer the premium choice of hiring the support of someone who can keep both keep you in touch with the potential of your growing edge and support you as you make changes? If there’s a part of you that knows you have inner challenges to address in order to make outer changes, coaching can shift you out of a vicious cycle or a downward spiral.