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Learned: Gender Evolution

07/07/10 7:55AM By Andrea Learned
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(LEARNED) "The End of Men?" A recent article by Hanna Rosin in The Atlantic got me thinking.  And her words were not as inflammatory as you may imagine.  Instead, her article takes a sweeping look at how our culture has evolved from an organizing principle of patriarchy to a situation that looks much the opposite.  She makes the point that times have simply changed with regard to measures of economic success.  The talents of all adults - not just half of them - are the key.

So if time’s up for the patriarchy, does that mean we’re heading full speed to a matriarchy?  No. We need to equally value what men and women contribute, and to encourage them to do so using their own unique styles.  We can get there if our culture, and the media that covers it, stops emphasizing the extremes.

In my mind, what lies in the center of the pendulum swing between extremes is most important.  And this middle ground is key in both our gendered work culture and our sustainable business practices.

The "women’s era" seems to be all the buzz right now. But the truth may be that things have shifted to give men the opportunity to learn as much about "feminine" ways of thinking as women have already learned about "masculine" ways of thinking.  Times are indeed different.  But both men and women are adapting.  We are all settling in to that pendulum center.

I see a similar shift with regard to sustainable business: from a hardcore, take-no-prisoners, solely profit-oriented drive - to a more inspired "people, planet and profit" perspective.  The conventional business minds may be hunkering down because they sense the "green hippie" types in sustainability are trying to take over.  But what may be happening instead is that companies like Ford and Vermont’s own Green Mountain Coffee Roasters are learning best business practices from each other.  Sustainability is the next stage in innovation, not the extreme opposite of the way business has always been done.

Back to Rosin's article, and one of her points on the gender topic.  She writes that a white-collar economy values raw intellectual horsepower, which men and women have in equal amounts.  But it also requires communication skills and social intelligence, areas in which women, according to many studies, have a slight edge.  I'd argue that something similar could be said about the differences between conventional and sustainable business practices.  Each type has a similar capacity to make money, but sustainable businesses have an edge in their social awareness.  That’s the "people and planet" part of the triple bottom line.

My point in all this? Once we get past the idea that one gender or the other is better, or that one way of business is the opposite of another, we can get to that center space where we all collaborate to affect our world positively.

That’s the pendulum sweet spot, and where everyone's strength is best tapped.
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