Embracing The Feminine in the Workplace: What Does That Look Like?

Updated: Feb 19, 2020

At my heart I crave stillness, presence, and the allowing of things to come to fruition.

Part “Law of Attraction” part “Art of Allowing” and part belief in magic, this is a way I’ve significantly reframed myself and how I work.

And I have been very quiet about it.

I'm almost embarrassed to be seen at being too "woo-woo" for the mainstream. But I can't hide me. That's really exhausting.

There was a time last year when I felt I was meant to stop doing the kind of coaching and facilitation work I do, and really come out as an energy healer and intuitive. Really owning the super feminine powers within me.

However, in that exploration I learned that these are passions for my own personal growth and exploration, and not what I'm meant to be doing as a practitioner.

But I don't deny that my connection to what is more "unseen" plays a role in why I do my work well.

So let's talk about that today, shall we?

What's the feminine in the workplace?

So, this is a working definition, but in my experience, I see this as company and agency cultures orienting around process over product. As “people first”, “relationships first”, and giving real space for conversation, deliberation, time for reflection and circling back. It isn't necessarily about a completely flat structure, though that can help, it's about the flow between the levels and the clarity and alignment between them. It's more about connection rather than competition.

In action, I see this as workplaces bringing in experts in trauma informed communication (skill-development in building transparency and clarity between staff, managers and directors while recognizing we're all in different places as people). I see this in adopting and implementing plans in equity, diversity and inclusion (actions behind intentions). I see this in the development of groups forming at work to support people in reflective practice and mindfulness (honoring people for their whole selves).

I see the feminine arriving in in actions like authentically recognizing that where we live and do business is on the ceded lands of indigenous peoples, or that some enterprises were built on the backs of the enslavement of African-Americans. I see it in recognizing that the oppression of others has informed, and continues to inform, where we are today.

Reckoning and recognizing where we've come from is a part of this if we are to be honest in where we are going. Understanding that exploitation of people and environment created where we are and that seeing it, honoring it, finding ways to repair and come into balance with this, this is feminine power in action.

These concepts, whether they are viewed as feminine or not, are finding their ways in to workplaces and culture at large. What I am wondering, is is it showing up at the ground level, the day to day?

To contrast my view of the feminine, I'll portray my understanding and growth within a masculine framework. Speaking from a generational view, I'm an “in-betweener” with the Gen Xers and Millennials (I graduated high school in 1999). My experiences growing up informed me that I must strive for perfection, deliver excellent performance, achieve goals, and "win". I also was informed through experience that conforming and hiding my "otherness", feminine or otherwise, was essential to succeed. Feelings got in the way of progress.

These frameworks are draining and suffocating for body, mind and spirit.

Then, suddenly, in my early 30's, I worked for women who approached business through the lens of collaboration and relationship building, not competition and survival of the fittest. With this fortunate timing in role-modeling, I started to redefine for myself what it meant to work from this lens in the workplace. It didn't always fit.

Depending on project, project manager, or role I had, I felt as though I often operated under the guise of “guerrilla feminism” within a masculine superstructure. I used a lot of energy and power to subvert dysfunction (and egos, be they male or female) to create solutions, where in a better balanced structure I could have started at creation and gone further with more cohesion.

It’s that superstructure that desperately is calling for re-balancing. At work and at large.

Not because masculine forces are the devil, but because when they are out of balance, they become toxic.

The smothered feminine is also toxic and creates unhealthy patterns that emerge as manipulation and control for power (because the power is not allowed to simply be expressed). Here's a key understanding, this is not about men vs. women much as the media and world portrays it, it is about an allowing for balance within each person, no matter how they identify their gender, to carry both the qualities of masuline and feminine in balance. It's a bit more about yin / yang balance rather than one or the other being the "best" or "right" way. This is about people coming together and the macro forces of feminine based and masculine based energy re-calibrating.

While I believe that balanced integration in our superstructures are still years away from a mainstream hold in the modern workplace and culture, I do think it's where we're going.

If you consider a few leading edge workplaces, and the rise of spirituality as an industry, you can see that we are thirsty for this yin and feminine energy that's been so hidden and repressed / oppressed. We desperately want to be whole. To be integrated and balanced, greater than the mere sum of our parts. As individuals, teams, communities, and society.

And my does it take time to build new habits and practices.

So how do we get there? When you’re inside of a machine that only knows one way, with people who don't have lived experience in this balance to model what it might look like, how do you proceed?

It's culture change management at a societal level and while I don't have all the answers for the outcomes, but I do have some ideas for how you approach it:

With bravery, vulnerability, transparency and power-sharing.

With empathy, space, and healthy boundaries that are enforced with respect.

These things alone are a big part of the shift and for many it’s going to be super uncomfortable. (Though some of you will feel like you're running with your heart loose on the wind.)

It’s about allowing new perspectives to emerge and run counter to the way things have always been done. It's being okay with discomfort and not knowing the outcome or the answer immediately. It's space to breathe and reflect.

It's about not feeling personally attacked that the way you've done something is wrong, but that you're allowed to learn new things, even if it's completely overwhelming for awhile.

It’s about integrating practice rather than perfection, and it’s through relationship and trust building rather than command and control that builds the support to go through this. Not on your own, but with others.

It is really the emergence of a new way of doing things, rather than just a "product" at the outcome.

Now, here's what I want to ask you:

What does a balanced masculine / feminine concept look or feel like to you?

If you’re in a workplace that’s working on some of these concepts now, how is it going? What’s working and what isn’t?

If you’re in a workplace that you feel is starting to do this well, what have been some of the learnings on the way that you can share?

If you’re skeptical about all this, why? What comes up for you?

What else?


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