When the Dalai Lama famously spoke those words, he prefaced them with a warning that “some people may call me a feminist.” (As if that were a bad thing.) Still, what the D.L. meant is that women inherently bring a greater focus on nurturing and connection – i.e. love – which is the cure for the wounds of our time.
And while I’m sure he was talking about global, humanitarian issues like peace, poverty, and the end of terrorism, his words ring true for something else: Business. As I write, Gallop estimates that 70% of the US workforce is disengaged. We’re (barely) coming out of a scary recession, brought about in part – I believe – by a dearth of women at the top. At a conference recently, a very successful female CEO told the crowd, “If Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Brothers and Sisters, we wouldn’t have gotten into the mess of 2008.”
The audience laughed uncomfortably, but it’s true. Countless studies have shown that when teams are diverse, they perform better. PERIOD. But corporate America still doesn’t seem to get it. And when I read articles like What It Was Like to Be a Woman at Goldman Sachs, a sharp and well-written Atlantic piece from business journalist (and former Goldman employee) Marie Myung-Ok Lee, I wonder if women aren’t getting it either.
Of the discriminatory culture Lee witnessed at Goldman, she writes: “Even some of the more formidable women, who I thought at least because of their age if not their credentials would be exempt from these oddly retro gender rules, took to them enthusiastically.” ( While Lee’s article mentions her time at Goldman was more than 10 years ago, it’s clear that not much has changed.)
Still, this post isn’t about Goldman. It’s about you.
With all due props to the Dalai Lama, I think it’s time we start pulling out the F-word again with a revised definition of what it means. Because in this third wave of feminism, we’ve come to a new place. The most basic equality battles have been won – thanks pioneering sheroes – so now the self-actualization can begin. Now the deeper questions can be asked about how we want to be treated at work and – despite the subtitle of my forthcoming book – i.e. the girls’ guide to corporate domination – this is really a place for women.
Women who are willing to wield power.
Women who are willing to respond, not react.
Women who not only bring their whole selves to the table, but light a match under others to do the same.
Saving the world is a big job but – as Emerson once said – we must be our own before we can be another’s. In other words, we must save ourselves first.
But – and this is a big one – how can we save ourselves if 25% of women in the United States will be considered clinically depressed at some point in their lifetime?
How can we save ourselves if we spend more time checking our Facebook than we do checking our values?
How can we save ourselves in a world so drunk on pop culture that we collectively pay more attention to Kim Kardashian than President Obama?
Maybe one of the reasons we’re so depressed is because we’re banging up against something alright, but it’s not just a glass ceiling – it’s glass wall of our own making. A wall that keeps us caught up in “busy-ness”, inconsequential distractions, and our own neurosis. The end result?
We feel stuck and play small.
The pathetic representation of women at the highest levels of corporate life isn’t the result of some sinister plot by men, it’s because we don’t know how to harness our own power correctly. Clearly. Because you know as well as the Dalai Lama does that the energy women bring to the table – IF harnessed correctly – can transform a company. But, first, we have to awaken to it ourselves.
Be your own.
Be your own.
Be your own.
This post originally appeared on EmilyBennington.com
Emily has a new book out! It’s called Who Says It’s a Man’s World: The Girls’ Guide to Corporate Domination – but don’t let that title fool you – it’s really about leading yourself. Check it out on Amazon here OR visit her Books page here!