I recently attended an executive dinner to celebrate International Women's Day. Delicious food (albeit one of those fancy dinners where you look at the waiters walking in with the coffee and you realize that there's no more food coming and your belly is still empty), great company, exclusive venue in the heart of Amsterdam and an inspiring keynote speaker who is also a successful politician.
The recipe for a great evening.
All the way through the starter, I was nodding in excitement for everything which was said, and I felt I could replace a seal in the circus with all my clapping.
Every line from the speakers made me scream internally “You go, girl!”
Then halfway through the main course I didn't want to listen to the speakers anymore. I didn’t want to talk to the people around me either because I felt that if I opened my mouth, I would at the very least snap at the person talking to me.
I no longer wanted to clap.
I looked around me. There were 60 women in that room and 2 men. And that was the problem.
The room was full of women but it was also brimming with masculine energy.
You’re probably wondering what masculine energy has to with a room full of women and how is that even possible. Excellent question. I’m thrilled you asked.
Because I got curious about it too – how was it possible that with all these lovely women in beautiful dresses and lipstick smiles, the energy was so masculine?
Before we get to that, we need to start with the basics.
Masculine or male energy is about direction, commitment. Feminine or female energy is about flow, spontaneity and empathy.
Male energy is goal-oriented, focused and productive. Female energy is process-oriented, creative, unstructured.
Male energy corresponds with linear, left-brained thinking, and with doing. Female energy corresponds with circular, right-brained thinking, and with being.
Male energy speaks words. Female energy hears mood and emotions.
It’s important to point out that feminine and masculine energy are not gender related. We carry both in us. Mind you that a woman with masculine energy or a man with feminine energy doesn’t mean they are gay.
Let me give you an example which would make the essence of the female and male energy more tangible for you.
He walks in, sees pants he likes, he looks for his size, tries them on in the dressing room, pays for them at the cash register and goes home.
Remember male energy is goal-orientated (buying pants) and productive.
She walks in and spots the pants but she also sees a few other models he might like. While he’s trying them on, she picks a few more colors for him and while he tries these on too, she goes through some shirts. Oh and there are nice jackets too. These shoes are a perfect match for the pants he’s trying on.
And that dress is just fabulous.
Hey look, they have children’s clothes too.
One hour later when his patience is over, they leave the store.
Female energy is about spontaneity, flow, unstructured and it’s about being.
In the above scenario with the trousers, without male energy (goal, commitment), you would be in that store the whole afternoon and miss the party altogether. Or even worse – go home with many other purchases except the trousers.
In that very same scenario, without the female energy, you may not even notice that you don’t have matching shoes for the pants you’re buying and you’d find this out only when you’re home.
Without the female energy, you wouldn’t think of the fact that the children are also coming to the party that afternoon and they have grown so much they don’t have anything appropriate to wear tonight. Not to mention that she has a job interview and next week and she needs a dress, just like the one in the store.
Bam, all of a sudden that unproductive female energy which is all about being turns out to be very useful. But she needs the structure of that linear male energy.
None is better than the other, we need both. Unfortunately, although female energy is gaining recognition, male energy is still dominating our society.
In the corporate world where it’s all about goals, competitiveness, financial results and profits, many leaders choose for masculine energy because you need to be able to achieve all the goals.
Leadership in politics is similar – there’s a lot of competitiveness, goals, analytical thinking, all of which are characteristics of the male energy.
Going back to that room with 60 women and 2 men, their extensive backgrounds in politics and the corporate world resulted in a very masculine atmosphere. There were statements like “maternity leave of 4 months is too long” or “women shouldn’t be allowed to work part time”.
The problem is that just like with the pants shopping example above, male energy without female energy (and the other way around) is incomplete.
Remember we carry both energies in us and the question is not “either, or”, it’s about inclusion. Sometimes you need to use more masculine energy and then you use more feminine energy.
People who use too much masculine energy end up lonely because it takes emotions and vulnerability, both of which are expressions of female energy, to connect with other people and form relationships. These people also tend to be workaholics whose life is devoted or fun and enjoyment.
Imagine a meeting with friends without any feminine energy – we’ll be here for an hour, we’ll have 2,4 beers per person, we’ll talk about 3 subjects and we’ll pay the bill at 17:45 so we can be out of the door by 18:00.
But too much feminine energy is chaotic. She’s unable to finish a project because every time she starts, her mind flows into another project. She will never achieve her dreams or goals. And by "she" I mean the female energy, be it in a man or a woman.
It’s not which energy is better, we need both, both in our personal and professional lives. Otherwise we might end up like one of those 60 women who forget that they are human beings too and that they live with people.
and soft is considered weak but it’s high time we let go of these beliefs which are only holding us back. Even in business, we work with human beings and we need emotions (feminine energy) to bond with them.
As a woman who was raised to be “strong” in the hard, masculine way, I’m still learning to be playful and heck, to have fun while doing things. I still need to remind myself daily that enjoying my work is not a bad thing. I still struggle to talk about my feelings when I’m upset about something and most of all to admit them to the person involved, instead of putting on a stone-cold mask.
How about you? Do you use both the feminine and masculine energy in you?
P.S. I found a great article how to balance male and female energy too.
August 1-7 was World Breastfeeding Week.
Oops. Did it just become a lot quieter and more uncomfortable in the room?