Women: Looking Back and Moving Forward
A Talk by Marilyn Nyborg
It has been very clear to me that at the genesis of many of the issues and conditions we are facing today—be it war, the economy, or our political endeavors—no matter when these issues arose, our female ancestors were not at the table participating in the initial discussions. The results of this (continuing!) absence seem quite apparent in many current systems, including schools, medicine, finance, prisons, and government.
What has been lacking in the designs were the feminine perspective or right-brain input, which brings to the table a more global view and emphasizes relationships, values, feelings, intuition, and compassion. This feminine perspective would have made a difference in decisions and policy. And it is still largely missing today.
Men as a collective have gone as far as they can encapsulated in a patriarchal system, driven by testosterone and power over others in a culture of greed and competition. It has taken us all to the edge.
Now just imagine had we been the only ones who sat in council centuries ago, even 100 years ago, what the world would look like now? Would we be as driven by technology and profit? Or would we be centered in family, children, and spirit? I imagine that as systems and institutions evolved, medical schools may have emphasized bedside manner and nutrition, law schools may have taught more negotiation and mediation techniques, our prisons would be run by psychotherapists and educators where the incarcerated would be rehabilitated instead of shut away. Imagine if religions and schools were developed by women. Imagine if corporate boards and politicians sat in circle and feelings were allowed. Imagine if we insisted that we negotiated or mediated disagreements among nations. Would we ever imagine war in which our children would die or be mutilated? Perhaps war would never have existed.
We need both men and women at the table. Remember the old saying—less true today perhaps—men build the house and women make it a home. I believe women would keep relationship and humanity a priority in the systems that contain our lives. Imagine the magic if we were at that table together, respected as equals.
There are more women in college than ever and women are outnumbering men in medicine and law. This is a point of concern for those of us who seek gender balance; it’s another conversation. It is really amazing, isn’t it? It is easy to forget that we have only had the vote for 90 years! That is one lifetime these days!
What will support us to continue moving forward?
I was listening to the radio a year ago, when a man who wrote a book about gender differences said, “When men speak, they do so with confidence … even when they are wrong. When women speak they usually do so without much confidence … even when they are right.” I don’t remember his name, but I do remember this quote!
How often do you or your friends say things like: “Excuse me” or “May I say something?” Do you wonder why we feel the need to ask permission? This is another discussion!
Did you see We Bought a Zoo? The moment that stood out for me was when the dad turned to his son, who wanted to ask a girl out, and said, “All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage.” If you survive the 20 seconds, you’re either on your way to success or ready to move on and face the next challenge. And then you will know if it was the right thing or not. If it is, it can open new conversations, explore new ideas and possibilities. We tend to wait for confidence to come, but first it takes courage to do what you don’t think you can do!
Working on our confidence level is an important step. We can support each other’s confidence when we notice it’s missing from a woman’s speaking. Two good reasons to be a part of a women’s circle where you can explore more deeply that which might be holding you back.
Another kind of confidence we need to develop is our power to influence. Maddy Dykewald has written a book called Influence. She says most women have moved beyond survival to independence. More are moving into financial independence. But there are fewer women at the third stage: influence. This is where the workout is now for us. We need more women CEOs, on boards, in office, and on commissions. But we often overlook the places where we do and can have influence … your home, family, friends, work, school, or church. Don’t underestimate the power of your own opinions and beliefs.
For years we have said, “We need to empower women.” I no longer think it’s necessarily true now. Look around you. I see empowered women. The question is how do we mobilize this collective power for the good of the future?
I’d like to make some suggestions:
- Don’t leave a room or meeting with unspoken thoughts or ideas.
- Utilize social media to express your insights, beliefs, and commentary. Even a quick Tweet reaches so many people.
- Write letters to the editor, blogs, etc., expressing yourself.
- Sign petitions and pass them on.
- Stay informed! Find news from a variety of sources. Come to your own conclusions.
What will your 20 seconds of courage be?
Marilyn is available to speak or facilitate on what’s next for women: firstname.lastname@example.org