By Monica Wilcox
Like it or not men still rule the world.
Despite the fact that women surpassed men as college graduates 30 years ago, we only hold 9 of the 190 heads of state positions, 13% of the seats in the world’s parliaments, 24% of full professor positions and represent 15% of the top jobs in corporate America (a percentage that has not changed in 9 years). Despite the fact that we have received as much education as Joe Blow and have spent three decades trying to prove we can do whatever Joe is doing, we are still not influencing 50% of the establishment.
Consider my friend Megha Tara Sardana whose calling is to help women in India, and beyond, to establish their own financial freedom. She recently offered a free webinar to get women started in this process. Not one woman signed up, but men were calling to ask if they could take the class even though it was geared toward women. Megha regrettable concluded Women are Not Ready.
Is this the inspirational encouragement I should give my 11 year old daughter? “Get your education, dream big, rock your girl power…BUT women just aren’t ready, sweetheart.”
The Promise of Equality is Not Equality
That’s just a bit of the wisdom Sheryl Sandburg, the COO of Facebook, recently dished out to the graduating class at Barnard. Here’s more of her advice from the boardroom:
1. Embrace Ambition: In America, the average college educated man is more ambitious than his female counterpart. Not only are men more ambitious the day they graduate from college but will remain so straight into their golden years. Sheryl feels women will never close the achievement gap until they close the ambition gap.
2. Own Your Success: If you were to ask men and women questions about completely objective criteria such as GPAs or sales goals, men get it wrong slightly high; women get it wrong slightly low. Ask a woman why she succeeded and she’ll attribute it to luck, a great team, and hard work. Ask a man and he’ll say, “Because I’m totally awesome!” Women have got to believe, and then believe a whole bunch more, because the man sitting next to you KNOWS he’s going to rock the job.
3. Success Has Few Cheerleaders: Many people did not want to see Sheryl succeed at Google or Facebook. Studies show that success works in favor of men but negatively impacts women. As men get more successful and powerful, they become more popular whereas women are liked less. Don’t enter (or create) this negative drama, just surpass their low expectations.
4. Choose the Right Partner: Men make fewer compromises than women to balance professional success and their personal lives. A woman still does two times the housework and three times the amount of childcare than her husband will do. Having a partner, and who that partner is, WILL impact a woman’s success. If she’s getting help in her personal life she’ll do better in her career. Sheryl foresees a better world where men ran half our homes and women ran half our institutions.
5. Do not Leave before You Leave: Women worry too much about the future. They’re making career decisions for the man they may meet one day, or the baby they may want in 10 years. Men make career choices based on what’s best for them now, not around the demands of a possible future.
I’ve got a suspicion as to WHY women have not stepped up. For most of human history men have been defining the rules, the systems, and success. Do you imagine it would look the same if women had been defining it? Has anyone asked us if we want to rule the world?
Success as Defined by Women
I’m one of the women Sheryl and Megz are talking about. I have a college education, worked as a counselor for eight years, walked away from that career to raise my two kids and although I am actively published, my yearly salary is not worth mentioning. I live comfortably and happily off of my husband’s salary. Why haven’t I worked myself into a window office decorated in my own salary? Sheryl touched on some of the reasons, but the biggest one it that my vision of success doesn’t fit into this traditional definition.
Take my writing career. If I were my husband I’d have cranked out a novel in 6 months at an 8th grade reading level, geared to the young adult market. It’d be a high action mystery with a complicated male protagonist, and his sexy love interest, involving ludicrous DNA tampering between a teenage vampire and a dragon…from outer space…with a human tattoo across its back. I’d get myself the best agent and one of the top publishing houses to market me and my novel onto the best seller list. In the meantime, I’d be a Twitter tycoon, a Facebook fiend, a LinkedIn legend, and a webinar wizard doing motivational speeches on the side. Success would be defined in numbers: books sold, money made, Facebook fans, blogs LIKED, posts SHARED, GMA face time, radio show interviews and my bid as an Oprah Book Club choice…I’d be a Rock Star Author, baby. If I were my husband, my passion for the written word would be well tracked in spreadsheets, goal lists and bank accounts.
But I am not my husband. I have no desire to follow him, my brother, my father or any other man’s path to success. For me success is all about creating conscious work with the full intention of triggering positive change. Simply put, I’d rather use the written word to positively impact your life than write a book (or blog) read by millions…and quickly forgotten. My path will not be found on the Barnes and Noble “personal success” bookshelf but within my own heart. What will matter to me at the very end is: Have I served myself? Have I served someone else? Have I used my gifts for the highest good? This kind of success is the same ambition I hear ringing in many women’s hearts. In other words, quit trying to flip our “W” upside down!
But here’s the glitch, I’m not sure our current society even recognizes “heart driven success”. How can anyone measure my impact on universal consciousness? Is there a spreadsheet for that? A “GET IT” button?
Success As Defined by the Individual
I’d argue that we will not liberate women until we’ve liberated feminine energy; let it discover and establish its own avenues, institutions, and success. I tell my daughter to get a strong education, find her passion and dream big…then after she dreams it; twist the dream into something that is only hers. I tell her to define success in her own terms (not her brother’s) then go for it and see what manifests.
BUT liberating the feminine is only one more step to the ultimate goal of liberating ourselves from sexuality; a place where your physical body does not define what you do or how you will go about it. Imagine a society where women and men are encouraged to explore and define success on their own terms, where a woman can feel as successful starting and managing a National Creativity Institution as a man would feel raising his 3 children.
Can you imagine a world where success is not defined by our foreFATHERS but by each individual’s soul? What does success look like to you? Is your path the traditionally masculine one or is something rare and undefined?