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Reclaiming the Feminine in the Workplace

Reclaiming the Feminine in the Workplace

I was recently asked to sit on a panel as a leader in womenís business, and it got me thinking about the feminine way I approach my businesses. As the founder of Owning Pink and now the director of the Owning Pink Center, I have bumbled into a life where Iím expected to hire and lead employees, manage a team, demonstrate leadership, make financially responsible decisions, guide the direction of my businesses, and delegate details. Iím committed to being Pink in the process! But what exactly does that mean?

Fostering the feminine

One of the women asked the panel I sat on to offer guidance on how to stay in touch with the feminine when youíre surrounded by the typically masculine corporate culture, and I surprised myself by standing up to answer her question. After all, I entered a field that was still dominantly male- 90% of my teachers in medical school were men. I was sexually harassed ad nauseam, my femininity was belittled and mocked, my womenís intuition was scorned in the name of science, and any display of emotion resulted in many a ďBuck up, RankinĒ comment, delivered with loads of contempt.

So what do I know about allowing the feminine to shine through in a masculine workplace? Not much. I left the world of academia because I knew I wouldnít be able to tolerate the old boyís network. I then took a Pleap (Pink leap of faith) to leave the mostly female group I used to work with in order to start my own businesses.

But I discovered that I do know a few things about being a woman in business and balancing the feminine energy that flows through me with the masculine energy I had to hone in order to succeed in my line of work.

Tips for being Pink in the workplace

  1. Ask for and receive what you need, rather than pushing for it. The traditional masculine approach to business is to cram something down the throats of employees and clients. Iíve learned that invitations work better.† If you want a memo to get written well, explain to your employee what you need and invite her to bring her whole self to the memo. She is much more likely to deliver a quality product than if you badger, belittle, and order her to get the job done.
  2. Empower others to be the most they can be. Demonstrate to those who work with you that you believe in their skills, that you trust them (even if youíre not sure you do), and that you expect great things of them. 99% of the time, they will lift themselves up to the level you expect – when your expectations are delivered with heart.
  3. Lead by example. If you want to be allowed to bring more of your womanly self to the board room, do it. Skip the business suits if they donít make you feel feminine.† Cry if you feel moved.† Remember that a man can only access his inner hero through the vessel of womanhood. Employ your feminine wiles to bring out the best in the men you work with – not in a manipulative, self-serving way, but because you genuinely care about the work youíre doing and want to bring out the best in everyone you work with.
  4. Release concerns about what people think. If youíre good at what you do, donít worry about what everyone else thinks of you. When I was a resident physician at Northwestern, one of my professors demanded that we follow a dress code that I found ridiculous and offensive. I wasnít supposed to wear anything that showed my knees, anything V-necked, anything fitted – basically, anything that demonstrated that I am a woman. Some of my colleagues and I decided to buck the system and showed up†at the hospital the next day in the shortest, lowest cut minidresses we could find. What were they going to do? Fire us? We were kick-ass doctors at one of the top programs in the country. We believed in ourselves enough to stand up against the patriarchy – and the dress code was history after we did. Iím pretty sure I got my A because I wasnít willing to be oppressed.
  5. Be authentic to who you are. If your job is requiring you to sacrifice your own integrity, youíre in the wrong job. Figure out how you can stand up for what you believe and bring your whole self to the workplace – or get out. Lifeís too short not to be who you really are.
  6. Employ love at work. Use your magical eyes to see past the masks people wear and witness the beautiful spirit that lies within those you work with. Even the most difficult colleagues, employees, and bosses have a pure spirit somewhere within them. If they feel SEEN and loved, you will be respected, appreciated, valued, and promoted. Itís a myth to think that you have to be hard edged to get ahead in business. Softness works miracles in the workplace, when you employ it skillfully.
  7. Stay grounded in your body. When you connect with and channel the energy of Mama Earth, you provide a centering force in your workplace that will allow you to weather the storms of working in a patriarchal environment. When youíre grounded, youíre less likely to flit about, appear ďair-headed,Ē respond with a snippy answer, or take something too personally. When someone makes a request of you, take a deep breath before responding, ground into your body, notice how it feels in response to what youíve been asked to do, and then answer.
  8. Follow your intuition. When we work, itís so easy to get caught in our heads that we forget to listen to our inner wisdom.† If something makes you feel icky at work, pay attention. Thatís your intuition speaking, and youíre making a big mistake if you donít listen to it.
  9. Tell the truth. Lying to your boss because you think youíre expected to doesnít serve anyone. If you hate the proposal he just suggested, tell him in a kind and gentle way that you donít like it. As an employer, I can tell you that itís easy to find yes-men, but itís much harder to find an employee you can trust to give you an honest opinion. Telling the truth in a kind, nonjudgmental fashion will make you valuable to your company.
  10. Go with the flow. Donít resist the direction you find yourself wandering in your business life. If something sucks you in and you find yourself expending lots of happy energy with something, allow yourself to explore that. If there are roadblocks getting in the way of the direction you hoped to take, listen to the signs from the Universe. Maybe youíre not supposed to go that way – and itís okay. Set goals but release attachment to outcomes. Pray for guidance. Listen for answers. Watch for signs.

What do you think it takes to be Pink in the business world? We at Owning Pink are exploring this every day – and weíre still not sure. Weíd love to get your opinion! How do we Own Success without selling ourselves out? How do we see with magical eyes in the corporate world? How do we stay authentic to who we really are and still conform to what a business expects of us? How do we know when itís time to Pleap?

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Lissa Rankin

Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the†Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of†Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself.† She is on a grassroots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself.† Lissa blogs at†LissaRankin.com and also created two online communities -†HealHealthCareNow.com and†OwningPink.com. She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.

31 comments

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1:42PM PST on Nov 15, 2011

I like it best when everybody behaves like human beings in the work place!

10:33AM PDT on Aug 30, 2010

I'm lucky to work in an office where everyone is spiritual in their own way and very nurturing toward one another.

10:48AM PDT on Jul 30, 2010

Daniel W., I agree with you about leaving your job if it is oppressive.

HOWEVER, I don't care what I'm wearing, it does not give you the right to "check out" any part of my body, including my "legs & ass".

Have some class & self-control. Seriously.

Women have to choose between wearing what they want & being treated like THAT? People like you are the reason that progress has been stunted. I guess we need a little more evolution before we all get the respect & dignity we deserve, like being able to wear a skirt without being made uncomfortable all day.

3:24AM PDT on Jul 11, 2010

Good article. Do what you love, and when the atmosphere is to hostile, create your own.

8:32AM PDT on Jul 5, 2010

This is very inspiring article. My boss is a lesbian on the harder side, who never wears dresses or skirts. She's always attired in business suits, though she softens this with jewelry. I wonder if she does this to stay on par with the male-dominated upper management makeup, or it's because she does not identify as feminine in the same way most of the women in the office do? It's hard to use her as a role model because when I wear severe business suits, I feel as though I've lost my essentially female persona.

In the same vein, this boss does not show a lot of feminine emotions, but is rather hard and calculating, and not very nurturing. She doesn't entertain anyone challenging her decisions, and will retract a given directive, throwing the person into confusion, as they dare not mention that she is contradicting herself. It is sad to think she'd probably make a better manager if she was a man, or a straight woman in touch with her feminine side, because, at least, we'd have some frame of reference for her behaviors or identify more with her feelings and outlook. Unfortunately, many women [and men] see her in the tough b...ch image she presents. In some respects, it's as if she's wasted a great opportunity to show great PINK leadership in the workplace.

What would you suggest we women [and men] do? Many of us find working for her to be frustrating and painful - she can be cruel and sadistic - yet smart and immensely talented. She thinks she's a great leader.

3:40AM PDT on Jul 5, 2010

Daniel W. - fair comment. Still though, shouldn't men be able to NOT stare at our legs and asses when we wear mini skirts? I personally (and I think most women are the same) try very hard NOT to stare at men I find attractive because of what they're wearing. It should be the same the other way around, it's called self-control, or awareness

11:44PM PDT on Jul 4, 2010

Interesting article. Thanks, Lissa.

11:10AM PDT on Jul 4, 2010

Woman are amazing and their feminine approach is what makes them so effective in the work place.

10:58AM PDT on Jul 4, 2010

Noted.

8:49AM PDT on Jul 4, 2010

I love pleaps. x

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