March is women's month, which is very strange, since women make up 50% of the population and contribute more than 50% to the functioning of our economy. And yet, we get only one month's worth of recognition (that’s about 8.3%). This ratio seems to be about how much credit women receive--literally and figuratively-- in business, politics, entrepreneurship, history, the media and other public realms. Giving us March is just a rude confirmation that we hold the short end of the stick.
I want to be perfectly clear that we contribute at least 50% to making the world go around -- and remind everyone of this fact. Women have been around since the dawn of civilization. They have helped create nations, economies, and cities. They have shaped politics, technology, and society. And they have made what came before us possible.
It is also true that a good portion of what women have contributed to the world has—by law, policy, and cultural norm—been actively written out of the formal economy. Once we create something that becomes economically valuable, it is frequently accredited to and taken over by men.
We are written out of further participation through new regulations, professional accreditation programs, and exclusive parties. Indeed, history is full of deliberate and/or selective neglect applied to wipe out the paper trail of women's contributions to the world. For example, women have historically been the doctors and judges in Eastern Europe—until the fall of communism made these professions very lucrative (you can guess what happened next). Women were also the first computer programmers until the salaries for this career path exceeded what society expected for women.
My theory of why this power struggle occurs is that we create unreasonable competition between the genders by suggesting that women are “just as good” as men. So if a woman performs better than any man, she is a threat to that man. As a result, it becomes critical to cover up the accomplishments of women to maintain men’s sense of self-worth.
This means that each new generation seems to forget (or never gets taught) the critical role of women as the backbone of society in both the public and private realms. We all go around acting as if women just hatched yesterday. As if we just started participating in politics, the economy, and human progress not too long ago. And sometimes we convince ourselves of this and/or feel we need to prove ourselves.
Indeed, there is an implied cultural belief that the male or “yang” way of being in the world is superior to the female or “yin” way of being in the world. I know this cultural belief has loomed over my head since the day I was born. It screams at all of us from news articles that tell women they need to be more aggressive negotiators, for example. These purported experts do not mention that some of the most effective negotiators are the quiet types, the compassionate types, and the persons with the most empathy.
The reality is that women, as a gender, are not comparable to men. And the feminine is equally important to the masculine in the functioning of our society. Women bring their own approaches to the table and those approaches are a necessary and essential complement to what men bring to the table.
Ladies, if you have been trying to be more like men, news flash: You are probably underperforming to your potential by trying to be like someone else. And while we are on the topic: Gentlemen, If someone tells you that you are not manly enough, they are trying to manipulate you into being someone you are not—and most importantly, more like what they want you to be.
Ladies and gentlemen, we need you to be yourself just as much as we need everyone to be themselves. The future of society depends on your ability to stand your ground as an individual, entrepreneur, citizen, and custodian of this ship we call planet earth.
So be yourself. No matter how masculine or feminine you are. Because we need your strengths and perspectives equally. Regardless of what side of the gender line you are on (or even if you straddle that line) give yourself a big pat on the back for everything that you have accomplished, believed in, felt for and put your energies into. While the other half may have contributed to your success, I guarantee that your own personal efforts in this world are worth at least a whole 6 out of 12 months’ of recognition.