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Exploring the Topic ‘A Better World’: Can Women Leaders Make it Happen?

By Catherine Whelan Costen, November 4, 2009.

This topic absolutely fascinates me! There are so many levels to explore and research  that I found myself discovering incredibly complicated angles, tangles and layers of possibilities and more questions. When I got thinking about a better world, I started to see that we already have that…so then I wondered why aren’t we satisfied, why are we still seeking and what are the other possibilities?

Listen below to an audio of the presentation…

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Followed by the audience Q & A session…                  

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Primarily what I found is that the words we use may or may not have shared meaning. What do we mean by better? What do we mean by leaders? Are we asking if women can unilaterally change the world if we simply get them into positions of power?

What we say and what we mean is often not the same thought. If we are not communicating our thoughts to others or even to ourselves in a way that truly reflects our desires, is it any wonder we find ourselves dissatisfied? Women’s roles have been explored, discussed and compartmentalized for so long it amazes me that we have yet to figure this out. For some reason men’s roles are not so complicated. Or at least we do not seem to question their right to do, or not to do.

I would like to share a piece of wisdom I received several years ago from a WWII Vet, a few years before he passed away. He had seen action and war and returned to Canada to teach the arts. He was a senior when I spoke to him. He was upset because the schools were cutting the arts and music programs due to financial restraints. He said this gravely distressed him because, artists and musicians do not wage war! At the time I thought it was an interesting observation. He experienced war first hand and he did not like war.  Since that conversation I’ve learned there was more to his observation. He was pointing to a significant attitude in our society. Through our decisions, we were rejecting creation and the feminine side of our humanity. Artistic expression and music are forms of creativity which come from the feminine energy. Rather than see these expressions as vital to a healthy development of our youth, we see it as an option, or extra, not a part of the curriculum. As a society we were not investing in this feminine energy. It was not important. The decision was better for the financial status of the school board, but was it what we want for our society?

There are a number of people expressing this wish for, ‘A Better World’… but what do they mean? What is better for some will not be better for others. Further to that, the word ‘better’ is a comparative word building on the concept that something has already been determined to be good. Good, better, best, …so the comparison grows. So do we believe the world we have today is good? If the answer is yes, then we are wanting to build on something good, but if we are saying that ‘the world is going to hell in a hand basket’ or similar thoughts, then perhaps what we are really wanting is something different, not better. Let us not forget that there are many people who do not want anything different, better, or new, regardless of the chance to be relieved of any burden.

Language that is unclear won’t get you what you want….

“I asked for a better treat than last night and you brought me chocolate ice-cream…-that is not what I wanted”…’But it is better than last night…you had dried up cookies last night’… ’I hate chocolate ice-cream, you should have known that!’

 Is Better What we Want?

Perhaps we do not want to keep building on what we have already decided is not very good? Before we can really expect to get to what we want, we need to decide what we want and have the language for that projection. If we want others to also work towards our dream, then we must communicate clearly what we really want.

It is no wonder we have been hearing about creating a better world for years and years and continually acting as if we failed, or previous generations failed and we are disappointed. But the truth is we have been creating something better than what was before. An automobile was considered better than a horse and buggy…a washboard was better than rocks…a wringer washer was better than the washboard…and an automatic washing machine was far better than the wringer which threatened life and limb…so you see we have been making the world better. There are all kinds of examples of better than what was good in our world.

Each new development that was thought to be better also seemed to have a bi-product, which was not what we wanted however, and then we began to regret the better thing. Many people express that by saying that life has gotten easier but perhaps not better. Things were simpler in the old days etc. Childbirth might have been considered very simple in the old days; you might live and you might die in the process and so might the infant. Those are pretty simple either or possibilities. There were no complicated papers to fill out, no rushing to a hospital, no wondering who would pay for the procedure, no drugs for pain, no side-effects from the drugs, no car seat to ensure you could take the baby home etc.etc. Certainly this appears much simpler but not necessarily better. ‘Better’ was the increased life expectancy of mother and child, the rest of the improvements is subject to opinion.

So if we keep asking for a world that is better, without defining it, then we leave it up to someone else’s opinion to create something they believe is better. I’m going to suggest that what we want is not better at all, rather we want something very very different and the word I chose to describe what I want is ‘exquisite’. I want a world that is beautiful, excellent, finely detailed, joyful, abundant for all, harmonious, peaceful and free.

Expressing What we Want

If we do not express fully and completely what we really want, then how will we ever come together and share that goal? If we keep using words that do not fully convey the thoughts of our hearts to our minds and to each other’s hearts and minds, then we will keep working towards a very fuzzy confusing image of what we want.

I do not want a better war, or a better level of disease, nor better statistics on poverty, or homelessness, I don’t want a better quality of air, or food, or life. I want exquisite! I want no poverty, no starvation, and no war on anything.

If we keep saying we want peace, but use the language and systems of war, why are we surprised that we have not achieved peace? The language of war involves some nasty little words with profound impact such as; blame, shame, fear, terror, right, wrong, bad, good, win, lose, punishment, etc. and all of these words create more of the same. It is a cycle, which does not end. Both men and women have been warriors throughout our history, and many times we needed warriors. We will continue to need warriors as long as there is something to fight for or against.

Women at War

Women in particular have been at war for a very long time, whether we see it as war or not. Women have been fighting for something, which seems so obvious to me; and that is equality and respect. In my research I was unable to determine if there had ever been a time in humanities history where women held the power, however I found plenty of articles speculating on what ‘women’s rule’ could look like.

At what point did women give up their inherent right to be or when was it taken from her? I find no evidence that such an event occurred. Yet it is the way we perceive our world today. We also seem to have a hardwired brain that says, ‘one or the other, we must choose either male rule or female rule’. As if to say one is better than the other. If you look at families could you say that one led by a woman is better than one led by a man, or vice versa? I am suggesting that neither is preferable. I am suggesting that what we have today is a world out of balance.

Whenever we are forced to select either or, we win and lose.  If our system is based on totally masculine energy, ideology and beliefs that exclude feminine qualities, which I believe is what we have primarily working in the world today, then we lose the positive feminine essence and we are out of balance.

 Men Made a Mess ?

Our world is screaming out in frustration, anger, sorrow and pain because we have excluded the feminine voice, input and vision. But if we turn the tables and exclude the masculine we lose again. Further, my sense is that the men in positions of power are very frustrated at this point in history. They seem to be able to do no right. They cannot please. The level of dissatisfaction is very high around the world. People are fed up with so many constant reminders of a world out of balance. They are tired of feeling guilty for the hunger, poverty and wars going on. They are tired of the pain of seeing children using drugs to numb the pain. They are tired of being encouraged to spend, spend, and spend in order to be accepted by the world, only to be ridiculed for their debt. When society gets to the point of total frustration, it is time for change, but all too often we swing the pendulum too far and the change we get is only an illusion. We change political parties, or the parties change their leaders, or their colours, or their motto, or they bring more woman into the equation and suggest ‘see we’ve changed’ and everyone breathes a sigh of relief. The cycle begins again.

To put this into everyday terms, one example comes to mind for me. We have a wonderful game called hockey. The objective of the game is to get the puck into your opponents net. The team of players, who get the most pucks in, wins the game. The game is the same whether women play it or men play it. Sure there may be less violence in the women’s game, but the equipment is very similar, even if it was pink. The sticks are the same, even if we painted them with flowers. The dressing rooms reek with sweat, even if we were to serve tea and had a daycare beside it. The game is hockey. The objective is the same and the results are the same.

When our systems are very masculine oriented with the focus on ‘us vs. them’ and win or lose, the outcome is always the same. Regardless of whether the team members are women or men. If we want something, better or exquisite as I do, we will have to change the game. Both men and women have the ability to exhibit masculine and feminine qualities when the situation warrants it; but we need to learn how to do so. We need to accept each other for the person they are, not the gender they ‘should’ represent.

 Being Ruled

As I look at the objective in this case which is to create a more exquisite world, I wonder, ‘do we need to be ruled’? Can we imagine living in a world that requires no ruler, but instead a form of governance, which is primarily administration of our collective desires? Do we really believe that only a select few have the intelligence to decide what is in our best interest? If we believed that, why do we also talk about individual free will? Why do we hold individuals responsible for their actions? The only circumstance I can think of where a ruler would be to our advantage, is if all the other brains were totally incapacitated and we required someone to make decisions to ensure our survival until our own brains returned. I liken this to when a person is in a coma and someone else has to make decisions for them until they come out of the coma. We are not in a coma state, although some may disagree. Everyone on the planet today has a unique piece of the puzzle, otherwise they wouldn’t be here. We need to find a way to allow that piece to be presented if we want to create something new.

 Finding Balance

Creation requires both male and female and if our desire is to create something exquisite, then I believe we shall need both to participate. There are negative and positive sides to both feminine and masculine traits and each gender has access to all.

Leaders who are balanced in their masculine and feminine energy have more avenues and tools available to use. Leaders who continue to see the world as a war zone needing to be conquered will use the tools of war, whether they are male or female. Many women who have ‘made it’ in the male dominated systems of society, and achieved a certain level of power and influence will often say, they had to perform better than men to prove themselves. There is a woman politician today who showed how much better she could be than any man given the degree of power she was about to receive. She responded when asked what she would do if a certain country posed a threat to her country or her allies by saying, ‘we would obliterate them’.×5663533

Some newspapers reported this as her attempt to prove she could be a ‘hawk’. This is what happens when war is the game and winning is the objective. Many people did not see her attempt as successful, rather they saw a level of brutality, lack of compassion or understanding for the big picture. Would her statement have been seen the same way had she been a man making the statement is subject to discussion? I would suggest that it wasn’t a case of who made the statement as much as that she did not know her audience. If she had made that statement right after 911, many would have said it was appropriate, but the times have changed. Today society is looking for a different way and she was still trying to prove she was tough enough to do war!  There is a man president today who seems to be a balanced human being. He is embracing different. He is able to use both his masculine energy and feminine energy; many people are having a difficult time adjusting to his style. He’s attempting to bring a balance of energies into an unbalanced system. It is too soon to know if he will be successful, but certainly worth examining.

As a society we have come to accept certain stereotypes of what it means to be a ‘real’ man or woman. Real men are macho, real women are weak, men are aggressive and get the job done, women are manipulative and often victims needing protection. There are many derogatory words to describe a woman who is exhibiting warrior like qualities and so women who do gain a position of power are often disliked. Men are threatened by them and do not want to work with them or for them; women are intimated by them and do not want to work with them or for them. I suspect that part of the animosity is because these women have to adapt their personalities to the ‘male’ world they are working in.

Traditionally women have been solitary due in part to being kept at home busy with children and doing the chores, which until the industrial revolution consumed a great deal of their time. Women married to wealthy men, who had help with domestic duties were more able to venture out into the world, to read and educate themselves. As they did so they began to influence society. They began to work in groups and frequently had many leaders attending to different goals. Being solitary allows for individual attention to the tasks at hand, after all there is no one to assist. Leadership is not an option under these conditions, it is critical to survival; there is no one to follow. It is natural for a woman to move into action when called to do so, and equally natural for other women to follow her lead. Not her order.  It is natural for a man to come to the aide of a woman without being asked, if he sees the need. Women who learn to delegate rather than order or demand, can be very good leaders. Women, who learn to show their appreciation for other’s efforts, do well as leaders, and so do men.

Historically as well as in many cases today, women were responsible for the daily care of children and home. But they had little say in how these jobs would be done. They had little input into matters of finance, or world affairs. Not because they didn’t have an opinion, but because it was not invited. Rarely do women enter a world which they are not invited into.

During WWII when so many men were overseas, the country looked to the women to do the ‘men’s’ jobs. Not because the women had a special or unique way of doing the work, but simply because the men were not available. The women were invited into this world and they accepted the offer with enthusiasm. They wanted to do their part. When the men returned from war, the women were expected to return to their domestic duties. Women were the default choice, not the preference.

This is a quote from The World War II Home Front in Summerside PEI website

“Seven hundred fifty thousand (750,000) Canadian women served in Canada’s war industries… Four hundred thousand Canadian women (400,000) entered the civilian workforce and 760,000 took over the farm work” For a young country of 11-12 million at the time, we also had 1.1 million military personnel.

“How quickly the job front changed with the start of the war. During the Depression jobs were practically non-existent. Once the country moved into a total war economy there were more jobs than men for the positions. The only alternative was women. Every person, man or woman, sixteen and over had to register with the newly created Department of National War Services. Just as World War One had, World War II would further change the role of women in society. The men of the country had to be freed up for combat duty, unless their job was labeled essential. Women replaced them in the workforce. Just months before, what would have been considered unsuitable work for a woman was now a new opportunity to be grasped. Many of these jobs had a good salary attached to them and for the woman who had never earned money of her own, it gave a new spirit of independence. Previously only single women went out to work – now married women were also called upon to do their duty. Day-care centres were put in manufacturing plants and a tax break was allotted for the married man with a working wife.”

Once again you can see that compared to the depression, war was better for many. Not for the over 45,000 Canadians who died, or their families, but just the same some will say this was better.

It was also better for women who previously were not permitted to work outside the home after marriage, and only in limited occupations. Now they were not only encouraged to get into the workforce but it was a necessity. The men (their first choice) were not available. I feel the same attitude is rising to the surface today.

Maybe Women Can do Better

It is very common to hear that men have ruled the world, made a big mess and now it’s time to give the women a chance. Society is desperate for something to relieve the pressure, the pain, the guilt and the apparent doom in our forecast. We are so desperate that we are even willing to give the women a chance. Some people are forecasting that the world itself is going to end in 2012, or we’ll blow it up, …so perhaps it’s a good enough time to hand over the reigns?  The reality of seeing that men have been in power, ruling the world and the results are not what we want, is becoming overwhelming! But we would be mistaken if we placed the blame at the feet of men; there is no way men could have held the power, or used it the way they have if women had not consented. We consent with our support, our silence, our producing children for the next generation of soldier etc. etc. We consent when we turn a blind eye to another woman being abused by her husband or father. We consent when we allow our neighbors children to go to school hungry, wagging our finger or criticizing the parent and not offering any help. We consent when we believe we shouldn’t speak, for fear of negative consequences for us.  We consent when we undermine other women who attempt to step into politics, or have a position of perceived power and we verbally insult them. We consent to this life and society’s ills when we ignore the truth and play the games.

Our situation is either very dire or very hopeful, depending on our point of view. If we believe that the men are busy at war so let’s get the women to pick up the slack and see if they can get the machinery working again; we’ll probably get the machinery working again but that is all we’ll do. I expect we will have the same results as history has already shown us? We will not have the results we desire unless we change the way we think about women and men.

Women are not the clean up crew. We are not the last choice, the default choice, or the last hope. We are half of the partnership. Women and men can lead; it is the method of leadership and the direction we are going that determines the type of leader we need or want. In the political system in Canada we hear about the need for more women in politics, but there is also a clear message that if women want to play in that old boys club, they must leave their feminine side at home, they must become one of the boys.  That is not going to adjust our imbalance. The club rules are set, they are just as the game of hockey; ….if you want to play this game with us, you play by our rules.

It is not that gender is the problem, rather it is our limiting views of people and our need to define them. We have collectively accepted that men act a certain way, women another and we must chose between these two; anyone who is different than our preconceived definition is frightening to us.

Fear is the method we use to control each other and its used by those who want to control us as well. When women were ‘doing’ the male jobs during WWII there was no question about whether they could do the jobs. When women decided on their own that they wanted to work in traditionally male jobs after the war, they became a threat. Women had to fight for this right to work and then the right to be paid equally. Often the challenge was that if a woman was going to do the job, she had to prove she could do it just like a man.  If a ‘weak woman’ could do a macho male job, then what did that mean to the men? Did that make the man less macho?

Politics, governing and leadership have been seen as traditionally male roles/jobs. Over the years various women have fought for the right to hold office, the right to vote, the right to be heard and even held positions of leadership, but they had to do the job, just like a man or better than he could. It did give us a sense that things were better. Not good. Not what we want, but somewhat better.

We have limited ourselves by placing so much importance on the male role as leader and defining the qualities of a leader as one who can rule, can stand firm, fearless and when needed ‘hawkish’. If we want leaders who lead us to a world we can live with, then we are going to have to change our definition of leader. We are also going to have to let go of our fear of different. Fear of different has been the root behind many of society’s problems or disharmony. It is evident in prejudice, racism, and sexism but once we become familiar with each other we lose the fear.

Any Woman Will Not Do

If we believe we can simply substitute the male individuals in positions of power with any women and that will create something better, I believe we shall fail. It is not that we need women to lead, but we need feminine energy to propel us into creation of an exquisite world; if that is what we desire. This is not something we must import as we already have it. We only have to allow it to be used, seen, heard and valued. Women have that energy ready to go. We have a storehouse of energy in reserve. Men have plenty of it also, although some will need help to let it work. Women have not been asked to serve, to participate and bring their unique gifts, talents, wisdom and vision to the table. We have been asked to come to the boys club and play by the old boys rule and participate in a way that the masculine is comfortable. We have been asked to represent ‘women’ but do it like a man. We have been asked to play war because it seems like we are losing the battle. We are being asked to show up and give people a visual of the feminine, but not too feminine! For the amount of input we are being asked to give… posters of women in suits would serve just as well!

So the very important, if not vital role of feminine energy is missing in our world. Feminine aspects are nurturing, compassion, intuition, creativity, artistic expressions, while masculine aspects are action, protection. It’s interesting to read the Gazette ran a story on October 3, about masculine and feminine energy in the workforce, and I quote “Feminine energy is valuable in being able to dream, imagine and (visualize); the masculine energy brings those ideas to life, so you need both,”

It is my belief that the missing link in our system today is lack of direction or vision, which comes from that feminine energy. We have not been able to find the language to express what we want and therefore continue to choose leaders who take us where they want to go, not necessarily where we want to go. Or they take us where they believe we must go, or where they think we want to go. We are not communicating well as a society. Neither the speaker, nor listener has been successful in their mission, yet.


doing the same thing over and over again

and expecting different results.

- Albert Einstein

 Who Can Lead Us?

When we hear Einstein’s famous quote we tend to agree that it is insane to keep doing things over an over expecting a different result. We are not doing that; we are doing things over and over again and expecting better results! When we finally accept that we’ve done the best we can do with the current ingredients, that’s when we are ready to find a formula for different.

Having women lead the same game, would not be different at all. Women are still human beings after all. Not all women are leaders, nor are all men. Leadership itself is a very delicate role. We need wisdom to take us to a world we can live with. We need people who are wise enough to know when to sit and ponder, when to listen or speak, when to wait and when to act. We need to be able to research and consider all aspects of situations, to visualize possibilities and potentials and not be afraid to try. We need to accept that sometimes we will not hit the goal, and sometimes we will. The skills required, to truly lead people to a more exquisite way of life, are balanced leadership. Today’s leaders are finding it very difficult because very few are following them. We are not following primarily because we either don’t want to go where they are going, or we don’t know where they are going.

 It’s Our Turn

We, men and women, will chose our leaders according to our belief in where they are going, our trust in their belief, our sense of wellbeing in the direction that they are going, our sense of empowerment, inclusion and respect. Feminine energy is about inclusion not exclusion. Many of us are tired of trying to fit into a box, or a club that requires us to give up our dreams, our own thoughts and our power. We want to be consulted, to be heard and to be respected even when people don’t share our belief.

If we are committed to a more exquisite world, we will be the ones to define it, to describe it, to communicate it with our words and actions. The one, who is going in the direction that we want to go, is the one we will follow. The one who is wise enough to stop along the way and ask for advice, perhaps encourage someone else to lead for a certain part of the journey, will be the one who truly leads an evolved people. The one who encourages conversation, listens for new and fresh ideas, applauds and celebrates the individual effort and success, is the one we will want to be around. The one, who sees all avenues as potentials, has an eye and keen sense of discernment will be the one we imitate. The one, who gives us confidence, encourages our own voice, our own sense of ability and does not cower in the face of the unknown. The one who speaks truth, does not belittle or speak with a superior attitude, can be a man or a woman.  Furthermore, there is not one to lead us, there are many and those ones are us. We are the leaders of tomorrow, as we each start walking towards a better more exquisite world, others will follow us.

If you want the job done right, get the right tool for the job!

New World Different Tools

If we are looking for good quality leaders to help us make a different world, then we set our sights on people who have the ability to lead. Rulers, dictators and tyrants are not leaders, even if people are forced to follow them. Even if the people living under their rule have a good quality of life, if they are not free, then it is not different. That isn’t real leadership at all. Real leadership is a shared responsibility. It requires giving and receiving, not give and take. When we receive we do so with open arms, whereas when we take we use our fist.

The first concept we will have to learn is that we have a choice between better or different. We don’t have to keep doing the same things a bit better and hope they will be different. It is important to understand that better and different are not the same thing. The leaders we need to take us to the new exquisite world we desire, we visualize, we long for, will not take us to war with ourselves or our fellow human being. As long as we believe we must find someone to blame for what ails us, we will not be putting our energy into what we want, because our hearts and minds will be stuck on blame, shame, punishment and ridicule. We will have to leave the old tools behind. We will have to let go of the blame, shame, fear of each other and embrace possibilities of different. If we continue to seek out the enemy or create images to fear, and buy into the use of fear to control us, we will never be free and never attain that peace we say we want. That mindset takes a great deal of energy. Some may say that is just wrong. We cannot give the perpetrators a pass; we can’t just let it go. If that is a fact, then I suspect those people will not let it go and the cycle will continue.

So I encourage you to explore the possibilities of an exquisite world, and begin to communicate what that looks like. Begin to see evidence of the good already here and build on the good. Let go of what is not to your liking. Focus on what is working. Embrace the good. Embrace and support the potential of our youth. Think about how many people live on the planet and are well fed, well educated, living in harmony. Allow every voice to bring forward their visions, just in case they happen to be the one who has the next great idea! Celebrate the peace in your own life. Turn off the news for a period of time and see if you like yourself, your home, your life. As you let go of the noise, confusion and distractions you may find yourself walking towards something you truly desire. As you walk with your eyes focused on that desire, you may find someone walking beside you, sharing the journey, and another few behind you and soon enough they will call you a leader.

In conclusion; I believe we’ve done our best with this old belief system. Woman will not make that system better and neither will men. At some point we are simply going to let it go and then…Women will create something different, which I believe is what we really want…if it is really different, it will involve both genders, all people and nobody will RULE…that’s what I believe, not all will agree. We can keep settling for better, or we can embrace something different…but neither men or women can give us different if they work alone -

Necessity is the mother of invention, not the father! So if we believe it is necessary to live in a different, more exquisite world; I’m certain the feminine will find a way!

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