Monday, May 21, 2012

The Invisible Feminine in the Organisation

I have been in discussion with a friend past month regarding how 'uninclusive' today's corporate organisations are of the Feminine. The Feminine with a capital 'F' is my way of saying not women or females but the aspect of nature. That one which is part of the Masculine-Feminine duality which is present everywhere, in both man and woman. We, me and my friend, and a lot of others we talked to, agreed that there is a need to include the Feminine, value it, etc. We were convinced of its utility even. But the challenge was to describe the function and the contribution of the Feminine in the organisation, or even to fully describe of it works,the aspects of an organisation that falls under the Feminine nature. This definition should then help us to understand how it contributes to the organisations and how an organisation is doing on those aspects. As we continue to dialogue on it, I had an interesting metaphor to describe the way the dichotomies play which shows how difficult it is to describe the Feminine.

The metaphor is that of an object and its background.
From time immemorial we have admired, respected, valued  a finished work like a construction project - bridges, buildings, a product of literature - poetry or novels, fiction and non fiction,  theories on physics, psychology and all else. All of these come under the definition of success as we understand it. Or rather I should say production of such an entity is what we call success. Then we further had to measure it with wealth, fame and other associations that we make with success.
We naturally understand the struggle which goes behind the production of such an entity. The vision, planning, skill, knowledge, hardwork. This is what is the basis of calling it a success, of respecting it and of the sense of pride.
All is fair, so what is my point. My point is that these entities are always the fantastic object in the foreground. We never notice the background. In reality it is the background which inspires, nourishes, supports, gives a context based meaning to the foreground object. Imagine a beautiful picture of a black swan is meaningless in a black background. One of the most fascinating aspects of Monalisa is its variation of the background. The foreground is that of a woman with a slight smile, but what holds you to the painting without you becoming aware of it is the background of it. On one side near and on the other far. But for the conscious mind, we only see the foreground object of the woman with the smile.

Similarly in each of our supposed achievements, our successes, we rarely look at the background. There is a commons saying - Behind every successful man there is the hand of a woman. While we may recognise a woman as an inspiration, the credit of the success is still given to the man. Unless that unclear 'hand of a woman' is articulated more, it will remain a mystery and never credited.

In organisation setting, I see this as the culture, the values, the relationships, etc which form the context of the individuals to work in. When we assess an organisation we asses its IPs, its fixed assets, its clients, its orders, its inventories, etc. How do we value the more subtle context in which these exist? It is impossible to get the full meaning of the assets without its context. What do you think will happen to the company which asseses another company on its fixed assets, IPs, clients and orders, accordingly buys the company. But having not fully understood its context, culture, relationships, can this company integrate it into its own?

Without the right context, can creativity, ownership, commitment from employees exist?

Modern management science has put all this in the area of HR and OB and then put HR and OB into the back seat. How many people do you know who were HR VPs and gone ahead to become CEOs? This is depsite many companies declaring that our people are our assets (interestingly, the one person I know who went from being a VP HR to COO and then CEO is a woman -Anne Mulcahy of Xerox. See this link -
The lack of psychology applied in organisation is indicated in this - A sound plan to deal with employee turnover is to have back-up for your key people! This is an HR practice with no application of Psychology to employees, only of Project management. What happened to creating a space where employees would like to work, building relationship with employees such that they have commitment to the company, to the project and may even help in finding, grooming replacements for themselves. Which is the strategy followed in your company?

For me personally this is how the Feminie in the context is difficult to see, value and quantify to grow. It is like the what we see in a Shiva temple. How often do you notice the Yoni around the erect Phallus?

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