When we discuss women advancing their careers we cannot assume that all women have the same challenges. Our challenges are defined by who we are and the culture of our work environment
I introduced the Purple Zone, as an evolution beyond thinking of men and women in terms of pink and blue stereotypes; to thinking of men and women with balancing characteristics. When we blend male (blue) and female (pink) we create purple. I would argue that most men and women are really purple – not a homogenous, androgynous shade but a spectrum of shades spanning from a pinkish Violet to a pure Purple to a bluish Indigo. It is up to each of use to define our shade of purple.
And just as the Purple zone applies to our personalities it also applies to the personality (culture) of our workplace. Some workplaces are Violet needing more female characteristics while others are Indigo needing more masculine. In the center are gender-neutral environments which are pure Purple.
Each of us must figure out what shade of purple we are and what shade our work environment is. There is a logic that says that people will work in an environment that is close to their personal shade. More feminine women will work in a more traditional Violet workplace and women who work in traditional male environments, Indigo, are more masculine.
Can we also abandon that concept? It is too closely tied to stereotypes.
Instead we should look at our work environment and our personalities and figure out what adjustments need to be made.
Are you too Violet for your work environment? Does the environment require quick action and you ponder things too long? Then you should make some adjustments within yourself.
Or do you work in an Indigo environment need your Violet pondering? Does it act too quickly without enough planning? Does it ignore details so that whatever action is taken doesn’t produce the expected results?
Is the environment very Violet to where problems are always bogged down in discussion and everything always seems so complex? Is there never enough time to fully act on a plan, if an action plan is ever even developed? In this case, you would recognize that some masculine traits of action and less detail are needed. Can you provide them or do you bring a man into the group to help add the balance?
What is important is recognizing what is needed.
We have a tendency to tell women they are too Violet, for a workplace that is on the bluer side of Purple. But what we need to consider is that the women may not need to change. They may be exactly what the work environment needs. The real problem may be that they don’t know how to empower their female traits and provide what
A more Violet woman can look at an Indigo environment and see great opportunities. Very deep Indigo environments are crying out for women to make them more efficient. For example any industry that uses a lot of physical labor needs more women. There is an assumption that the men who do physical work are not intelligent and consequently are not asked to think, they do not become good problem solvers. Women that go into these industries make a big difference in performance because they open up communication. The difference between a man who directs workers and a woman who asks questions such how it is going, what problems are there, what does the worker need, is that the woman is inviting the worker to think. When he starts thinking, he starts solving problems which delivers higher performance.
A woman that went into the Indigo environment with more male characteristics may not be nearly as successful as a woman with more feminine characteristics.
That is how we need to start thinking about ourselves – as balancing the environment, not adapting to it in order to fit in.
We cannot assume either that all work environments should strive for pure Purple. Pure Purple does not represent Utopia. Different workplaces need different characteristics; they need to be different shades of Purple.
And we should not assume that work environments are static – they may bounce around the Purple spectrum.
What is great about being women is that we are very adaptable. We can wear Violet this month and Purple next. And besides isn’t it fun when everyone else is wearing Indigo to show up wearing Magenta, Orchid or Plum?
Empowered women come in many shades of Purple.
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P.S. – Years ago when Dress for Success with its boring black and navy suits set the standard, I had a Plum suit. I was the only woman in an office with who were old enough to be my father. When I wanted to stand out and make a point, I wore the plum suit. It worked.