I hear from a lot of women who don’t feel as powerful at work as they want to be. They feel like the male hierarchy shuts them down or holds them back. I understand exactly what they are talking about. However, I don’t let my male colleagues and their hierarchy affect me.
How? Why not?
Because I don’t consider myself part of the male hierarchy.
If we use the perspective that women hold up half the sky then, men and women are side-by-side partners. We have true equality.
On the men’s side, the men gather themselves together in a line. Sometimes the line is horizontal and they line up with labels – first, second, third…last. Sometimes the line is vertical. We think of this as a pecking order using labels – Alpha, Beta, Sigma…Omega. Whether they line up horizontally or vertically, men can only see the men who are adjacent to themselves.
On the women’s side, we gather in circles. In our circles, everyone is visible and everyone has a voice. Everyone can talk to everyone else.
Now imagine the male vertical line next to the female circle. From any position in the circle, women can look around the circle and see all the other women. They can also look up and down the vertical line and see each and every man. Because we gather in a circle we are not limited in our access to anyone – male or female.
I have always had this perspective, even when I was in the Air Force at the very beginning of my career. I never felt that I couldn’t talk to the Wing Commander because…ooohhhh…he was at the top of the organizational hierarchy and I was close to the bottom.
I always made the distinction between the organizational hierarchy that identifies roles and responsibilities and the vertical male hierarchy.
Men don’t make this distinction – they inserted their vertical male-hierarchy into the organizational hierarchy. Decades ago when women entered the workplace we accepted their merger. So, of course we don’t feel empowered – paternalism put us at the bottom of the male hierarchy. And it doesn’t matter where we are in the organizational hierarchy we feel less empowered than our male peers because the male vertical hierarchy diminishes us.
But who said we had to accept their merger? Why can’t women keep their perspective?
As women, we can go into the workplace and put the organizational hierarchy into our circular perspective. We can visualize everyone in our workplace sitting around in a circle. I can talk to anyone and understand their role and responsibilities to the workplace. I can share what I do and understand how our roles come together for the benefit of the workplace. That includes the top guy.
I decided early in my Air Force career that it was more important for the top guy to have all the information he needs to do his job well, than to empower the male vertical hierarchy. If I was sitting in a meeting (along the wall because I wasn’t important enough to sit at the table) listening to a discussion and I had a valuable piece of information that the Wing Commander needed and no one was mentioning, I presented it.
Now, according to the male vertical hierarchy I should tell my boss, who then tells my Squadron Commander, who then tells the Group Commander who then finally tells the Wing Commander.
But what are the chances that the Wing Commander gets the information?
Nil to none. And that is the huge problem with the male vertical hierarchy – it doesn’t communicate well and it doesn’t communicate timely. As a result, poor decisions are made or the results are never as expected.
However, as a woman visualizing all of us sitting in a circle, working together, looking out for each other, with no ego to feed, I feel an obligation to speak up and make sure the Wing Commander has the information. Because I speak up, a better decision is made and better results are produced. Those better results benefit the Wing Commander, Group Commander, Squadron Commander and my boss. So now they are all very happy and I get lots of pats on the back. And they forgot all about their hierarchy because I made them look good.
What empowered me to speak up was my female circular perspective.
What would keep me quiet? Seeing myself at the bottom of the male vertical hierarchy.
Because I don’t make myself part of the vertical male hierarchy, I feel empowered and my workplaces perform better. And for those of us who work in project environments, our circular perspective is the correct perspective – the linear perspective is one of the greatest sources of inefficiency. When working in projects, we must include men into our circles. And men love our circles because they can have a voice their hierarchy doesn’t allow them to have.
Have there been men who want to put me in the male vertical hierarchy and push me to the bottom? Of course.
I’ve talked about being locked out of the Penthouse Suite of the All Boys Club even though I was more deserving of membership than most of the men in there. And when they shoved me out the door, they expected me to take the express elevator to the basement.
But I didn’t. Because in the Purple Zone and in the female half of the sky there are no elevators!
So, I just sat outside the door and waited – because I knew eventually a beer delivery was coming and that door was opening. And in spite of what women are told about bringing coffee and lunch to the guys, if delivering beer gets me back inside, I will deliver beer…I will personally hand a beer to the most prominent man in the suite and introduce myself.
Our empowerment begins with our perspective. We don’t have to be part of the male vertical hierarchy – it is a male hierarchy. We are women. In my book I will expand on how men are equipped to deal with their hierarchy in a way women aren’t. So, if men want to limit themselves by living in their hierarchy in their part of the sky, then that’s their business. It means nothing to me because I choose to keep my female perspective.
As women we gather and interact in a circle. We keep our circular perspective because it empowers us to see ourselves as equal to men – all men – from the Omega to the Alpha.
And if women want to sit in a circle, burn scented candles and hold hands while singing songs of love, peace and harmony, we can do that too.
Empowered women are not part of the vertical male-hierarchy.
Empowered women work through interactive circles.
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