The Conversation we need to have about the Glass Ceiling and the Week That Was
Houston, we have a problem. A big, giant, black hole of a problem and I think I have figured out how to fix it.
This is me and this is my view. I am on a retreat with women and we are here to write our soul stories. Six women from different cities, different backgrounds. Some mothers, some not. Some extroverts, some not. The differences do not matter because we have connected at a deeper level. We have cried, we have laughed and we have shared things with each other that we have never shared with anyone else. And that was just by the end of day 1.
Just hours before flying up to the retreat, I was in the very different setting of a breakfast event with 900 business women featuring Sophia Amoruso, the young ecommerce entrepreneur who took her platform Nasty Gal to stratospheric heights. But as she sat on stage being interviewed, it was revealed that in the 24 hours prior her company had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This young American woman, far away from home in front of 900 strangers, cried. Of course she did. And she could, because she was in the space of women.
This past week has been a punch in the face for women in the US. Trump’s victory has swept giant waves of sadness over hundreds of millions of women across the world. Justifiably, there has been a collective cry, because yet again, it seems acceptable for men to display foul sexism and engage in abusive and objectifying language. It has left me reeling and at a loss as to why our civilization continues to move backwards with regards to gender equality.
But I think I have found the answer, not only at this retreat, but by examining everything I do in my life as a friend, mother and entrepreneur. It is what women in every culture around the world do. We create circles of support. Sacred spaces for women. We open our arms, our hearts and our souls to lift our sisters up. We listen and we talk.
While women have been supporting, collaborating and sharing, and creating deep and meaningful relationships with each other, men have been doing it another way. They gather, they shoot the breeze, they open doors in business and finance. They have moved ahead by the metrics of capitalism and wealth building, in methodical and measured way that has created global chasms between rich and poor and male and female. If stress has engulfed them, they have buried it and compartmentalized it, and have pushed forward regardless. Young men are looking to role models in business, politics and sport and seeing increasingly aggressive men before them. These men are also fathers and husbands. So what the hell is happening?
I think I know.
Yes, men may be doing a bit more around the house, more child engagement responsibilities, but they are highly pressurised and overwhelmed with a sense of financial responsibility coupled with competitive urge to outdo each other. What they are not doing is talking. They have no place to talk, and it is simply not acceptable or mainstream for them to talk, to share, to open up emotionally, to hold their brothers up, or to cry.
I have three close male friends that share their confidences with me. They are high achievers, they are also husbands and fathers. They share with me and with no one else. And there is no way in hell that they would ever disclose their hurt, frustrations or desires with their close male friends. Absolutely. no. way.
So back to my giant black hole of a problem. As a collective, women have moved forward in leaps and bounds over the past 4 decades because we have managed to hold each other up in like-minded sacred circles and it has made us feel strong. Men are doing it, but to very different ends – to advance each other and themselves.
To top off a terrible week, Leonard Cohen died. When poets and songwriters, esteemed across generations, pass away, it is deeply felt. 2016 has been terrible on that front. So many icons gone. Enlightened men. But why do these poets’ passing impact us so deeply? It is because they feel, they share, they tell their truth and a collective truth. Enlightened man is on earth, but he is not the mainstream role model for men of today. Trump’s victory has shown that “Man is broken”. We are to a critical juncture where we need to discuss openly and frankly how we have reached a point where 50% of the population can be emotionally open and support, share, lift, cry and truly collaborate, yet the vast majority of the other 50% feel they cannot. Men have lost their way.
Trump’s victory has held up a mirror to the dire state that humanity is in. I heard a wonderful phrase, that we need to move towards a time of “radical self-responsibility”. It is pretty obvious that we can longer rely on Governments to fix our problems. We need to look inwards and soul search. We need to look at our personal behaviours as partners, parents, friends and colleagues in the face, honestly and with open souls and bring back respect, caring and compassion into our lives. This is a time for internal examination and deeper connection. This is an urgent moment in our history where it may be less important for women to break the glass ceiling, and more important for men to have safe places to truly share and break open their trapped souls and compartmentalized minds and start to operate in a more emotionally connected way with each other and with the women in their lives.
Until we get to a stage where it is mainstream and totally natural for men to form and embrace their own circles of emotional support, I cannot see this chasm closing. Until that time, our civilization will continue to hurtle towards that black hole. We will continue to have boyfriends and husbands and business leaders and politicians who do not view us as equal, and use language and rhetoric that is hurtful, offensive and unacceptable; and actions that frighten us and make us feel violated.
Expressing emotion is not weak. It is what connects us as humans and helps us move forward in truth. Suppressing how we truly feel and what we truly desire in our relationships, for ourselves, our families, careers and futures is just plain bad for our health.
I carry the burden of all the confidences of male friends that I hold in my vault. I feel such pain that how they truly feel is stopping them from truly being who they want to be. You may say, well, it’s the same for women. But I tell you, it isn’t. Because from the momentI wake up in the morning, to when I go to sleep at night I have access to so many circles of emotional support and ways to express myself that my male counterparts do not, short of them speaking one-to-one with a therapist.
We are equal
We are equal in the home
We are equal in the workforce
We are equal in the boardroom
We are equal on the world stage
Because we are 50%
And you are the other 50%
That makes up equal partners in the business of Earth.
Believe it with all your being
And let us move forward hand in hand
For the sake of our children and future generations.
This is the conversation we need to be having.