Patty Beach and Robert Toennis speak on the concept of “Polarity Thinking” and how it will help you to “Think Different” about gender issues in business.
If you (man or woman) read this article, and deeply consider it, you will see the topic of gender and how it affects you personally much differently than the way you see it now. You will most likely “Think Different” about all gender topics. Whether you are a man or woman, gay or straight, bisexual or transgender–or any one of the 75 gender identities available on Facebook–your previously gender vision will shift.
Your point of view will shift because you will understand how to use “Polarity Thinking” when you think about gender issues. You will use it even to re-evaluate what “gender” really means. You will use this new insight to live better in your own skin with whatever gender identity is uniquely you.
Now is a great time for you start to think differently because gender issues are trending topics these days and your life and your future is being affected as a result.
Examples include recent public appeals in favor of equal pay made by The Clinton Foundation, Patricia Arquette at the Oscars and most recently by Pope Francis who called the gender pay gap “a scandal.” The Supreme Court is also about to rule on the constitutionality of gay marriage laws. Also getting huge attention is “The World’s Greatest Athlete” from 1976, Bruce Jenner, announcing he is finally publicly beginning his transgender journey to become the “her” he speaks of as his true self.
These are only a few examples of men in positions of influence radically transforming their own beliefs and practices around gender and changing the world. You can follow these leaders and gather the courage to speak your own ‘gender truth,’ whatever that may be.
This ability to “Think Different” about something so foundational to all humans requires not only courage but also deep conviction. Bruce Jenner and Pope Francis are two of the most prominent and influential humans on the planet. One was previously known only for amazing feats of athleticism. Now, he is more well known, and way more influential for doing something far more courageous and difficult. The other is, at the age of 78, daring to ask over 1 billion Catholics to rethink how they perceive the value of women and feminine energy and what it means to be a true believer in all Christian philosophies. He has a huge task to redirect those 1 billion people and 2,000 years of momentum on this topic. It will take time, but he is starting the process.
These are two very different but very similar acts of “gender courage.” They are similar because they challenge a core belief of most all humans on the planet. Deep down inside many of us carry the unexamined belief that, in some fashion, the work and contributions of men are fundamentally more valuable than the work and contributions of women.
This belief is not limited to men alone or any particular culture. But although it is widespread you can make the conscious choice to “Think Different.”
Step one is you have to understand that if men and women shared equal power and influence in all human pursuits, ALL people and all professions would achieve benefits. We make this assertion with certainty because we practice Polarity Thinking when we think about gender. We “Think Different”.
Are you ready to “Think Different”?
We think you are.
How polarity thinking works
Polarities are interdependent yet opposite pairs of values that need each other over time to maintain and gain positive outcomes. Because polarities are interdependent, they need each other; neither is sufficient alone. Each side is equally valuable yet incomplete without the opposite complementary side of the equation. Polarity thinking is about tapping into the power of both sides using “both-and” thinking. It invites a move away from arguing which side is to believing “we are both right.” This kind of thinking supplements our traditional problem solving (either-or) thinking and acting.
Barry Johnson, founder of Polarity Partnerships, took this concept and created the Polarity Map to illustrate the dynamics of polarities. The Polarity Map has four quadrants with each pole having an upside and a downside. Upsides are about the positive results obtained when we focus on that pole, and downsides are about the negative outcomes present when the opposite side is neglected. With an understanding of polarity principles, one can predict what will happen if one’s focus leans primarily to one side. In fact, the more attention paid to one side of a pole, the more certainty there is that there will be a move to the downside of the very thing that has taken all the attention. In addition, the more you are attached to “your side” or “your value,” the more you are unable to see the potential downsides attached to it.
When it comes to men and women working together it is important to acknowledge that masculine and feminine energy are a polarity that we need not be at odds about. Masculine and feminine energy are polar opposite yet complementary energies that when combined make up the full spectrum of energy forces available to solve challenges at hand and are the source of all creativity. Masculine and feminine energy are forms of energy that both men and women have access to yet for both cultural norms and biological reasons, men tend to have more access to masculine energy, and women tend have more access to feminine energy. When we have mixed gender teams with balanced representation, both men and women have more access to both forms of energy especially if we practice polarity thinking to solve problems together.
While we intuitively understand that masculine and feminine are opposite energies, it helps to explicitly define them as so, so that we can tap into the upsides of both types of energy. In its most basic form, we can define masculine energy as differentiating energy and feminine energy as integrating energy. Differentiating energy is defining what some thing is by defining how it is not like something else. Examples of masculine energy include being structured (this piece before that piece), being competitive (us vs. them), and being goal oriented (this goal, not that goal). The sword that can cut one thing into two pieces often symbolizes masculine energy. Feminine energy is the exact polar opposite – it is integrating energy – or defining what something is by defining how it is like something else. Examples include being empathetic (I feel how I am like you), being collaborative (blending ideas) and inclusive (we are one clan). The bowl that allows us to mix many pieces into one cohesive whole often symbolizes feminine energy.
Now that we have defined the masculine/feminine terms in roughly equal but opposite ways we can make a polarity map for the masculine feminine polarity.
When we use the phrase “what is good for the goose is good for the gander” we acknowledge the interdependent nature of the male/female dynamic. This adage, which is generally applied to romantic relationships holds true at work as well, in large part because when we have an equal share of men and women at work we tend to balance out and complement each other’s energy. When we hold both energies as valuable in equal measure and consciously oscillate from one side to the other according to the situation at hand, we become more powerful and productive and minimize the amount of time we are experiencing the downsides of each pole.
Once we see the world using polarity thinking it becomes clear that integrating the feminine side into more traditionally masculine fields and the masculine side into traditionally feminine fields will reap rewards we have yet to even imagine.
Women alone cannot achieve gender equality. More men like Pope Francis must bravely declare that it’s time for change. Without men and women in the fight for equality together, voices for change will be a minority. If we all practiced polarity thinking the courage and conviction needed to achieve equality will shape our choices not just because it is the fair and right thing to do but also because it is the smart thing to do.
Do you feel different already?
Are you already starting to “Think Different”?
Tell us about it in the comments.