The best definition I have come across on Inclusion & Diversity is – Diversity is like being invited to a party and Inclusion is being asked to dance. Hold onto this idea and you will know why both attributes are critical. I&D not just about gender, but also about race, sexuality and definitely about being inclusive of ideas, beliefs and much more.
Let us take a detour into the ancient wisdom either from the the Inari tradition (Scandinavia) or Shinto in Japan or the Sanatana Dharma (Timeless wisdom from India). All of them have symbols and stories of fluid genders and its acceptance. They also profess a very important theory that we are made of Flow and Structure (Yes, they are not opposites). It is there in us to uncover.
The right hemisphere of the body is always in flow, connected, collaborative, emotive and boundaryless. The left hemisphere is structure, rational. This is not about the left/right brain theory. The traditions show these in symbols. Hindu tradition depicts as Ardhanareshwari (symbol of man and woman fused). Why is this important? We try to see gender as 3 separate entities. Our futile questions are about how man can participate or help in gender equality which has an inherent flaw to begin with.
All genders have both, IQ which is dominated in the left and EQ which is dominated in the right hemisphere. We have masculine traits (rational, numerical, objective) and feminine traits (collaboration, empathy, compassion). It is now proven that Level 5 leaders (Good to Great, Jim Collins), the ultimate leaders, are the ones who demonstrate the deepest levels of execution (left hemisphere) and a great sense of humility (right hemisphere). They are comfortable in this balance. Men or women have these traits shown in some dominance - they have them in equal parts.
I was part of a research group in an organization where we asked women on what made them successful. The common response - ‘by using objectivity, rationality, numeracy which was the currency’, or predominantly masculine traits. This gets us to the point - the women were invited to the party but were not asked to dance.
Hence, just bringing more women into work does not automatically drive better inclusion.
We pride the movement of IWD which started about 110 years ago. Did you know that the Jain Tirthankaras - the most devout and ascetic - wrote a text about 1800 years back in a 9-box grid (yes!) about gender & sexual fluidity? It said - we are born in one gender, feel like another and fall in love with certain gender. So I am born man, I may feel my body is like a woman and love a man/woman or 3rd gender.
One of the most famous epics in India even before organized religion came into place is the Ramayan. There are 300+ versions of the epic and one is narrated by a transgender story. Lord Ram when, coming back to Ayodhya after winning the war sees a group of transgenders waiting at the border of the city. He asks them on why they are not joining the celebrations. They say ‘Lord, when you went into the forest 14 years back and all citizens followed you to a distance, you gave an instruction that all men and women should return back. We were confused so we waited here’. Lord Ram takes one of them in his chariot as he enters Ayodhya to honour their love and commitment.
One of the pillars of modern Hindu religion is the Manu Smriti. A chapter is dedicated to women and says ‘a home, society or country which does not respect its women will never survive and thrive’. We have known this wisdom for centuries and yet find ourselves trying to solve it like a problem with annual vows. Now to the wrong question on helping women.
The minute you say I can help you, you have also assumed a position of covert power. Do they really need help? My suggestion is for men to get out of the way and allow women of our society to bloom.
On IWD, instead of having talks for women, by women, I suggest we spend a day teaching men to explore their feminine traits. This may drive better outcomes. Think about this story and its metaphorical meaning. Why was the most powerful & valiant masculine warrior Arjuna, epitome of masculinity asked to spend a year as a woman when in the forest?
There is a lot of wisdom out there. Our issue is the lack of will to act and execute. Men do not need to help but get out of the way. These dialogues need to start at home.
We will be equal when we truly desire it.