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I’ve devoted a lot of virtual ink to the business case for engaging and retaining women. There are a lot of good business reasons. And there are reasons that transcend business. Here is why it really matters.

 I envision an American workplace where people thrive, bring their “best selves” and do their best work.  Why?  At one level, it’s because people who love their work and thrive (in business parlance, people who are “engaged”) tend to have a fuller, more satisfying life—and I’d like to contribute to a world with more happy, fulfilled people.  At the next level, it’s because business does better with happy, fulfilled people.  With an engaged workforce, an organization gets better results—and demonstrates better ethics and is more likely to be a good citizen wherever it operates. 

U.S. business influences the big issues and outcomes on this planet.  Businesses that succeed because they have engaged people will have the most positive impact on issues that affect us all—the environment, war and peace, poverty and plenty to name a few.

For very understandable, non-malicious reasons, in the average business workplace (and in our culture generally) today, masculine approaches predominate over feminine approaches.  Businesses do better when there is gender diversity at the leadership level. That’s because when men and women are equally represented, it is more likely that both masculine and feminine perspectives and approaches will be present. That leads to the best decisions—the kind of decisions we need on those major world issues.

This is not a novel perspective.

 In 1975, Fritjof Capra in The Tao of Physics, referred to a cultural imbalance in terms of the analogous distinction of yin and yang.

“The Chinese terminology of yin and yang is very useful to describe this imbalance.  Our culture has consistently favored yang or masculine values and attitudes and has neglected their complimentary yin or feminine counterparts.  We have favored:

  • Self-assertion over integration
  • Analysis over synthesis
  • Rational knowledge over intuitive wisdom
  • Science over religion
  • Competition over cooperation
  • Expansion over conservation, and so on.”

Capra argued that this one-sided development is bad for society and pointed to the importance of regaining a balance between the masculine and feminine sides of human nature:

The survival of our whole civilization will depend ultimately on adopting some of the yin attitudes and reaching wholeness and harmony between the masculine yang and feminine yin.”

The reason to improve the retention of women so they make it to the leadership level is to get American business closer to that goal of “wholeness and harmony between the masculine yang and feminine yin.” American business needs it, and the world needs it.