February 21 – Values

Today’s meditation opens with a quote from Susan Sturdinent and Gail Donoff. They write, “When a woman takes on a career, they don’t discard their female values, but add them onto the traditional male values of work achievement and career success. As they struggle to fill the demands of both roles, women can’t understand why men don’t share this dual value system.” Values are our principles or what we deem most important in life, and these are largely determined by gender roles, which are frankly outdated.

Gender roles and the implicit values they instill in us have yet to catch up with modern times. Until very recently, women have not had the same rights and equality afforded to them as men, resulting in clearly defined (and often unfair) roles for both sexes. Women’s domain was that of the household and caring for people, while men’s was providing for the household by achieving a certain level of professional success. This has resulted in a society where women assume dual values while men, despite many having a spouse or partner who works (some of whom earn just as much as if not more than their male counterparts), only feel the responsibility of professional values.

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On this topic Anne Wilson Schaef writes:

One of the often most painful learnings for women who work outside the home is that the same skills that work in business just do not work in our homes and in our personal relationships. Luckily, we have the advantage of knowing a value system that does contribute to living, and we have only to learn what works at work.

Unfortunately, in the process of learning a career value system, we are encouraged to denigrate our values and sometimes we succumb to this pressure. Our values are not wrong. They are different. And the workplace would be richer with them.”

Because of this emphasis on care-giving for women, we tend to value interpersonal relationships, communication, respect and work-life balance more than men do. With men, the emphasis has largely been on providing for the family, so they are more likely to value salary, power, authority and status. That’s not to say those things don’t matter to women and vice versa, of course; we are just speaking in generalizations here. When I first started in my career, I felt like my values put me at a disadvantage. I believed I had to make myself more like a man in order to succeed. I had to learn to be authoritative and direct, to assume power and take charge, to lead. In this process though, I clearly succumbed to the pressure to denigrate my values, as Anne says, by putting my professional success ahead of my relationships and work-life balance. One does not have to choose between these values, however; they’re not mutually exclusive. It is possible to be both authoritative and kind, direct and communicative, to value success and work-life balance. Just because we are different does not make us wrong. In fact, our diversity adds richness to the workplace and the lives of the people we touch. We bring new perspectives to the table and new ways of thinking. The world would be a boring place if everyone adhered to the same way of thinking and being.

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