In a recent conference of women CEOs, I heard that behind every successful woman at work was she herself. When I was invited to speak, I just added that behind an outrageously successful woman was an astonished mother-in-law. There is research evidence that success and likeability are positively correlated in the case of men. However, for women at work, success and likeability are often negatively linked. Sheryl Kara Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook pitches in support of this research: “When men are aggressive, they are called boss. When women are aggressive they are called bossy”, she says.
My latest book, Invincible Arjuna is about the making of a hero. It is also about making of she-ro! He-ro or she-ro, the need for parity is a human urge that has been present at all times in human history. In this book, I write about a conversation between India’s iconic warrior Arjuna and an exceptional woman Chitrangada who he loves and marries. Chitrangada discovers that Arjuna is smitten by her beauty. She realizes that he is likely to either deify or defile her in a fit of passion. So she says:
Do not put me above you on a pedestal as a deity to be worshipped. Do not leave me behind in callous indifference. If you truly love me, Arjuna, keep me by your side as you walk the path of danger and daring. If you allow me to share the great dharma of your life, then you will truly know the heart of a woman.
Many societies and organization are caught in a dehumanizing narrative of what it means to be woman. I was interviewing some scholars for the very prestigious Schwarzman scholarships for postgraduate studies in China. In that interview. a young expressive woman from Mongolia told us, “In my country it is often said that women have long hair and little minds.” My heart and my vote went out to that woman as she was determined to challenge the cultural stereotypes by choosing to enter politics and perhaps script a new story for a 21st century Mongolia. Women deserve the power of parity more than the cushion of charity.
While women comprise almost fifty percent of the world’s population, they have just ten percent of the world’s income and own a dismal one percent of the world’s property. The power of parity between woman and man builds prosperous societies and progressive organizations. There is evidence to suggest that when men share housework with women, their children do better in school. The success of a child in school has positive correlation with the educational attainment of the mother. Parity leads to complementarity of roles. Complementarity leads to both professional success and personal fulfillment. Our workspaces must leverage the different but compatible skills that men and women bring to the table. Women can grow to their fullest potential without having to marginalize men.
Finally, here is an excerpt from my latest work, Invincible Arjuna on the power of complementarity between a hero and a she-ro; between masculine will and feminine fortitude:
Heroes understand that the fulfillment of desire is the meeting point of the masculine will and feminine patience. This meeting of will and patience takes place at our deepest source. Our source is deeper than our physical body or our thoughts. Our human source is the life energy that creates our body and illuminates our mind. The most precious resources of nature whether it is oil or water or coal is buried deep within the earth. Similarly, the most precious human resources of focused will and fortitude, patience and perseverance are hidden deep within the source of our human life. It takes a deep diver like Arjuna to go to the bottom of the ocean of life and bring back those pearls to the shore of human achievement.