Go green. Sustainability. Stable state system. Equitable. Environmentally friendly. So many buzz words, what does it all mean? It means our world is aching, we have sores all over the place, and we are crying for healing. I believe for that healing to work, we must start with women.
First, why do we care? Why do we care about “going green” and sustainability and all of this? I care because I care about being a good steward. As a mother, I wouldn’t leave my house littered with broken glass, toxic smelling things, and donuts all over the house. If I did this, my family would have cut feet, be unable to breathe, and die of heart related diseases. I wouldn’t be responsible for my son or be healthfully supporting my husband. And, I certainly wouldn’t be helping myself.
I define sustainability around the “triple bottom line”. That is, we balance three things in equilibrium. We balance people, planet, and profits. Another way to word this is economy (profits), environment (planet or place), and equity (people) are balanced together. They are all a part of a three-legged stool, and if one leg is shorter than another, the whole thing falls over. If one of these factors is out of balance, our balance sheet doesn’t balance.
I’ve written about this before. And, I will write about this again. Until we have achieved sustainability in a majority of countries, we will still need to hear this message.
Every time I write about sustainability, I peel back more layers. When my aunt gave me the book 50 Ways You Can Save the Planet I was introduced to the environmental layer of measuring the health of our world. When carbon offsets were introduced, it was a market based approach to merge both the environmental and economic layers of sustainability for business. This allowed companies to take another stab at showing up as responsible to our world. And, when we mention things like equal pay we are introducing the layer of equity, or people, in one attempt to balance the people portion of the balance sheet.
Women are the Canary
I will argue that we need to look at women as the canary in the coal mine. This should be our current litmus test on whether or not we are on the road to sustainability. And, we owe it to ourselves and future generations to be on the road to sustainability.
It’s 2018, and though the wage gap is closing (by how much depends on the resource you use), in many cases, the gap is still about 20%. That is, women still make about 80% of what men make, and yes, in the same industry. So, women are not equal when it comes to monetary possessions, or economy.
So, with less money, women age, and then outlive their partners. With less money, they are more at risk to be in poverty. Aging, is already rife with challenges. Add the burden of fewer resources, and I have to question, are we setting women up for success as they age? We can and should do better as a wealthy society, ensuring those who have “paid” into systems are taken care of regardless if they outlive partners.
When we are connected, when our social capital is high, we have less disease, less depression, and longer lives. Robert Putnam, in his 1995 (reprint 2000) book Bowling Alone described our decline in social capital, in detail. And he noted how it’s related to many of our noted ills in society. A follow-up book, Better Together, breaks down how we are better together. While all relationships and social networks can benefit from higher social capital, I believe women being more connected have a cornerstone importance to change our society to a more sustainable world.
We need to connect women first. Reconnect women to each other, and then I believe we will have a ripple effect of connectedness across gender, age, and social class.
To start this, we need to reconnect with the basics. We need to relearn how to truly listen. We need to get back in touch with that which brings us joy. And, we need to lead with love.
Steven Covey said that people often listen with the intent to respond. That is, in conversation, we aren’t truly listening. We aren’t practicing empathy – truly joining someone in their emotional journey, the kind of support we really need. We might be sympathetic, noting their emotion, but then we follow it up with advice. Brené Brown talks about this is a short empathy video, where she reminds us that sympathy usually starts with “at least…”
Truly listening means sitting with someone withholding judgement, truly trying to hear their story, to understand, and join them on their emotional journey.
Live in Joy
Another key point I believe women need to focus on is living in intention, and specifically in joy. I will speak from a women approaching 40, 10+ years a mother, and 10+ years a wife. This is my lens.
It was so easy to get into the role of get up, make the bed, get the food, clean the things, and do it all over again once my son was born. Caring for an infant, and then a toddler, and then a school aged child, routines became set. That routine lead itself to forgetting, where self-forgetting became easy. Forgetting my self-care for others’ care became easy. There was (is) always something else to do. Then, one day, in a mini-retreat, I made a joy list. I compared that joy list to the things I was doing every day. The two were wildly different. I made the commitment to myself to live more in intentions that brought me joy. Doing so, I was more easily able to show up with joy for myself, and then for those I care for. Namely, my husband, and my son.
Live in Love
Now that we are living in joy and truly know how to listen, our next ask is to show up with love. We are listening to our sisters, we understand their stories better, and now we can show up with deeper empathy and compassion to truly walk with them in their path. All these steps will build our social capital. Build our connections to each other. Bring us closer together.
Share with others
By bringing us closer together, sharing this vision with others, because we want to. I do believe we need to, but let’s do this because we want to. When we come together from a place of healing, we will create a stronger fabric of social capital among each other. When we have that strong fabric, knit together, we will better be able to solve the problems the world has thrown at us.
Call to Action
I am calling for a rise of the feminine. Let us come together, do this together. Be together. Truly, we are better together, and together we can do so much.
Better Together, by Robert D. Putnam & Lewis M. Feldstein, 2003
Bowling Alone, by Robert D. Putnam, 2000
Empathy Animation, voice by Brené Brown, 2013, https://youtu.be/1Evwgu369Jw
Gap between men’s and women’s life expectancy no longer closing, data suggests, Sep 27, 2017, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/09/27/gap-mens-womens-life-expectancy-no-longer-closing-data-suggests/
Gender Disparities in Health and Mortality, 2007, http://www.prb.org/Publications/Articles/2007/genderdispa9e5b7bddc5c
Gender wage gap just shrank for the first time in a decade, the, Sep 15, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/09/15/the-gender-wage-gap-just-shrank-for-the-first-time-in-a-decade/?utm_term=.a9e5b7bddc5c
In which countries do women outlive men by more than a decade?, May 20, 2016, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/05/countries-where-women-outlive-meowed-spouses
Life Expectancy at Birth (in years), by Gender, 2009, https://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/life-expectancy-by-gender/?currentTimeframe=0&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D
Narrowing, but persistent, gender gap in pay, the, April 3, 2017, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/03/gender-pay-gap-facts/
Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap, the, 2016, https://www.aauw.org/research/the-simple-truth-about-the-gender-pay-gap/
Social Security for Widowed Spouses in Retirement, https://www.nasi.org/learn/socialsecurity/widowed-spouses
Why is life expectancy longer for women than it is for men?, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-is-life-ex-of-marriage/
Women, Men and the New Economics of Marriage, Jan 19, 2010, http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2010/01/19/women-men-and-the-new-economics-of-marriage/