I was chosen as one of 26 participants to join the GenderLab 2017/2018 – a ride through an unknown journey of discovery and exploration about gender equality, to serve Switzerland in finding tools and ways of supporting transformative change.
To be honest, I thought I knew quite a lot about gender and diversity but what I found was that I actually still don’t know that much, which was a shock and a huge pill to swallow!
After living in an intentional community focusing on building a conscious communication and relationship culture, I thought I had already learned a lot about people’s different needs, understandings, opinions, pre-assumptions, stories and life plans.
Oh, I was so far from the truth... whatever that means. :-)
The Gender Lab journey brought me a new understanding of myself, and where I stand on my internal map of understanding humankind in its complexity. I was challenged to show myself to people I didn’t know, to break the ice, to open spaces where hearts meet instead of brains
But true listening with the heart changes everything. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, open up and show the reality alive inside of us - a reality that is usually well hidden, especially in the workplace - then change happens within us and between people.
I saw how participants changed their perspectives about change in general. Gender equality is not just a societal problem that needs to be addressed by society, but it is also a very personal and intimate journey of transformation and understanding.
Through the 4 modules of the journey, I experienced different seasons in my outer world as well as inside of me. The first phase entailed being totally engaged in the process, wanting to contribute, thinking I already knew a lot and even knew better. Within a group process, we could call this phase "pseudo". Then it came to a phase of inner “chaos” where I realized "Dammit - I just have no idea!" I wondered what I was doing in this group, if I was in the right place. I had the tendency (internally) to fight against different opinions and stories. Oh, what a ride! And then the "emptiness" phase came. At that point, I felt I could speak out what was on my heart without the fear of being attacked. I – and others in the group – started taking the risk of speaking up. This was when the heart truth became visible, something happened in the group, a glue appeared between people. This is what we call "community".
These phases are present collectively, but also very much at the individual level, in each of us, even though we cannot always feel or see them. They happen when we are among people and very often, we just move through the first three phases and never reach the fourth phase of community.
My conclusion about the gender topic is that it is a very personal journey, which leads me back to my title. Through our prototyping at two companies, where we opened a space of sharing and listening about gender equality, there was always at least one person who said: "Gender equality has nothing to do with me. I’m fine with it." Or, "We have no gender equality problem!" But at the end of each workshop, all the participants had shifted their understanding to the fact that: "Hell yes, it is so personal!"
It is connected to our lives so deeply, that at first sight, we don’t even realise it.
So I would love to invite you to reflect on this topic for the next 5-10 minutes, with the following questions:
How would my life look like without stereotypes like pink for girls and blue for boys?
How do I feel and react personally, when I realize I have no idea about a topic?
As a father - would I choose to go on parental leave?
As a mother - how long would I stay at home with my child if there was no financial pressure of getting back to work?
I wish you a great reflection and keep in mind the following: the best questions in life are the ones that cannot be answered by yes or no, but need to cook slowly, again and again.