Why gender is significant for society, a larger perspective

On Tuesday, September 10th, Alain Volz shared about Leap into Life with the National Committee for Human Rights and Gender of D66; the Democratic party in the Netherlands.

You can find the link to the presentation here:


This blog is a deepening of the conversation we held and the issues we addressed. First I will take you on a journey through different large perspectives on gender. It might give you an awkward feeling. In the second part of this post I will bring those together, addressing their significance for gender related issues in Dutch society.

Yin Yang

A larger perspective:

Both men and women hold masculine and feminine qualities in themselves. Naturally men, in general, hold more masculine and women more feminine. Gender is not about sex(e), it is part of a larger natural design. Gender is about the continuous balancing of the masculine with the feminine; the dance between Yin and Yang. Gender is only an expression of dynamics on a larger scale, we see similar dynamics in nature, physics and mathematics.

From a holistic viewpoint humans are part of a larger Holon, a larger ecosystem called Earth. As a part of a larger Holon our behavior is both influenced by and influences the larger Holon. Instead of ‘either-or’ this is an ‘and-and’ situation. So, for instance, climate change influences us and we influence the change of climate. In nature science a distinction is made between acid and base. Another relation between gender and the larger dynamics it is part of can be found in traditional medicine. Ayurvedic medicine uses the level of acidity of the human body to distinct in medical treatment. It relates base (or – in the magnetic field) with Yin and acid (or + in the magnetic field) with Yang.

Modern medical science shows that many western diseases have a relation with acidity of the physical body. Nutrition and behavior (and thoughts) have a large influence on this balance and – though generative conclusions can be made – each person has his/her individual specific balance of acid and basis.

Now, we can discuss how much influence an individual (or the smaller Holon) has on the collective (or larger Holon), but it is exactly that discussion what is blocking us. The significance is that, no matter how small our influence is, we actually are influencing our environment. And we have a biased relationship with that potential. When we want to make use of environments resources like oil we think to have endless potential and might be a bit more modest and conscious of our influence on nature. But when we talk about such an issue as global warming we think we have hardly any impact and might have to become more aware of our influence in order to be able to act differently.

Global warming reports show 95% of human behavior has a negative impact on climate change. Human behavior maybe only is a small part in a larger cycle causing climate change. But it is a factor we can influence. And if our behavior is of influence on the larger patterns we should try to adjust our behavior in service of those larger patterns. Like a politician or a police agent who operates in service of society as a whole. Its function is to serve a higher purpose, though we can have discussion on how this function should be embodied. Here I do not want to address that discussion, but to share how gender plays part in it as an expression of the dynamics in nature.

Earth also is changing, by other factors besides human behavior. NASA research shows that the poles of the Sun are turning and that the cosmic wind in our solar system has changed direction, both for reasons we cannot explain. We hardly have influence on this, but it is also influencing us and our behavior. It also shows how little we actually do know about nature and brings me some modesty realizing how small we are as one of the many miracles in life.

So there are two sides on the medal and we have to watch both in finding a proper balance for ourselves and our actions. Our impact is limited and meaningful; without the drips there is no ocean and each single drip of water matters, having its own function and purpose. We are the drips and, as such, also the ocean. Our influence is both limited and beyond the boundaries we have set. It is a subtle play of different energies interacting and influencing each other.

Unified field

Modern science shows that stardust, reaching Earth via Mars, is the source for all life on earth; including the current human species. Quantum physics and nature scientists discover measurable energy fields showing a double torus around life forms of all sizes, planets, whole universes, human beings, animals and plants.

Most modern scientists also agree Earth is a larger ecosystem – of which we are part like a smaller Holon – that provides us in all our basic and developed needs for living. Water, air, food, and all the materials we need for our smart phones and other tools.

We are part of Earth, an expression of it. We are not separate. We are part of our solar system, an expression of it.

Balance is movement, everything is moving constantly. Even the table is moving, as are we. Like the atoms in the table, our bodies and minds are constantly moving to return to a natural balance. This balance partially is circumstantial and therefore changing as well.

Though we might not notice it (even if we can measure and explain it) change is a continuous movement. Stability is a dance between positive and negative poles, acid and base, contraction and expansion, yang and yin, masculine and feminine.

Though there are patterns, repetition and returning dynamics, not a single moment is the same. The here and now never returns nor lasts.

Our mind has difficulty with these realities of continuous movement and of the never returning moment. We also have difficulties being present with it or to act accordingly. For instance, neuroscientists have measured that 80% of what we see we do not actually see. It is a projection of mind, filling in the gaps, based on experience and recognition. More information goes from the brain to the eyes than the other way around. We do actually see only 20% as new information. The other 80% of what we see physically is what we think to see.


Relevance for Dutch society:

What does this all mean for Dutch society, or for how we do business or deal with the larger global issues we are facing today?

We are careless in our behavior with the entity that provides us life. Like cancer cells we are destroying the organism that provides us life and, in doing so, we are destroying ourselves.

We have been quite successful with our behavior in many perspectives. Though we also have postponed dealing with some of its side effects. Our 80-20 management styles have brought us to a point where we can no longer ignore the growing pile of 20% disadvantages in our current society.

Looking from a Holistic perspective the world needs more feminine energy and humans need to learn how to address those qualities in themselves and for the communities they are living in. The way we organized ourselves and our societies holds a lot of yang energy; masculine principles are extremely dominant in the way we live our lives and organize our social systems and the way we approach health care, education, economy and ecology.

Most big issues on economy, society and ecology are still addressed in a masculine way, also by many women. For instance, Western economy is based on growth of consumption, a very masculine presumption.

Looking at global issues as climate change, economy, tensions in communities and with individuals from a gender perspective might bring the breakthroughs we are looking for, but still not finding. Maybe the feminine holds a new perspective, a broader perspective than the one we hold now and that can also bring alternative solutions from those we apply now. Einstein is often quoted; it takes a higher level of consciousness to resolve the questions we hold with our current level of understanding.

The masculine and feminine attract each other and at the same time push each other away. It acts like the atoms of the table, constantly moving in a dynamic balance. This can not only explain much of how men and women relate towards the other sexe, it also holds a key for internal dilemmas of both men and women. This pattern also applies for individual internal processes of both men and women (the way we think and act) and it applies for collectives as our society (the way we engage and create our collective systems).

Masculine qualities are more external oriented, very action oriented, doing. It is day energy of expansion, movement. Feminine qualities are more internal oriented, more reflection oriented, holding. It is night energy with a nurturing calmness, resting. We need both rest and movement, like we need to breathe in and out. So we also need both masculine and feminine qualities, men and women.

Our business environment and way of working is very masculine, yang. Even women are more appreciated for their masculine qualities and men mostly do not address their feminine in a business environment or decision making position. But important personal decisions like buying a house, a car of finding a spouse are led by a strong intuitive and electrical impulse, either masculine (-) or feminine (+). Interviews show that successful business entrepreneurs rely on sensing and intuition for important decisions.

It is a general misunderstanding that intuition is a feminine quality. The masculine just works differently. The feminine intuition might lead to different insights then the masculine, leading to different kinds of decision making. Harvard business review published an article that companies with more women in key positions were much more profitable and more successful in their CSR policy than those who had not.

Another example where the masculine dominates is our health care system. Though many women work in healthcare, they primarily hold lower positions in their organizations or their position is less valued by the community. Jobs that are considered to be ‘female’ (nurse or teacher at a primary school) pay lower wages then the management positions that are dominantly held by men. They way these women are involved in strategic discussions and decisions also influences the healthcare system as a whole.

As a consequence, the question on humane and affordable health care is addressed in a masculine way, focusing on illness and costs of disease instead of health and value of life. This doesn’t help us in finding solutions beyond our current level of understanding. We do not ask ourselves the right questions and need to go beyond cost cutting and diminishing health care services. It also doesn’t bring us the most effective and efficient medical solutions for health and healthcare. It doesn’t provide the weakest in our society the safety our democracy promises and doesn’t provide our elderly the humane care they deserve.

On an individual level health also is addressed in a more masculine way and that influences our behavior. Today we know much on the relationship between what we eat and how we behave as causes for diseases like cancer. Yet we do not easily change our behavior. We are not taking good care of ourselves; we are ignoring our nurturing side, the feminine. And, as a cause of it, we need to be fed with more growth, more movement, leading to more acid in the human body.

Most Western diseases are related with acidity of the physical body, too much yang; masculine energy. And if this all really is true, we have the capacity to change our health and healthcare system in a way that leads to radical success. Both on an individual and a collective level we can adopt different behavior patterns and we can deepen our questioning on the why, what and how of our healthcare system in a rather simple way; by embracing and integrating the feminine in oneself. This sounds easy, but apparently it is not. It takes effort and trust, introspection and acting according to what new insights bring us.

The systemic choices we make in healthcare are often excluding traditional medicine. Most traditional medicine has a Holistic presumption and makes use of the dynamics between masculine and feminine. A combination of allopathic and homeopathic treatment sometimes can be very effective. And sometimes traditional medicine offers alternatives or solutions that are even more effective then the ones modern medicine offers.

Medical research by the Mind and Life institute (with medical professors and Buddhist teachers like the Dalai Lama) shows that some spiritual practices like Buddhist meditation and some natural materials can reduce the growth of cancer cells in the human body. In the 1970’s the Moerman diet showed some significant results reducing the pace of growth of some cancer cells. There is a lot of discussion on the Moerman diet, but it does show that food has influence on our health.

In general, with food, education, physical movement and small changes in our daily routines we can resolve many of the causes of Western diseases. It is not the whole story, but our behavior does have a significant relation with our well-being.

Personally I am very much in favor of holistic medical approaches that combine traditional and modern science. But we don’t even go there with the public discussion or decisions made in our healthcare system. We not only ignore the nurturing feminine, but we also focus with medical research on resolving the problem instead of looking at a deeper level what causes it. We plaster the wound, but we are not trying to heal the cause of the infliction.

Our educational system also is very masculine oriented. This is remarkable to me, because a lot of women are working in our educational system. The masculine dominance is shown in what we teach our children at school, how we define success, how we monitor the progress of children, and how we run our schools. The increasing amount of tests at an ever younger age is addressing the competitive, success and manifestation oriented qualities of the students. These are me oriented, masculine values.

Studies show that women do not hold a lower potential for mathematics or Bèta sciences, they just learn in a different way. Currently at Dutch universities women are actually performing better than men in medicine and other Bèta sciences. But is that because of or despite their feminine qualities? And does it really show an increase in valuation of the feminine?

Feminine professions as in medical assistance and primary education are generally and financially underrated in compare with similar masculine jobs. In most professions women earn less than men in similar positions, not because they are female, but because our system hasn’t included long term impact of pension breaks and missed annual income increases due to pregnancy and (child) care.

Women are pressed to perform in society and to be a good mother. The Netherlands holds a high % of women who participate in the labor market. Though their contribution in hours and income is one of the lowest in Europe. Child care and our education are happily compared with Scandinavia. However the costs of our daycare system are 3 times higher as in Germany with 1/3 of the children and a much lower international quality ranking. In Scandinavia daycare and primary school teachers have a much higher access boundary, a higher level in education and income. The fit of supportive systems for a work-care balance are also much more interrelated in Scandinavia then in the Netherlands.

Media and politics hold dominant masculine energy. Fast moving action movies and commercials, one liners by politicians and modern style of writing in (on line) newspapers. It also influences the topics on the political agenda and the way they are addressed in Dutch society. Men and women – mostly white, with good education and between 40 and 55 – make decisions for a society that is much more diverse and holds different dynamics than their reality.

Organizations and government systems are centralized and have become so large that the decision makers in top simply cannot have a clue of the impact of the decisions they are making. This latter also is addressed by Otto Scharmer and Peter Senge, two of the leading professors in social innovation and organizational learning at MIT.

LiL - value of diversity

The questions that we address in Leap into Life are questions that those who are involved in Leap into Life personally hold and we that find significant for the future development of our communities and countries. Gender is part of it. We address it in the way we build the organization and program and it is a topic in the professional development program.

Do we have the proper education system; one that provides in the needs of our community and in the nature of our children? Do we make the proper decisions in complex matters as energy, economy and ecology and do we reflect on them with our full attention? Do we ask ourselves the right questions on how to provide in an affordable and humane healthcare system? When we make decisions on safety, law enforcement and defense; are they calculative, with a broader future perspective or including the intuitive and irrational processes of reality? De we include the feminine enough?

Masculine and feminine is not a matter of sexes; it is not something of men and women separately. Men and women have to work on gender together.

My statement is that gender is significant for society to resolve the questions we hold in our society. Questions on:

– the values in our community and the way we want to uphold those

– our economy; growth and financial stability

– our educational system; how to reclaim our top 3 position after dropping 3 positions this year?

– our healthcare system; how to maintain humane and affordable health care for all our citizens.

Gender also is significant for personal questions that have impact in our community like:

– how do I create a proper balance between my work and my life outside work?

– how do I align my personal values with the way I earn my living?

– how can I contribute to such complex and large issues as global warming or the war in Syria?

– why should I care when I’m more concerned about my job, my pension and immigration?

– …

The Netherlands is considered to be a relative feminine society and therefore has the potential to make a shift I consider necessary to resolve the big questions we hold in our society. Though there still there is much dominance of the masculine in our community we do hold the potential for a more balanced society with healthy citizens. However this does require effort to expand our reality; to improve our ability to reflect on our actions; to experiment with alternative solutions.

I am grateful to live in the Netherlands and for the opportunity I have as a man to share my view on gender in Dutch politics and business. I learn a lot from the women I work with addressing gender issues in Dutch National politics. After four years of involvement I can share that women act differently then I am naturally tended to as a man. And in some perspectives the feminine is much wiser or more effective.

About Alain B. Volz

Alain Volz M.Sc. (1969) - Social Economy Entrepreneur, founder and director of ATMA - has studied Business Administration and Organizational Psychology. He started his career with Royal Dutch Ahold and has worked with IPMMC and TC&O. For 10 years Alain has been working with Twynstra Gudde Consultants and Managers as senior consultant Human Talent & Change Management. He was responsible for Competency Based Human Talent Management. He is co-founder of the Center for Human Emergence in the Netherlands (CHE), a former member of the CHE alignment circle and founding director of CHE School of Synnervation (currently Synnervate). In 2011 he held the position of partner with the RnR Group in Maarn. Alain is Strategy & Alignment Officer at Dipaliya Women's Association in Tamale, Ghana. In the Netherlands he is board member of the committee for the position of women and minorities in the Dutch Democratic Party (D66 Thema Afdeling V/M Sociale Innovatie). As such he represented D66 in the PVO; a cross party National committee consisting of represents from 6 different political parties (CDA, CU, D66, Groen Links, PvdA, VVD). The office of ATMA is located at the ImpactHub Amsterdam & the ImpactHub Accra.
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