Finding the balance point

By October 25, 2009 Insights

This being a blog about my travel experiences, I was going to write something about the wonderful sail I had yesterday (a short journey but a great experience nonetheless). However two articles I read this morning struck a chord worth commenting on – Maureen Dowd’s column on the plight of Catholic nuns and Joanne Lipman’s op-ed piece on the Mismeasure of Woman. They tie into sailing… you’ll see.

Like Lipman, I never felt a connection with the “strident, humorless, shrill women” I perceived as part of the women’s lib movement that came before me. I believed that I was fortunate to belong to an era that progressed beyond that. In fact, in my experience the issue of men vs women in the workplace was a non-issue. Nor did I think about it much in other areas of my life. I always believed, still do, that men and women are different – we each bring different talents, capabilities and sensitivities to the table. One individual may outperform another, but gender in and of itself was never the factor that predetermined the dominant player.

Of course I was lucky in my experience – I know that now much more so than I did in my 20s or 30s. Recently traveling and living in foreign cultures makes that clearly apparent. I respect the complexity of cultural traditions, but that doesn’t make it easier to accept that in some countries I can’t have access to an experience or event just because I’m not a man. I still want to believe though that here in the US we’ve achieved fair access. Dowd’s and Lipman’s articles point out that we still have quite a ways to go, and in fact might be moving in the wrong direction.

It’s disconcerting to feel that as a culture, we in the US could be moving backward when it comes to our perspective on gender. It’s especially worrisome as I maneuver back into the workforce after a year off. Frankly I’d still be shocked if I ran into even subtle gender bias, but I wonder now if I’d be surprised.

So, what’s my ideal? Yesterday I went sailing with my good friend friend Liam. We easily traded places at the helm or trimming the sails, making requests depending on who had control of what. We had a great day and got where we were going easily, something we couldn’t have done without relying on each other’s skills. But the best analogy… when the sails were trimmed just right with the wind, the boat steered itself. Those two very different things working together achieved the perfect balance and kept us going in the right direction.