The Colors of Gender Thanks to Modern Marketing and Ancient Ancestors

From the day you were born, even before conception, there are beliefs and stereotypes that are attached to gender.

Let’s consider the color continuum for gender. Pink is for girls and blue is for boys. Right? Where did this begin? Who decided which colors belong to which gender?

Here is a brief trip through history. In the 1800’s all babies, male and female, wore white “dresses” in infancy. Thus, babies were gender neutral. These sacks were easy for changing diapers and to bleach when they became dirty.

Then around the 1920’s Western parents began dressing the little ones in colors. Pink was associated with boys. Yes, you heard me, boys. Here is the rationale: red is a bold and brave color and too strong for children so, boys got the watered-down version…pink.

Blue, a more subdued color was for girls. And by the way, blue was associated with the Virgin Mary, thus a color of purity. Just saying!

Magic Moments Best When Unexpected

Got on the bus. Waited. Got on another bus. Waited even longer.

Had a bad feeling this paid in advance tour was going to disappoint.

And it did.

Almost.

Tours to that revered site in Rome, the Vatican are expensive and seemingly necessary. Otherwise the lines can be hours long.

The Vatican is a must see in Rome. Regardless of religious background or preference there is a majesty to being in the presence of some of the most amazing art and sculpture the world has to offer. And looking up at the Blessing Window where the Pope stands and then pivoting around to observe what it must be like to look out at huge numbers of appreciative and reverent individuals is a stunning moment.

However, that is not where the memorable magic happened for me.

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

I hear this plaintive cry from executives and middle managers all the time. I hear it from superintendents to elementary school teachers for at least ten months out of the year.

Getting along is what we all want. Right? So, why does it seem almost impossible to get through even a few days without feeling that blood boiling moment of “Not THAT again!” or “Can’t they just zip it?”

I would like to boil this down to some basics for you to think about.

Relationships are hard work.

You can’t learn how to be your best you by reading something that gives you 5 quick tips for happiness.

It’s just not that simple.

What Courage Looks Like

  • MFAAdmin
  • June 20, 2016

Twice a year we do a program for leaders and emerging leaders. It is a four session program spread over five months. Each time I include clips of leaders who have and continue to make a difference in our world.

There are a few staples, like Nelson Mandela and Abraham Lincoln.

We choose from a wide array of business leaders, media, the arts, and people who I call “Giraffes” (those willing to stick their necks out to make a positive difference).

Recently I was looking for those who exemplify vast courage to tackle unpopular issues and who are not willing to back down or be bought into silence.

If you have not seen or read Ibsen’s play, An Enemy of the People, it is worth the time to dig into this classic about speaking out when economic issues want us to stay in denial.

That brings us up to the present moment. Watching Dr. Bennett Omalu, played by Will Smith in the 2015 film, Concussion makes us realize that patterns of denial run deep and are sadly, as old as time.

Omalu, a forensic pathologist working in Pittsburgh brought CTE, a form of brain injury to the forefront. It appears to be rampant in the NFL and possibly starting when youngsters play high school and college football.

The Downside Of Growing Your Organizational Culture

I was sitting having a quick dinner in Manhattan with some colleagues. The place was packed and the noise level high. Just a typical 6:30 p.m. time of workplace decompressing, after one of those typical rush and get it done days.

At the table to the left we heard “No one should be forced to share as much as they do here. They think they are creating a culture of trust. It’s just a bunch of bull.”

To the right, “Why the heck can’t they just get with the program and stop complaining all the time? What a bunch of whiners.”

Another table not far where they were getting very vocal and physically flinging hands around, “They actually force us to admit failure and what we don’t like about ourselves. Nasty stuff! We just want to get our jobs done and get to our beer time.”

One of my colleagues shrugged and said “Not much has changed in all the years we have been working. Still bitch and complain and judge and attack. When will it ever change?”

Blame it on our belief systems, blame it on our parents, blame it on our culture.

Or maybe stop the blame and say, “It will stop with me” or better yet, “It will start with me.”

So, what do we stop and what do we start?

Powerful And GUTSY

I have a birth to announce.

Beautiful babies come in various packages. Some in the warm skin of an infant son or daughter. Others as works of art, music, photography, dance, the written word.

Joan Scharff just gave birth to a wonderful book of poems and pictures. I met her several years ago when she was at our GUTSY Women weekend. Then a year later she completed our flagship Total Leadership Connections program.

Now she has taken two of her passions, photography and poetry and has birthed a beautiful book “Lessons I’ve Learned from a Flower.”

I am so awed by what she has done I want everyone to know about this beautiful new book.

I am including one of the poems. It was sparked by what she learned when she was requested to explore her family history, her Sankofa Map, to see how it connects with her present life at work and home. It is a deep probing of the intricacies of generational connections. Here she used incredible and sensitive language to show how women, mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts give and get from each other. I have printed the entire poem here for all to enjoy:

How To Get Heard After You’ve Been Whacked Upside The Head

Dear Dr. Sylvia,

I know you think that we can all transform our negative patterns. I have my doubts. You see, I read your book…twice! And I still have a serious problem.

I took the Pattern Aware Quiz and know I am considered a persecutor/bully. I have worked hard to change my style from being sharp and caustic with my team members. The transformation from persecutor to visionary just ain’t working!

Right now my job as team leader is on the line. My supervisor has put me on a performance improvement plan since three team members said I am negative and judgmental.

Help!

Signed,

Sweet and Kind Underneath

Dear S and K,

Always remember, the menu is not the meal! While you have read my book…twice…it takes more than reading and agreeing. It takes ACTION. And for many of us, it often takes a wake-up call to begin the hardest part of pattern transformation.

Knowing the patterns is not enough. Even understanding where they developed (hint: most likely in your original organization, the family) is not enough. It is the strength training of daily decisions to redo your communication with others that is the key to success.

Your supervisor has given you the gift, a whack on the side of your head which may get you going.

Leadership Development: SHUSSSSH Don’t Rock The Boat

Imagine a world where bringing up unpleasant or conflictual subjects is applauded. Imagine if in school good grades were based on asking the unaskable. Just imagine.

Where would YOU fit in that kind of setting? Would you be one to ask “Hey, why is the emperor naked?” Or would you be one to put your hand to your lips and say “Shussssh!”

You want to know where our general discomfort started with asking tough questions. It began way back when you were a little tyke and you saw your mother or care giver in a bad mood. You KNEW something was wrong, you could just feel it. And you asked “What’s the matter?” And the response more times than not was “Nothing! Just go play.”

If you persisted you were called a trouble-maker. And if you just went away you were called a helpful, good child.

Now fast forward to adulthood. You are now in charge of leadership development training at your organization. What do you do when someone persists in asking the questions that no one wants to tackle?

Is Holiday Stress Following You To Work?

How do you get year-end work done, prepare for family gatherings and stay in a happy mood when all you want to do in the morning is pull the covers over your head?

That’s a question I get asked starting the day after Halloween non-stop till New Year’s Eve becomes a dull memory in early January.

Why is there so much stress and frustration during this time of tinsel and mistletoe? Is it that way for everyone? So many say it seems impossible for the end of the year to be fun and easy. And yes, that’s just about for everyone.

Here’s a core reason. Most of us either want to remember the holiday season from childhood with rose colored glasses, or if it was a really tough time, we are determined to put those glasses on now to make better memories.

The problem is, reality has a way of coming in and throwing some curve balls. You know like:

The electricity goes out right before Christmas dinner and the turkey is only half cooked.
You favorite sibling brings some friends to camp out at your place for “just a few days” and it’s now over a week.
The forecast for a few inches of snow turns into the blizzard of the century.
Keep reading.

They Are ALL Our Children

Years ago I was in Brazil for a conference. It was wonderful looking up at the “Christo Redentor” that is so much a part of Rio. It was fun sun bathing and walking along the famous Ipanema beach.

I also had an opportunity to go inland to some of the mines where the crystals are in vast supply. I lugged back a large amethyst crystal that sits in my office as I write this.

Along with the fun and excitement of Brazil was the dismay of the street children. It was overwhelming and I wanted, as many do when they see this type of misery, I wanted to take them all home with me. I wanted to start a charity. I wanted to open a school.

And I came home and did nothing.

And yet I can feel the sadness returning and my frustration seething as I look at the fact that now, right now, in this land of so much wealth that 2.5 million children were designated as homeless this year.

Here. Right here.

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