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Systemic change requires feminine leadership

An article by our Head of Philanthropy, Renata Minerbo, featured in the March 2024 issue of Alliance Magazine.

The systemic crises facing humanity and all living beings mean that we have to radically change how we operate. Although many of us agree with the well-known saying, ‘We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them’, in reality, doing things differently is extremely hard. We are all part of the system that we want to change – even when we support small farmers, don’t buy things from big chains or don’t take aeroplanes – and we are rewarded or punished according to the values and expectations of the dominant culture.

In the last few decades, capitalism has rewarded leaders who achieved exponential growth and vast profits with minimal financial costs, with no concern for the massive natural and human costs that this way of operating incurs. People were taught that the end justifies the means, that you must beat everyone around you and not share any knowledge in order to succeed. These attitudes are so ingrained in us that we replicate them without noticing, and even worse, often encourage others to do the same, consciously or unconsciously.

We are taught to ‘leave emotions outside the room’ when an important decision needs to be made, or not to trust our gut because (we are told) it’s best to plan every step according to quantitative data. Patriarchy suppresses all non-analytical intelligence and that has played a big part in creating the situation we are in today. Of course, this analytical mode of operation has achieved many incredible things and

improved millions of lives, yet it has also created a world where most of

us act out of fear, alienation, competition, and a scarcity mindset.

Masculine and feminine leadership approaches

The masculine leader values are structured, linear thinking, action-driven and dominant, while the feminine approach prioritises adaptability, holistic thinking, emotional intelligence, intuition and compassion. Feminine and masculine qualities exist within all of us, and each can serve us better in particular moments. It’s certainly not my intention to demean the role of the masculine; what I want to do is to bring awareness of the feminine qualities necessary for this shift in leadership approach that the world so desperately needs.

Even though the masculine is not exclusive to men and the feminine not limited to women, it is worth bearing in mind that, generally speaking, as the bearers of new life women have a predisposition for care and nurturing. This means that many women are constantly fighting against our instincts to grow in our careers, always needing to prove we can be dominant and individualistic, even though we have so much more to offer through a feminine leadership approach.

This kind of leadership embraces systemic thinking, non-linear occurrences, intuition and the unknown. Can we really predict all reactions that a certain action will create, or control all the outcomes of a certain project, or even believe there’s any conclusive way to analyse what is the most ‘effective’ philanthropic investment one can make?

Being guided by feminine intelligence means knowing which direction we want to go, how we want to show up in the world, but acknowledging that we don’t necessarily know all the whats and hows.

This approach requires trust and the belief, explicit or implicit, that acting from our hearts will encourage people to act from their hearts. It’s OK not to know all the answers, the right people will cross our paths to share their wisdom with us and give us guidance and we can acknowledge that as philanthropists we don’t have all the experience needed in order to make the best decisions to serve all living beings.

Measuring the power of a gesture

A recent story that shows how feminine principles can yield unexpected and incredible outcomes comes from one of our programmes at Be The Earth. Aura offers holistic support to women, from unrestricted financial support, to well-being, capacity and community building. Perhaps that seems somewhat intangible, yet this holistic approach supports these women’s empowerment development, which leads them to becoming better employees and stronger mothers, and they are in a

deep relationship of trust and reciprocity with us and with each other.

When Be The Earth’s Fellows met last year at our Global Gathering, one member of the Aura group was missing her front teeth. Two of the other Aura Fellows set up a crowd fund for her to get replacements, and the impacts of this small gesture rippled out through her life and the lives of others. Her new teeth led to her getting a new job which, as a single mother, was transformative for her and her family. When this beautiful story reached the ears of one of our funding partners, they offered $25,000 to support the Aura programme, demonstrating the incredible power of real human stories to inspire action, touching people’s hearts in a way that data and statistics simply can’t.

Stories like this deepen my faith in the feminine approach and the profound ripple effects it can have, yet how can you expect to accurately measure this kind of result? Where does it fit as an indicator that proves that investing in women and building meaningful relationships can improve people’s lives, sense of community and safety? I certainly don’t know all the answers, but I do invite you to consider: what would change in the world if more of us allowed ourselves to be guided by the feminine?


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