Women’s Development?

    This version is one I use for analyzing the evolution of the culture in organizations. It helps determine the amount of ethical development and so, the sort of management possible. I’ve used the evolution of girls as the prime example in this paper. However any man who sees him or her self for a minority will have the identical experience. Human beings “stand” on two things; the first is safety – being physically and emotionally safe.

    Let’s begin

    Before we’re prepared to do much of anything we will need to understand how we’ll be safe. If we can’t find out this information, then we with draw or hide out until it becomes evident. Belenky et al, in the Women’s Ways of Knowing call this condition the point of silence. They relate this point to lack of self-confidence in ones ability to generate meaning and the inability to share whatever meaning is created. Their announcement that women in this phase “signals that the failure of the community to obtain all those entrusted to its care” is very upsetting.

    Many men and women who experience such rejection and isolation are permanently marked using a sensitivity to fear and the mitigating demand for protection. The next things we need, once we feel secure, are the “rules” of behavior. We will need to understand what is expected of us and how folks want us to act, what is appropriate and what’s not. In any business this is the process of acculturation – learning the hidden assumptions that control general behaviour.

    The big concern here is to do it “correctly,” according to the rules. There’s an authority that has deeper and more educated understanding, who has the knowledge to tell others the”correct” way in which items will need to be done to work. This is critical because Deterministic kinds of human systems are working from a Rules standpoint. This sort of control is exercised by “allowing” the body to “see” things the “right” way. The authority is externalized and beyond the individual or society. The circumstance of “rightness” is specified by the environment, family, peers and internalized as sets of values and beliefs about how the world “really” is or ought to be based on this outside authority. People connect with others who share their belief system and values and protect themselves against attack by other people who might hold another, and for that reason threatening, point of view.

    Take note

    Authority figures; parents, specialists, the President and other leaders, or God are viewed as having all of the answers. The significant job of the person is obedience to the superior wisdom which the authority figure owns. Belenky et al, call this point Received Knowledge. They ascribe this point to lack of self-confidence also, but here it’s manifested in the men’ inability to speak truth because they see only the “pros” as having truth. Women in this nation see truth as only coming from others, so women still their voice to better listen to the voice of others. It’s this researching and the struggle to find one’s own voice that results in the development of the next stage.

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    This transition period Belenky et al call Subjective Knowledge. It’s here that a woman starts to research and confirm her own knowing-her voice. Once we’re familiar with the first two phases of Security and Rules, then we would like to know how we could be viewed as powerful. How will others recognize us as significant and powerful. One of the techniques to be viewed as powerful would be to write the rules, so often there are efforts at this point to create new methods of doing things and to hold positions of authority. Inventiveness is sought after, but ONLY if it’s successful.

    The breaking of rules isn’t sanctioned, but achievement is. If you’re effective through rule breaking or from the introduction of new rules you’re tolerated if you’re not caught and when nothing”bad” happens; you could be lionized if you’re an exemplary success. Here there is a lot of experimentation and creativity, but for the sake of “winning” or of being viewed as successful, competent and a specialist. Belenky and business call this point Procedural Knowledge, the focus here is on how to communicate well. Here the human being is actively using as much of the understanding system as possible to empower themselves to get ahead. People at this point may discover they have secret knowledge that permits them to maintain the “right position at the perfect time” or to”think on their feet” when called to do so. Here the abilities are unconscious.

    For many people the unconsciousness is essential, for in our Western civilization such a forthright and pragmatic concern for oneself isn’t looked on with favor and using a few of the acuities (such as intuition, for example ) wouldn’t be accepted. People can be clever in disguising the actual purpose rather than be regarded as self-serving, and the “magic” of “just knowing” the perfect thing can be regarded as an advantage. Each of these three phases is determined by things beyond our control-by others. As such every stage is a more developed element of effective survival and is infused with a certain amount of anxiety. The focus of attention is outside and the plan is to appease (the route of curiosity) or conquer (the path of fear) others.

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    These phases are the domain of Primary ethics-how I live and prosper. Heuristic is the last sort of system and of course this is the perfect. To help learn is your purpose, the raison d’art of individual understanding systems at their very best. These are open systems – actively participated in their surroundings, co-evolving, dance with life.

    Birds of a Feather(TM) sees this sort of aliveness from the fourth and fifth phases, Relationship – Barn Swallows and Self-Actualization – Swans. As the person or organization internalize the course of the first 3 stages a feeling of self-assurance arises. As this sort of assurance gets more stable, a new sort of curiosity develops and there’s a new interest in how others have taken this journey called life. Relationships are now intriguing as explorations in how other people have dealt with the very same issues. Rather than creating tools for survival the focus is on developing a bag of tricks, so to speak.

    Diversity and difference become strategic goals and as they increase the amount of feasible answers to a given problem these new possibilities become exciting, not threatening. Belenky et al discuss Constructed Knowledge, at this stage. Piaget 1973). Here the focus is on the integration of inherent knowledge and that heard from other people. Now the women are attempting to include themselves in their comprehension of the world. They view themselves as having value and as being necessary within that understanding. Most of all, they now have a high tolerance for inner contradiction and ambiguity. No longer are they searching for the”right” way-they are attempting to know what is and they know that their understanding will grow and change, and that is all perfect.

    The focus is on the connection and making it work, not on private winning. As an appreciation for others and the huge selection of possibilities sinks in, the uniqueness of the self becomes more appreciated and the urge to explore it climbs to the top. There’s a desire to give in the strength of the uniqueness and creativity. There’s a marked absence of judgmental thinking (Maslow 1968) since the planet is”fully attended to” (ibid.). There’s an aliveness and excitement with everything that occurs and disasters are seen as opportunities for creativity.


    There’s also a real distaste for rules or restriction and individuals at this point are highly autonomous. These last two phases are in the domain of Secondary ethics-how we thrive and survive. This is where authentic autonomy rests. Managers and organizations in this point work well with quite flat and participative structures. People are comfortable and eager to donate and resist being told what to do. For individuals to be so responsive and open, however, is in most cases an irregular thing, at best.

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    Few individuals or organizations are unscared by events or relationships in their own lives, so a complete expression of this heuristic type is seldom found. To be open and co-evolving is the objective of the transformational person and organization. This is what’s being called forth from humankind as the environment changes with such pace and manifests such complexity. Evolution is calling on a co-creation as human beings start to dance with all the changes all around them.



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