Michael Hey George, what's new?
George Working on the training reports sent up from the departments. There are a lot of requests for programs we never saw a few years ago, and I've got to make some recommendations to Human Resources on what to do and what not to do.
Michael Well, I know I got some strange suggestions from my people. Six requests for something on women in management, a few votes for communication training, and one on time management. I hate to be critical, but I couldn't see the value of the women's stuff so I didn't put it in the summary report. Has anyone else?
George Put in for women in management? Sure. It seems like a legitimate request. What's your objection?
Michael Well, I don't know why we can't do the same management training for everyone, without discriminating by sex. Besides, what do they do in those sessions that's so special? If women want to get ahead in business, they should do the same things any manager should. Unless they're just plotting to take over, of course.
George I think it's more a matter of survival than taking over. And women in business do face special problems, partly because they're in the minority and because of their sex. And I don't mean that all women behave the same, either. Sex is an issue mainly because there are two of then.
Michael Two sexes? Well of course, George, that's what makes life interesting.
George Think what it would be like if we were in the minority, say, in a company with 10% males and 90% females.
Michael Sounds terrific.
George I suspect you'd have some need to connect with the other men and figure out how to work in a more feminine environment to get your work done. That's one of the issues women face in our company. I don't imagine they're delighted by the need to act like men to succeed in business, but that's precisely what we expect of them most of the time.
Michael Why don't we make it easy for then, and all act like women. Ha, Ha. I really think the whole issue is overworked, but I'm willing to listen. What does the Tao book say?
George Can you play the role of woman?
Understanding and being open to all things,
Are you able to do nothing?

Giving birth and nourishing,
Bearing yet not possessing,
Working yet not taking credit,
Leading yet not dominating,

This is the Primal Virtue.
Michael Yeah, but that's such a limiting stereotype for women. I don't think modern women the ones I know, at least - are going to buy into that role anymore. That's real sexist!
George Perhaps you missed the point. This is not a prescription for women. It's a plea for wholeness. It's offering you suggestions for becoming a complete manager, not just a masculine one.
Michael Me? What do you mean, complete?
George Be really whole,
And all things will come to you.
Michael OK, but you've got to tell me what being whole is all about and how it relates to what we were talking about . . . What were we talking about, anyway? Sex?
George Yes. But keep in mind that sex is a biological distinction. What we're really talking about is behavior and cultural definitions of what's appropriate for males and females.
Michael OK, George. My point is that sex role stereotypes have changed so much that women aren't about to accept traditional female behaviors. The culture's changed, so you can't go back even 25 years, much less 2500, for advice on training women managers.
George You're right. So let's not talk about women managers or male managers. Just managers, of either sex.
Michael OK.
George The Tao Te Ching teaches harmony and balance and being whole. One aspect of wholeness is to be both masculine and feminine. When the verse asks, "can you play the role of woman?," it's not just asking women to do so but men also. Even men managers.
Michael But that's weird, George.
George Don't be threatened. We're not talking about sex, or sexual preference. What I mean is the integration of masculine and feminine styles, not male and female sexual characteristics. There's a big difference.
Michael Go on,
George All right:

Know the strength of a man,
But keep a woman's care!

Know the white,
But keep the black!

Know honor,
Yet keep humility!

Now can't you see that the man-woman pair is similar to the others. They're opposite, yet complementary. The black print would not be visible unless the page were white, and there's a careful balance between honor and humility.
Michael So it's not impossible to be strong like a man and show a woman's care?
George Paradoxical but not impossible. In fact it's a great combination.
Michael What are the feminine behaviors?
George Generally, we think of things like gentle, warm, nurturing, intuitive, soft, and receptive when we say feminine. Masculine suggests rough, independent, strong, hard, analytical, and cold. But each set of behaviors is limiting. The training programs deal with expanding the possibilities and becoming a more complete person.
Michael Well, I can see how women would get along better in business by using some masculine behaviors, because organizations are usually pretty masculine places. But I'd probably be worse off by trading my masculinity for a more feminine style. Hm. It sounds weird just to say it.
George Organizations will change as people in them change. And if the words "masculine" and "feminine" bother you, I have another one for you.
Michael What?
George Androgyny.
Michael Androgyny?
George Yes, androgyny. It means a combination of the traditional masculine and feminine traits. And it doesn't mean giving up one to attain the other. They're blended together to make a more effective whole. In fact, that's one of the things the women in management programs talk about a lot.
Michael Maybe men should have programs that teach androgynous styles too. Is androgyny in the Tao Te Ching?
George Oh yes. Masculine is called yang, and feminine is called yin.

The ten thousand things carry yin and embrace yang.
They achieve harmony by combining these forces.
Michael I've heard about yin and yang before, but I didn't think of it as describing androgyny.

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