Lean In: The Spiritual Component of Women’s Leadership

How can more women come into leadership? Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg argues that women need to own their power and lean in more in conversations, negotiations and job promotions. Maria Shriver wrote a response to Sheryl’s new book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, offering that we as women need to not only lean in, but we need to “push back” to create new laws and policies that support women and a work/family balance. I’d like to add another component to this conversation that I think is vital.

The spiritual component.

We live in a world culture that is dominated by a masculine version of divinity. God the Father. Brahma. Allah. Buddha. Every major world religion has a “man” as the lead. Do we not think that this has an effect on how we see leadership and who we see as leaders?

Let’s look at it this way: If we see “God” only as male, being male and masculinity becomes more authoritative, powerful, and valued than being female and femininity. Being male and masculinity also becomes the standard by which we measure things. As a result, we (both women and men) devalue and ignore the feminine parts of ourselves.

Since we have been living a paradigm where men and the masculine are the dominant power, and women and the feminine are the under-class, it’s no wonder that so many women second-guess themselves and their voice in the world.

In my opinion, feminine spirituality is a critical ingredient to the next step in women’s leadership. In order for us to rise, we need to reconnect with our natural spiritual authority. But what does this look like?

First I’d like to point out that archeologists and scholars have found that Goddess culture existed for 30,000 years before the patriarchy. Through the unearthing of goddess figurines, paintings, symbols and images, they discovered a long history of a non-violent, earth-centered culture where the goddess was considered the universal source, aka the Great Mother who gave birth to all things from her womb. “The Goddess in all of her manifestations was a symbol of the unity of all life in Nature. Her power was in water and stone, in tomb and cave, in animals and birds, snakes and fish, hills, trees and flowers,” said the late scholar and archeologist Marija Gimbutas.

This all changed in the fourth millennium B.C. when waves of Indo-European warriors descended upon the communities that followed the ways of the Goddess. They brought with them a belief in male gods and patriarchal leadership. Eventually, the Jewish religion was formed with a single male God as the spiritual authority. And then of course from there, Christianity was later born, with a male God in charge. The Goddess cultures were persecuted, their temples and shrines destroyed, and the subjugation of women and suppression of the feminine became the norm.

It is this subjugation of the feminine that I believe is the source of much of the violence against women today. This violence comes in so many forms including rape, bride burning, stoning, domestic violence, genital mutilation, sex trafficking, sex-selective abortion, forgoing medical treatment for girls, denying girls education, the serious wage gap… the list goes on.

I believe that until we as a world culture acknowledge the divinity of the feminine and welcome back the Goddess to our spiritual domain, we will be fighting an uphill battle into leadership for a very long time. Until we heal and repair this spiritual wound, we can do all the leaning in that we want, but we are still going to be carrying around self-doubt, insecurity, and asking ourselves: Do I really deserve to lead?

What if Adam had been told that he was made from a woman’s rib, was made to serve her, and was the cause for all suffering in the world because he picked an apple off of a tree?

I’m not saying that every woman and man needs to turn to the Goddess in their spiritual practice. What I am saying is that our acknowledgment of feminine spirituality — which includes honoring the feminine aspect of the Divine, honoring our body, and honoring our intuitive knowing — is a key step to more women coming into leadership and bringing our world to a place of balanced power.

Lest anyone think that I’m trying to get rid of the male God or the male aspect of the Divine, I’m not. If you worship a male God, I’m inviting you to simply consider the feminine aspect of the Divine. Since our default position for our concept of Divine Intelligence is male, imagine how things might look and feel a bit different if our default position for Divine Intelligence was female. How about a balance?

For me, living with a male God as the “lead” does not work anymore. I do not see myself in him, therefore I can never “be” him. When the Goddess entered my life, I became inspired. I could feel her. I could see her. And I could see myself in her. Most importantly, I could feel my potential as a leader like never before.

I’m all for women leaning in, as Sheryl suggests. I’m also for changing laws and policies that honor women and a work/family balance, as Maria suggests. In addition, I’m advocating for a global acknowledgment of the feminine aspect of the Divine. I believe there is a need for us as women to gather together and honor each other from a feminine perspective — through a feminine lens, with the Goddess as our inspiration. If we don’t give ourselves the chance to do this we will constantly be judging ourselves through a masculine lens, and so will the rest of society.

Lean in. Push back. And remember the Goddess. When we reclaim our own divinity, we reclaim our wisdom, our power, our authority and our right to lead. Coming into leadership will no longer feel like a battle. It will feel like an expansion into who we already are.

This post was first published on The Huffington Post.

Tabby Biddle is a women’s rights advocate, leadership coach and the Director of The Los Angeles Goddess Collective, a community of women leaders and emerging leaders at the intersection of feminine spirituality, creative expression and social change. To learn more, visit tabbybiddle.com.