Why can't a man be more like a woman?

Why every business person, male and female, should embrace the message of the new book, "Half the Sky."

"Why can't a woman be more like a man?" If you are a Broadway musical buff like yours truly, you will recognize this as the classic lament of Professor Henry Higgins, as he puzzles over the bundle of brains and emotion that characterize the woman he discovers to be the love of his life, Eliza Doolittle.

I found the song repeating in my brain this morning (which is not a good thing as the lyrics are RATHER objectionable), as I skimmed a book review over on the Huffington Post with this RATHER intriguing title: "The Most Important Book Every Man Should Read." Being extremely appreciative of great headlines, I wondered right away, "Why, as a woman, am I being excluded from that invitation?"

So, here's the skinny: The author Steven Leveen is CEO and co-founder of Levenger, one of my all-time guilt pleasure stores. (I'm a pen and journal addict.) The subject of his blog is a book published this fall called "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide" by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. This book, Leveen believes, has the potential to become the most influential book of the new decade.

I don't have my hands on a copy (yet), but Leveen's review makes it pretty clear that anyone with an interest in a smarter planet should read this book. Wait, scratch that, my copy has just finished downloading to my Kindle.

The focus of the book as you might expect is on human rights (notice I don't say women's rights) and the ongoing oppression and plight of women in certain developing nations. Mind you, this is something that I, as a woman, know woefully little about. Leveen's takeaway from reading this book is that the "average white guy" is likewise sheltered and needs to understand more about the effect that education can have at improving the situation. Three examples why, which are played out in the book:

  1. Educated women delay child-bearing and have fewer of them
  2. Educated women will have more money-earning opportunities
  3. Educated girls help educate other children at higher rates than boys (this revelation I found especially fascinated)

Here's one of Leveen's main takeaways:

"The female half of our human capital is desperately needed to understand and effectively fight obstacles facing developing nations, no only overpopulation and poverty but even disease, terrorism and calamitous climate change. The way to hold up our whole sky is to free women to take part in the lifting."

Heavy. Actually, not if men and women share the load.

As a woman, my agenda for writing this post is immediately self-interested and suspect. That's why I loved Leveen's own entry so much and wanted to point to it in order to underscore the message. The main point of his review is that men and women will succeed in the sustainability movement by working side by side and not at cross purposes.

So, all you males out there, spend five, heck 10 minutes, today trying to think from the women's point of view. It won't make you any less of a guy, but it might make you a more complete person.

And all you females, you should likewise remember that we're in this together. While in many cases, male oppression and cultural tradition is the root cause of women's poverty the solution will be all that much more powerful if it includes the yin and the yang.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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