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Dena L. Anthony, Ph.D.
San Francisco, Palo Alto, Albany
(510) 525-6156

by Anthony, Dena Louise, Ph.D., Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2002.

This study explored the disparity between the styles and values of four accomplished women, and those of the corporate and academic environments in which they worked. The study was based on twenty-five years of research explicating the traits, styles and values that women exhibit more than men. These traits are dissonant to those masculinist characteristics upon which this culture's major economic structures are based. The resulting conflict of styles and values causes distinct difficulty, deep pain and stunted growth for women making their way in the economic world. This study used extended interviews to explore these difficulties and distress, and their consequences for the lives and inner worlds of women. A second purpose of the study was to search for and understand from within individual women's experiences, situations in which women's ways of being and doing meshed beneficially and were effective within prevailing workplace structures.

The study examined the depth of distress that caring, nurturing, community focused people endured within hierarchical, status valuing organizations. For one woman this result was breast cancer. Another dynamic woman became extremely fragmented after years of being squelched. A third powerful woman became disillusioned with the alien way that corporations affect people. While several of these women learned to function in the prescribed linear, hierarchical, goal directed manner, most of them lost their dynamism, their personal power, the joy in their work and their health. In the process they moved from the center of workplace activity to the periphery.

These women were highly relational in the skills they brought to their work, and in their needs and expectations from the workplace. Their primary valued way of connecting with their professional community was to be effective, especially relationally effective, in contrast to the more masculine focal value of seeking status within hierarchy. The women suffered when their effective relational ways remained hidden and unacknowledged, or were even deprecated.

The understandings gained in this study will contribute to health-care professionals' abilities to care for women as well as men who are suffering in abusive work environments, and also to beneficial changes in prevailing workplace paradigms.