Finding the Right Balance
January 2011

During the women’s cooperators symposium held last November, I had the pleasure of rediscovering a remarkable network of women who, year after year, has responded to our invitation. Pleased with the renewal of their relationships, regular attendees were feeling light hearted, and just like perfect hostesses, greeted newcomers warmly. A few hours later, you couldn’t tell the new attendees from the regulars. And I thought that what was happening before me was a clear expression of the kind of competency the business world now acknowledges as being essential, the ability to create a climate of trust and well-being propitious to building constructive and durable relationships. That’s when I was reminded of The Great Turning, by David Korten.

By reviewing the events that led to a handful of superpowers to dominate today’s world for the benefit of a small group of super rich elite, Korten calls for a resistance. A resistance that must be built, explains Korten, on a better control of the communities and… on a greater feminine presence in the organization of everyday life. Yes! That’s exactly what he says.

In a fascinating retrospective, Korten describes the long journey that began with the emergence of Homo sapiens. He goes on to say that in primitive societies while men were off hunting, women were left to organize the community. The qualities valued were those the group needed to ensure its cohesion: the ability to give birth, to feed, to care for, to bring together, and to protect the environment. Qualities deemed ‘feminine’ were celebrated, female deities were respected and revered and Mother Earth, the source of life and nourishment, reigned.

Communities expanded, they discovered agriculture and chose to settle on their lands. They implemented a complex social structure, developed the arts and amassed riches. Nation Cities were born, creating new needs: To protect populations and take over more land. Strength, ambition, risk taking and self-control became desirable characteristics. Little by little, the qualities deemed ‘masculine’ superseded feminine ones in terms of being recognized by community leaders. Man as god and warrior, as conqueror, and as dominator shaped our current masculine concept of power.

Korten recalls how Nation Cities paved the way for Nation-States, and then to kingdoms, which continued to expand into new colonies. In the end, everything was requisitioned, populated, exploited, often enslaved, and finally globalized. Expansion was no longer possible. Korten makes a disastrous assessment of the situation and notes that the needs we believed to be irrelevant are slowly reappearing. Such as belonging to a community that takes care of its people, a warm and diversified community in which every one is responsible for the quality of life of his or her environment. Korten suggests that to globally satisfy human needs a new balance of power must occur, one that values and uses the complementarity of ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ qualities to its advantage.

This is what I was thinking when I was looking at those women during the symposium. There is no doubt: A number of them would make excellent cooperative administrators. However, women who wish to invest in official power and leadership are an uncommon occurrence…. Nonetheless, the power of influence remains, the kind of power that every member holds as part of a cooperative, which also answers Korten’s underlying call for taking greater control.

In addition, I wish to take advantage of this time of year to invite women as well as all other members, regardless of age and field of activity, to the annual meeting held by your respective cooperatives. Just like Korten, I believe that taking control and a greater balance of power are in fact excellent options for guaranteeing the well-being of each and every one of us.


Colette Lebel, agr.
Director Cooperative Affairs
and Board Secretary Assistant
La Coop fédérée
Fax: 514 850-2567


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