Feminism in the workplace has certainly come a long way since the radical bra burning days of the sixties.
The feminist energy we’re embracing today is an emotional state and a consciousness, previously absent from the work environment. Not only does it embrace the value of female energy in the workplace but it also acknowledges the strength of the highly popularized SHEeconomy.
We’re seeing the end of combative feminism, patriarchal dominance and a one-dimensional identity. The feminine language and concepts are rather reinvention and renewal; inspiration and elevation; connection and nurturance and transparency and honesty. The real challenge for business leaders right now is finding a way to best leverage this exciting female energy.
Drawing on research from Faith Popcorn’s writings on “2012 What’s Popping” and Meister and Willyerd’s “2020 Workplace” Willyerd’s “2020 Workplace”, these are some of the changes business can look forward to in the coming decade:
Very young women are leading the way
By the end of 2020 there will be more businesses started up by women. We will also see a major increase of women in professional positions. As women enter ‘higher’ positions we see the focus on business success shift from monetary gain to more meaningful measures – including social responsibility and employee growth. Business leaders need to start preparing the workplace for this. They need to factor women into their succession planning and ensure that they are enticed through incentive schemes that suit their needs. Culture also needs to be adjusted. Businesses need to shift away from simply focusing on numbers, to bringing in a people measurement in the form of employees scorecards.
The traditional family is changing
Being a single mom is no longer seen as a life-sentence and ‘disability of sorts.’ This has become a conscious life choice for women who are opting to raise children on their own. In addition, women are choosing to stay single for longer – or not to get married at all. Stay-at-home dads are becoming a norm, rather than a frowned-upon segment of society.
Popcorn predicts that over the next decade, the traditional nuclear family will decrease in prevalence drastically. Socially we will see a rise in services that provides flexibility to every kind of family structure. Day and night care will become a very lucrative business. We will also see co-parenting sites which link single parents to assist them in raising their children. In the workplace, companies will need to adapt the environment to serve these changing needs, with more flexibility for both men and women.
The chivalry shift
Women are no longer the ‘weaker sex’ as women’s strengths are becoming more valuable in the changing world while men struggle with changing societal expectations. It is predicted that women will in future assist their male counterparts by helping them protect themselves in the coming order that will highlight feminine characteristics more. In the workplace, educators and employers will need to deal with the sociological problems that men are facing by offering supportive counseling and guidance. Candidates with a high level of emotional intelligence (EQ) should preferably be recruited.
Personality tests that indicate EQ, will become the first step of the recruitment process – before competency checking and reference checks.
Women are closing the gap in the economy
It is predicted that companies that show a lack of women on executive boards and in senior positions will be red flagged by investors. John Hagel said: “The future belongs to those of us, male or female, who can adopt and embrace the feminine archetype.”
The prediction is that traditionally female behavior will become the preferred way of being and culture in organisations. Companies will expect both genders to demonstrate conscientiousness rather than testosterone-fuelled decision making.
The work-life blend, based on feminine characteristics is replacing the idea of balance
With changes in the nuclear family, we will see a rising prevalence of the single-parent home and a millennial generation that values personal time and flexibility, coupled with the benefits of technological advancements. In future people will structure their work lives the way they want to in the coming 2020 workplace. They will no longer be expected to work a traditional week but will shape their work around their lives focusing on delivery rather on hours of work completed.
The workplace of the future needs to be shaped accordingly with policies which allow for a work blend rather than on a standard contract for all employees. Systems must be put in place to support remote work and effective connectivity between teams. Scorecards must support delivery and the feminists’ workplace, rather than hours worked and sales targets reached.
Finally, the skills shortage will be acute globally and women will be key in filling this gap. How and where they work will be a differentiating factor.
Now that people are able to work remotely, we will see employees working for international companies in the comfort of their homes in their chosen place of residence. The knowledge worker will be of high value and they will have the ability to choose their office space, office hours and other working conditions.
In summary, the feminisation of the workplace is encouraging us to look after our people better as the focus moves from profit to people. It means utilizing technology to develop our people and allow them to work according to their own blend and flexible schedule – we need to retain them, no matter what. It means looking towards building, growing, collaborating and developing.
Natalie Maroun is the Lead Strategist at LRMG.