By Nili Goldfein
As we embark on the disruptive third decade of the 21st century, how should women integrate, work and advance themselves?
Towards the end of the second decade of the 21st century, economic media was swamped with facts and figures about women in the workplace. Misrepresentation of women in C-Level positions, continuing wage gaps between male and female executives, cultural conflicts regarding women’s constant career and family juggle and sexual harassment, were among the topics covered worldwide. While clinging to a conservative 20th-century mindset, some experts and researchers gravely suggested that solving these critical gender issues would take up to 260 years. However, when we welcome the planned, logical and linear development of the third decade of our century, we realize that the world is no longer linear: it is chaotic.
The acronym VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) describes an unpredictable world with constant whirlwinds of unexpected events. This disrupts our ability to plan and predict by relying on outdated 20th century Business Administration models and rules. Instead, a new set of business rules is emerging, the first being: there are no rules.
The chaos and disruption characterizing today’s macro-economic environment is causing organizations and leaders to pull their hair out in frustration while attempting to rethink their next steps. However, as in any crisis, the distance between risk and possibility depends on how you choose to look at the situation. The same applies to gender balance in the workplace.
A story of seeds and soil
The matter of conscious choice regarding gender balance in today’s turbulent, disruptive and ever-changing business world can best be described by the metaphor of seeds and soil. “Seeds” are strong, conscious and proactive women who cooperate and assist each other, making their logical, sane and courageous voices heard; alongside enlightened, brave, intelligent men, who understand and appreciate the enormous contribution that diversity brings to the corporate bottom line. Together, these “seeds” can affect fundamental change at the very core of the business, regardless of any linear timeline.
The female employee “seed” must take responsibility as well. She must learn to cultivate and develop herself, stand up for her rights, boldly promote herself, speak up and make her voice heard.
The “soil” is the organization, which can accelerate the process of gender equality by diligently fostering a culture of belonging, which strengthens women’s voices and creates essential gender balance in the corporate talent mix. A positive “soil” will condemn gender discrimination, correct inequalities in wages and promotions, penalize sexual harassment and acknowledge parental challenges and constraints (yes, both Moms and Fathers included). These actions enrich the soil and pave the way for a fruitful, bountiful crop where both men and women can flourish.
From Wakanda to the real world
About a year ago, Marvel Studios released the successful fantasy film Black Panther. The story takes place in Wakanda – a fictional and technologically superior African kingdom led by women warriors and technological leaders, alongside mothers as society’s “voice of conscience”. Other films such as Hidden Figures, Wonder Woman, Hostiles, Miss Marvel and Disney’s Brave, Moana and Frozen – have put women and minorities on the map as a growing force. While Hollywood’s relationship with the real world is complex, movies reveal where the corporate world is heading towards and what it needs: a respectful acknowledgement of female strengths that can diversify and elevate organizations of all kinds.
The Secret Spices: Solidarity and Creativity
When women cooperate with each other and help one another to advance, develop and address injustice, and organizations make creative efforts to offer women equal opportunities, the gender balance correction period will be much shorter than 260 years. Consequently, the benefit to all involved will be so great that nobody will understand why it took us so long to do so.
Tips for women in organizations:
Excellence: Be the best you can at what you do. Don’t be afraid to shine and succeed. Your success will inspire other women and give you great satisfaction – and yes, you’re allowed to talk about it. Out loud. Make your voice heard!
Generosity: Help your female colleagues, subordinates, or supervisors in both your workplace and other organizations. Share your knowledge generously. Remember: Good creates better and actions speak louder than words.
Quiet Alertness: No need to seek wrongdoing where there is none. Sometimes a compliment is just a compliment. However, if there is gender discrimination or inappropriate behavior towards you or your female colleague, do not be silent and do not ignore it.
Networking: To take an active part in regular networking of women’s networks and practices. Female friends and colleagues can create every difference between success and failure.
Men: Men are not our enemies: they are our beloved spouses, sons, brothers, fathers, friends and co-workers. Like us, they are a product of a patriarchal culture and a history of discrimination, and together we are both undergoing an important change.