Is the future of work more female friendly?


Long ago, everyone kissed goodbye to the jobs-for-life model popular in the middle of the last century. Now, forward-thinking pundits are arguing that for many of us jobs in their entirety are about to become a thing of the past as well, replaced increasingly by project-based work and ‘the gig economy.’

It’s a big change, the progress and ramifications of which are nearly impossible to predict. But speculating is fun and can, perhaps, help guide how these changes unfold and are understood. So here’s another possible implication of a shift away from old-fashioned jobs to new ways of working: women might do better professionally.

With respected publications periodically declaring men over, it’s not news that many of the changes currently underway that are moving the economy away from manual labor and towards people-centered knowledge and service work have benefited female workers (exhibit A: the term “mancession”). Might a remote, project-based future for work also be a boon for women, asked Lindsey Donner recently on the Young Entrepreneur Council. She writes:

As Aileen Lee points out on TechCrunch, not only do women dominate almost all social media channels, they also hold the purse strings. “Women are the routers and amplifiers of the social web. And they are the rocket fuel of ecommerce,” Lee says.

Sounds like “powerful business,” indeed.

If we still lack mentors, negotiating skills and institutional support, I wonder whether, in an age of flux, this very lack doesn’t give women an edge. Think about it: When everything is changing, imagination is critical. And with so few real mentors to show us the way, imagination is a woman’s best friend.

Women dominate social media and, as relative outsiders, might have an edge in innovative thinking, but Donner goes on to wonder if they aren’t also more adept at handling the collaboration tools and social subtleties that enable work at a distance. She recalls the different ways her EQ was put to work in traditional corporate jobs and as a freelance, remote worker:

I’d spent plenty of time at all-male meeting tables, feeling frustrated by dated expectations. But I believed, that the same qualities I stifled during those testosterone-fueled sessions would be a boon to me as a (very) small-business owner. My sociability, my willingness to assign importance to emotional cheerleading, and my capacity to build personal relationships –virtually — have helped me cultivate a loyal client base.

Women, as an archetype if not always as individuals, generally struggle more than men with blustering their way up hierarchies. If work becomes more of a latticework of connections and projects and less of a pyramid or ladder, perhaps more of women will find it easier to excel.

How does Donner’s argument strike you – are the new models of work currently developing better suited to women’s work styles on average?

Image courtesy of Flickr user Mike Licht,


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