Sunday, 27 March 2011

The femination of markets - ongoing

You may recall I started talking about this a blog or two ago and said I am keen to do more research into this area, so whilst I have been a bit slack on the blogging front, I have been working away in the background on this issue.  I have been reading, surfing, watching, and listening. As you do. And am only just beginning to grapple with this enormous issue.

I have been reading on womanhood. On what women want. Of course a 20-year old doesn't want what a 30-year old wants, let alone a 40-year old or a 50-year old, who btw, more than anything, just wants a good night sleep :-). The 60-year old wants to believe that 60 is the new 40 and is at a point in life where she wants to make a difference; she wants to change the system ~ that should be interesting, with the baby boomers coming of age. I have been reading about how western women struggle to gain what some call the impossible art of balancing work & life.  Some women are going for the superwoman 'I can do it all' model, whilst others are seeking the return of the happy housewife model of the 1950s, back when women knew their place.  

Somehow the return to the obedient housewife thingy is going to be a bit hard..If you listen to the new data on the rise of women presented by Hanna Rosin in a TED talk, it is absolutely clear that we are going through (in Rosin's words) "an amazing and unprecedented moment where the power dynamics between men and women are shifting very rapidly". I would argue that it isn't a mere moment but a solid ~ if underestimated ~ shift towards the feminisation of markets. Yes, women are dominating in fields such as banking, law, accounting and medicine, but not (yet) in science, engineering and technology, often viewed as a geeky professions which do not appear to be a huge turn on for women. But what is more striking is that this is an economic shift ~ all over the world it is women who are taking on the role of breadwinner, becoming the more powerful earners. As Rosin puts it 'the 200,000 year period in which men were top dog is coming to an end'. 

Why now, one may wonder. Rosin puts her finger on it. Men haven't changed, but the economy has. It has turned into a service economy, a knowledge economy in which information, knowledge and creativity are king. Well, queen, really, since the knowledge economy requires skills that women are naturally good at. Things like inclusiveness, team building, listening (!) and fluid communication.  

And this isn't an isolated phenomenon in developed economies. It's a global economic reality. Rosin talks about how in India poor women are learning English faster than their male counterparts so they can take jobs in call centres. In China more women than men are starting small businesses. When I think about my recent travels, I can see the evidence in Bangladesh and Peru. It was the women, often in cooperative structures, who were entrepreneurial, are keeping their communities going, communicating with the outside world.  

Rosin's wisest words...We are all in this together and we need to bring each other along. A culture change that is hard enough to achieve in the developed world and a massively difficult task in traditional cultures...

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