A close look at the waves of feminism through history reveals feminist predecessors were women who refused to be adaptive to the status quo. They were marked by trailblazing, taking on challenges, and aspiring to brighter horizons.
And if you think about it, while women have been working towards this moment, we haven't been in the workforce all that long: women's suffrage began before the turn of the 20th century and had won the vote in the US by 1920 and in Britain by 1928; then those resilient "Rosies" took over traditionally male jobs to support the war effort and most later withdrew to raise families in an unprecedented post-war economic expansion; then the bra-burning 60's and Equal Rights Amendment 70's that gave way to women entering the workforce en masse in the 1980's and 90's.
Once accepted into the corporate world, many of us "leaned in" and suppressed our femininity, worked like men, and avoided discussions of an outside life or motherhood for fear of losing our credibility. Others tried relishing the victory only to discover the very environment devalued the feminine as soft, finding ourselves dominated not necessarily by men but by the distorted concept of masculinity pervasive in big business. May women started their own businesses or opted to remain at home, but for many neither option really suited--a quiet and resentful generation of women has been brewing without rocking the boat too much.
And over two decades later where do we stand? The Global Gender Gap Report ranks Britain 26th, its lowest overall score for equality since 2008; with the U.S. not much further ahead at 20th... Where is the gender leadership from these so-called leaders of the free world?
Yet there is a new wave building momentum, not far off shore. And it's a tsunami with enough potential energy to sweep away these archaic masculine-dominated forms of business once for all... and for one simple reason: If business can't embrace the new feminine, they stand to lose more than half their talent--and what's more, they won't be able to fill those vacancies with qualified men because, surprise, many new generation men want to see the same changes!
As part of our work with women in corporate leadership, we recently surveyed more than 1,265 female executives and managers about the current status of their lives and careers. The astounding facts: fully 78 percent are considering leaving the corporate world; despite the fact that over 70 percent are the primary breadwinners in their households. Women are coming together in their hundreds and thousands at our events, not to learn the 'top tips' for working with men but to grow in personal confidence, discovering how to change an organisational structure, or a community, or a country. This army will no longer accept the platitudes of the past, not the unequal pay, nor the bias towards men in promotions, or the queen bee who won't support younger women on their ladder upwards.
What we are seeing now is a new growing solidarity among women. And from a historical perspective, it's about time for the next feminist wave to break. This new generation of women of all ages, all backgrounds, stands ready to fully embrace their feminine strengths, identify with them, and change the world with them; simultaneously refusing to identify with traditional feminism as a concept, and instead fully experience the power of their gender in collaboration with their masculine counterparts in the workforce and the world.
Let's not 'man up' or change who we are--we must redefine the systems and structures so that they work for women, unashamed to put family first, having pride in what makes us different. More women leaders must rise to the top ranks of business, politics, and community power to provide new perspectives and new leadership for the world's pressing issues, which are legion.
The world needs our help desperately, threatened on all sides from issues economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal, and technological. The World Economic Forum's latest report calls these "global risks of highest concern." Who better qualified to help take a refreshingly new approach to these issues than women with our unique perspective as mothers, sisters, and daughters?
As women, we must learn to rely on our intuition, gut feelings and instincts, which society either minimises or rationalises away. And rather than ask women to conform to masculine-patterned styles of leadership, as is commonly found in the business world, we must challenge others to realise these valuable feminine qualities are indispensible to the businesses in which we work, and not least of all, to the world at large.
At a time when women are increasingly dissatisifed with our work lives and desire for balance combined with the world suffering with some of the most dramatic issues in our history, we need to send out a clear message: women can change the world, if we join together, focus on our strengths and rely on their inner strength, instead of blindly accepting a path that we have been told by society is the only route to success.
Who's with me?