I hate to sound like a sycophant but I do think Arianna Huffington was spot on when she implored the all-female grad class of Smith College to "redefine success" rather than "climb the ladder of success". She could also have added, "throw away those ladders and build lattices of success" because the problem with a ladder is you either go up them or fall off them. Career lattices ( originally coined by Deloitte I believe), are supposed to be the answer to women's prayers for career success during the child bearing years. You see you can go sideways for a bit and then go up later. Mind you all the time you really do need to be "leaning in" or you'll still fall off, particularly with 2 kids in tow.
I think Arianna would agree with me that we need to get away from vertical analogies altogether when it comes to redefining career success. I suspect expressions like "Getting to the top" with its hierarchial, aspirant overtones doesn't cut the mustard with Gen Y women at all. The new zeitgeist favours concepts like collaboration, cooperation, doing something meaningful, flexibility. Everybody knows that women are better at collaborating and cooperating (OK maybe not on The Apprentice) and are particularly put off by the up or out cultures of old.
And so I can see why young women will be increasingly drawn to the idea of setting up their own company, becoming entrepreneurs. That way they can create a culture that reflects their own values. This would seem a quicker route to the kind of success that resonates with women rather than joining Corporate UK, often described as being "designed by men for men over half a century ago". Maybe the Third Metric (the new way of working described by Arianna in The Sunday Times on June 2nd) means having lots of female-centric satellite companies flexing around male-dominated corporate monoliths?
However, I'm pretty sure that young men would want to join the nimble satellites too. The film The Social Network showing Mark Zuckerberg inventing Facebook certainly inspired my 17 year old son to start dreaming up the next big internet idea and I'm sure he wasn't alone. Being an entrepreneur seems much sexier than joining a big company nowadays. So maybe the Third Metric involves a generational split? The new order is that you cut your teeth in the world of entrepreneurship (when still living at home and largely dependent on the Bank of Mum and Dad) and then get on the corporate ladder at 40+. By that time you'll be happy to have a more predictable career because you now own a property, have had your kids and still have a good 30 years of useful employment ahead of you. The law firms, accountancy firms and banks (particularly the banks) would do well to hire these experienced 40 somethings who make measured decisions based on worldly wisdom.
Risk taking would remain the preserve of the young "satelliters" who would innovate to their heart's content and leave the serious stuff to the wise corporate elders. Just imagine, the Banks run by sensible, wiser, older people, as many women as men....no more credit crunches....
Oh I do wish I was invited to Arianna's Third Metric Think Tank this Thursday. Hint. Hint.