I have been thinking a lot recently about what it means to be a woman in today’s day and age (not least because I have now reached the age where kids are asked to address me as ‘the nice lady’ when they bump me on the tube which all sounds very grown up). As Harriet pointed out, it feels like we are on the cusp of some kind of (r)evolution (the fourth wave of feminism?) which will hopefully refocus how women are perceived and what is expected of them in the future.
So as part of our reinvention issue, I thought I would highlight some of the ways in which I think women are being redefined and what being a woman might mean for the next generation.
Being a woman means:
1. You can pick and be successful in any profession
- Less gender specific toys are being created to ensure that boys and girls do not get pushed into particular professions too early. Girls are being encouraged to consider careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) in particular with initiatives such as Lego’s female scientists figures (Marie Curie in Lego!), GoldieBlox and Girls Who Code gaining momentum over the last year.
- And if you can’t find a job you love, you can create your own. The number of ‘mumpreneurs’ (women who combine running a business with having children) is now well over 1 million in the UK and growing by 10% per year.
2. You can be a working mother (and not feel guilty about it)
- A study by Harvard University recently revealed that daughters with working mothers go on to have better careers, higher pay and more equal relationships than those raised by stay at home mothers.
3. You can work flexibly and juggle commitments to spend time with your kids, to do an MBA or pursue your interest in taxidermy (this applies to men too)
- Initiatives like extended paternity leave and organisations like timewise are helping to raise awareness and remove the stigma surrounding flexible working / reduced hours for both men and women. With technology enabling employees to work from anywhere any time, working remotely is a reality for many already.
- The millennial generation want to work for companies that share their values and are less likely to stay with a company that does not allow them to pursue their interests.
4. Being “like a girl” will not have any negative connotations
- Just like ‘being a man’ or to ‘man up’ will not have any emasculating connotations (see our Man’s Corner this week) and the incredibly touching #likeagirl ads and the excellent Youtube ‘Be a Man’ video.
5. You might be concerned about your looks but men will be too. Your looks won’t define who you are.
- First impressions count – that is unlikely to change and therefore there is no harm in looking your best. The main difference is that with the advent of the ‘spornosexual’ male (described as “where sport got into bed with porn while Mr Armani took pictures”) there will be as much pressure on men as there is on women to look good.
- And like any 80s movie will tell you – looks do not define who you are as a person. Just watch the #thisgirlcan campaign (I jiggle therefore I am!) and remember the backlash against those Protein World “are you beach beach body ready?” ads.
6. Businesses will realise that they need you (and reward you accordingly). Advertisers will realise that you are a very lucrative market.
- Women make up 85% of all consumer decisions and 51% of the population.
- Therefore you need to understand how women think to sell them products and services, and they will need to be represented on boards and in the economy in order for businesses to thrive (a study showed that a mixed Board of average intelligence performed better than a single gendered board of more intelligent people).
- David Cameron has committed to getting rid of the gender pay gap within a generation and the 25% Lord Davies target was achieved but there are still twice as many men named John who are CEOs or chairmen of FTSE 100 companies as there are women of all names.
7. You can be funny
- For the longest time and for some very odd reason, it has been a truth universally acknowledged that women just can’t be funny (OK, so I stole that line from Jane Austen for dramatic effect).
- Well all I can say to that is: Tina Fey, Emma Stone, Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, Amy Schumer, Rebel Wilson, Mindy Kaling… and the list goes on, people!
I really truly hope and believe that this list will be a given for the women of Generation Z (oddly named after the last letter of the alphabet…) and that my children will grow up in a world where my version of the modern woman is a reality.