The Evolution of Women in Business
By Jenny Holt
Women have been in the news a lot lately, for various reasons.
We’ve seen The Women’s Marches, A Day Without Women protests, and more. Women are speaking out as a group and demanding they be heard. But what does this mean for women in business?
Entrepreneurs, no matter their gender, have a knack for grabbing an opportunity when it arises, and this is an opportunity for women in business.
History of Women in Business
As is often the case with social change, the first step is that the marginalized group tries to fit in, to play by the rules of the established power brokers. When women began moving out of the secretarial pool in large numbers in the 1970s and 1980s, they wore severe suits to fit in with the ‘old boy network.’ They went out for business dinners at steak houses and drank scotch.
And they worked hard. They worked nights, weekends, and even on ‘vacation’. They worked twice as hard as men to be thought half as good. And they slowly rose in the ranks. They found that working like men worked to get them management
positions, executive positions, and seats on the board.
Women in the Digital Era
This phase of the revolution reached a peak when Marissa Mayer was named CEO of Yahoo! in 2012. This decision was widely lauded as a breakthrough for women in business. The following year, Mayer turned the movement on its head when she made a decision to prohibit telecommuting at Yahoo!, drawing the ire of many female employees who worked from home to enjoy a better work-life balance. It was clear to many that Mayer was trying to ‘think like a man’ in order to retain her position.
This strategy has helped women make real gains so far. When you register and attend a business networking event it is typical to hear an impressive female line-up of keynote speakers who hold major positions within global corporations. There are far more women in leadership positions in big companies than there were a decade ago.
These powerful women include Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, and HP CEO Meg Whitman, among many others.
Now it’s time for the second phase of women in business. This is the part where women work on their own terms. They’re not ashamed, embarrassed, or intimidated when they take time off to attend a child’s dance recital or to care for an aging parent.
It is time for women to embrace those characteristics that make them women: empathy, nurturing, patience, multitasking, and so on. Since these are qualities that are not yet widely valued in Fortune 500 companies, women are starting their own companies so they can work on their own terms.
Watch for the continued evolution of women in business, as more women reach the executive suite and still more start their own companies and leave their mark on American business.
Jenny Holt is a freelance writer and mother of two. She loves nothing more than getting away from it and taking her pet Labrador Bruce for long walks, something she can do a lot more now she’s left the corporate world behind.
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