There’s something about attending a women’s leadership conference. Not only is it colourful but also energising. At the recently concluded International Women’s Forum in Chicago where I was fortunate to speak about my work at Safecity, I heard and met some amazingly talented women.
Many panelists gave us a glimpse of the future, a world where technology would change and improve our lives in ways we could never imagine, using virtual and augmented reality and artificial intelligence. Future transportation, for instance, may not only cut down travel times between cities using hypersonic and supersonic technology but also allow us to embark on more adventurous journeys with space travel. There was also talk of the current digital revolution which uses new currencies, virtual money and disruptive technology to create new markets and services.
It can be hard to visualize all of these changes, but we may see them in our lifetime, soon. The speed of change between major transformational periods is increasing so rapidly that over the years it has reduced from 2000 years to 200 years to 45 years to 15 years and is only going to be shorter and shorter.
It was not all optimism, however, and some speakers reminded us that when it comes to gender, not everything is changing. Several references were made to the latest McKinsey Lean In research which analyses trends about women at the workplace. Women remain underrepresented at every level in the corporate pipeline. Corporate America promotes men at 30 percent higher rates than women during their early career stages, and entry-level women are significantly more likely than men to have spent five or more years in the same role. Women negotiate for promotions and raises as often as men but face more pushback when they do. Women also receive informal feedback less frequently than men—despite asking for it as often—and have less access to senior-level sponsors. Not surprisingly, women are almost three times more likely than men to think their gender will make it harder to get a raise, promotion, or chance to get ahead.
The speakers shared some valuable insights which would allow women to be successful and stay in the game.
- Be a “curious intellectual”. Be relevant and be disciplined about continuous learning. We need to keep abreast of changes as they occur.
- Embrace technology. Do not be afraid of it. Learn from your children and grandchildren or younger people if needed.
- Strive to be a “leader” and a visionary as opposed to an operator and manager. Disruptive technology will create efficiencies but also lead to a loss of jobs. This will lead to new ways of doing things and create transformation.
- Take action and lead through change and ambiguity. The world around us is changing at a fast pace and there is a lot of uncertainty. But one has to be confident in the face of change, make speedy decisions and set direction.
- Be open to change. Family life as we know it is undergoing a change and we need to anticipate the societal pressures that will arise as we cling to old patterns of family life.
- Design for the physically challenged because if you take into account their needs, you can accommodate everyone.
- Expand your repertoire to conceptualise and create rather than giving importance only to the ability to read and write. Language as we know it is disappearing and technology is going to facilitate communication in ways we cannot imagine.
- Finally, get in touch with yourself and have an increased understanding about what makes ourselves and other human beings tick. Ultimately our proof of humanity will be our personal purpose in life.