Cheryl Cran on the future of work
Cheryl Cran, author and future-of-work expert. Image: Cheryl Cran

What will the future of work mean for women?

12 Dec 2017

The future of work is already upon us, but what does it mean for women? According to Cheryl Cran, it means more jobs and opportunities.

In our world of accelerating, fast-paced change, the ability to thrive in uncertainty and flex in flux are becoming core skills to our future as leaders.

More and more, we find ourselves in situations where we must facilitate what is happening in real time with grace, presence and quiet confidence.

Navigating continual disruptions requires discernment and a focus on the overall impact to the collective, not just personal interests.

Given the realities of the ongoing change and the resulting impact on the future of work, what does this mean for women?

With the rise of AI, robotics and automation, there is going to be a massive need for the skills that have commonly been labelled as ‘soft skills’ when, in fact, the skills are essential ‘human skills’.

Women innately have some of these essential future-of-work skills – such as relational skills, communication skills, empathy and emotional intelligence – and they have a huge opportunity to lead change towards the future of work.

In the past, the core skills needed to succeed were sheer will, drive, determination, aggressive pursuit of goals, and each ‘person’ for himself or herself. We are seeing a future where the skills needed to succeed are an integration of masculine skills and feminine skills, such as the ability to see multiple perspectives all at once, the ability to creatively collaborate, the ability to mobilise people and teams to achieve results, and the ability to shift from a ‘me’ to a ‘we’ achievement focus.

Women are poised to succeed in a future where jobs that used to require sheer strength (construction, manufacturing, agriculture) will be enhanced by robots.

In Japan, there are robots that fit over the human body like an exoskeleton and increase the strength of the wearer (male or female) to that of 10 men.

In healthcare, carebots are literally taking care of the ‘heavy lifting’, which frees up healthcare providers to focus on wellness and true patient care while the carebot provides support on the physical labour side of the job.

What the future of work will mean for women is more choice of jobs, more opportunities to leverage essential human skills and greater ability to build work around life.

There will be more women in executive and senior leadership positions because the advances in technology will free up time so that women can do more work remotely, more work from home and create more opportunities to co-share a job.

Oracle is an example of a large multinational company that has two CEOs sharing a job – Safra Catz and Mark Hurd share the role. This is a future-of-work trend and it bodes well for women who have in the past resisted executive leadership because of time pressures and life balance.

Research into future of work shows a rise in freelancing and entrepreneurship in the US. More than 9.1m firms are owned by women; they employ more than 7.9m people and generate more than 1.4trn in sales.

Freelancers now make up 35pc of US workers and collectively earned $1trn in the past year, according to the Freelancing in America: 2016 survey.

More women are choosing either freelance or entrepreneurship in order to have complete control over schedule, time, money and life-work integration.

The future of work for women is exciting and here’s why:

  • As technology continues to simplify the work, women can do work that inspires them rather than admin-heavy roles that are soul-sucking.
  • Companies are looking to hire more women to solve the talent shortage crisis that is happening globally.
  • Programmes such as STEM are creating new opportunities for women in the technology industry and in industries that have been male-dominated.
  • Women have more choice in whether they will work for a company, become a leader, start their own business, freelance for multiple clients or provide funding for new businesses.
  • Women are being sought to run for political office.
  • Women are poised to shift the culture of business along with progressive male counterparts and leaders such as Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Mark Zuckerberg, who are seeking women to be on their teams.
  • Women are influencing the changes needed towards work-life balance and are attracted to work that allows them to have a life, and work fits into that life.
  • The possibilities are endless for women at this critical juncture of global change. Women working together with other women and mentoring women will be the new norm.

Really, the future is bright for everyone. Specifically for women, there has never been a better time to step up to the opportunities and to see where they can have the most impact.

The old days of having to give up your life to achieve are going to be gone. The new way of working will allow for women to create their best life by their own choosing while making an impact through work – and isn’t that true liberation?

By Cheryl Cran

Cheryl Cran is a future-of-work expert and author of The Art of Change Leadership – Driving Transformation in a Fast-Paced World.

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