Work Futurist Diana Wu David, CEO, Future Proof Lab, which works with C-suite executives and boards to help them create future-focussed, resilient organisations, says changes at the workplace are urgently needed for women in the post-pandemic period.
In an interaction with People Matters, David, a former Financial Times executive, author of best-selling "Future Proof: Reinventing Work in an Age of Acceleration" and an adjunct professor at Columbia Business School’s EMBA Global Asia, provides her inputs on what effect the pandemic had on women, what companies can do, and what the women themselves should do to rise.
What has been the biggest impact of Covid-19 on women in the workplace?
Women disproportionately took on responsibilities at home in most countries. Many left full-time jobs to do so. It remains to be seen how we might use lessons learned from this time to build back a better, more inclusive workplace.
Why should we care? The human race depends on it. Global fertility rates have been declining for decades because raising kids is undervalued and corporations have not done a great job of designing work around it without presuming someone (usually a woman) is at home doing unpaid labour and love.
What does the post-pandemic future for women in the workplace look like? What are some of the challenges they face now?
Trends like company of one, projectisation of work, and longer life spans can be a boon to women (and men) who need more flexibility around caregiving or other pursuits like arts, music, charity work or higher risk ventures like start-ups.
My book, "Future Proof: Reinventing Work in An Age of Acceleration", identified this trend toward people crafting portfolio careers that can ensure multiple revenue streams (and therefore stability), experimentation and reinvention with an evolving narrative and network to contribute value.
The biggest challenge for companies now is that women can often make more, more flexibly, more sustainably, without them.
What is an important future need for women besides flexible workplaces in the new normal?
Power. Policy change. Progressive cultures.
But do we want to build back work that encourages people to spend more time at work at the expense of the emotional bonds with friends, loved ones or children, or to the detriment of their health because they don't have time to move and exercise and breathe?
If we transform work to work better around life, it wouldn't just benefit women; it would benefit all of us.
How important is it to equip women with new-age skills?
As Sheryl Sandberg said, go where the growth is. A rising tide lifts all boats. Get the skills most in demand, be they web3 or ESG. Own your expertise, engagement, and experience and find a place that values that.
How can employers contribute to shaping the role of women in the new normal?
According to Gena Cox, author of the new book, "Leading Inclusion", leaders must set what she calls "100% leadership" behavioural expectations, and hold managers accountable for being inclusive.
"Employees expect better than a one-size-fits-all leadership approach,” she adds.
In a world where so much competitive advantage is in your people, if you don’t make work for life, you can watch your employees walk out the door.