In the last 12 months, the issue of ensuring a truly equal future for women has risen up the agenda of global challenges.
This article draws on insights from our recent book – The Future Reinvented – Reimagining, Life, Society and Business to explore how business and society can adjust to ensure a more positive future for women.
Looking at the forces shaping our world, it is clear that society as a whole could benefit significantly from the increased participation of women in technology development, elected governmental roles and higher education. For example, we need to better understand that even an algorithm can be racist or sexist before integrating artificial intelligence (AI) into our social systems and institutions.
An increased participation of women in technology development could contribute significantly to the creation of more female-oriented products. For example, Natural Cycles, created by a woman, is an effective contraceptive app that gives women a natural choice over family planning, without the hormonal side effects of the pill. Many other clever technological solutions could be developed with an increased participation of women in technology.
If automated systems, including those powered by AI, are representations of those who created them, then maybe those systems need to represent the gender split we see in society. More women in fields such as programming and machine learning could help to create a gender balance within our intelligent technologies.
In some domains and countries, the evolving role of women in the workplace is engendering a more confident and empowered attitude. Women are taking control of their own workplace situations and actively tackling inequalities. A variety of studies suggest, for example, that women’s confidence when asking for a raise or a promotion is growing year by year. Women are realising that the first step to change starts from within and that these small changes can have a major impact on their work environment.
Many envisage a future world where much of the work that goes into creating products and services will be automated. If what we offer our customers become increasingly commoditised being more human and focusing on the relationship between businesses and customers could become a critical differentiator. Hence, the focus might shift to building propositions on a foundation of competences and values that are typically thought of as feminine: collaboration, relationship development and empathy.
The role of women across business could become increasingly crucial in leading the culture change required to underpin the development of new products and services.
The future is waiting for women to take on any leadership role where they feel they can contribute. The world as we know it is changing and now is the time to develop a new generation with higher expectations of what women can do. The critical challenge here is for women to believe in themselves and encourage other women to do so as well.
*Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells, Alexandra Whittington, April Koury and Helena Calle are from Fast Future which publishes books from future thinkers around the world exploring how developments such as AI, robotics and disruptive thinking could impact individuals, society and business and create new trillion-dollar sectors. The latest books from Fast Future are: ‘Beyond Genuine Stupidity – Ensuring AI Serves Humanity’, and ‘The Future – Reinvented: Reimagining Life, Society, and Business’. And their forthcoming book is ‘500 Futures’. See: www.fastfuture.com