Global Learning - Let's Talk Future Strong Women

Quick. What comes to mind when you think of the word strong?

Hmm?  Perhaps a large brawny male?


Perhaps it’s your favorite superhero. Or a time when you were strong in a difficult situation.

Whatever your definition of ‘strong’, most people would be excused for automatically connecting this word with masculine terms.

And have you wondered why ‘strong’ is THE buzzword we are reading everywhere? Is it because we are all noting nothing seems quite the same suggesting why Bill Jensen, in fact, employs it’s use in his book ‘Future Strong’, in which he talks about a ‘disruptive future’.

For too long, organizations have defined ‘strong’ in reference to financial status and bottom line, rather than focusing on the people within their organization.

How do we, as individuals and companies, grow a myriad of strengths and skills now in order to be prepared for this ever-changing world and the future of work?  As we become more high-tech, networked, digitally-wired, there is a need in the 21 Century for an old fashioned form of High Touch that suggests caring, compassion and communication with thoughtfulness and sensitivity.

John Naisbitt’s speaks to this ‘High-tech, High touch’, referencing this concept in his book ‘Megatrends’.  However ‘High touch’, in its simplest, most basic, form, is often thought of as a ‘female’ trait. Which is to suggest: soft, and not considered an asset in the corporate arena.

On the front page of the Toronto Star (I admit, I am one who still enjoys the charm of reading an actual newspaper) featured the article Women Executives Boost Bottom Line: Survey , which was followed by the header Corporate Canada Still Has a Long Way to Go, Study Finds.

So lets get to the point and turn the current statistics upside down.

What if, in the future, 90% of all leaders in the world are individuals who identify as women? Perhaps you are thinking I am demonstrating a bias towards women, but today is in fact the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, so we’ll consider this piece as part of my contribution.

Let’s go back to Bill Jensen, who I referenced earlier; when Bill did his research for his book, examining the skills and attitudes required to lead and work in the future, the following qualities were identified: empathy, caring, personal insight, a more servant form of leadership. A willingness to be vulnerable, ask more questions, selflessness, collaboration and community — often noted as typical traits of women leaders.

Mr Jensen’s conclusion? The fastest, easiest, best path to the future of work will be best served by lots more female leadership.

In a 2014 Forbes article entitled ‘The CEOs of the Future Will Be A Strong Communicator… and A Woman’, management consultant/author Roger Trapp remarks on the most obvious difference in 2040 he believes with be the gender of CEOs and as many as a third of those being appointed to the top job will be women.

Well, not quite 90% but you get the point. He goes on to say, given the changing complexity of technology, accountability to investors will be key and CEOs will need superb communication skills to successfully deal with stakeholders. Interesting to note that he also commented that “less complex organizational charts will evolve than those of today and will result in better decision-support systems and a greater focus on company-wide capabilities”.

Think people- strengths and skills that reflect ‘Women Strong’ inferring that personal strengths and skills most often associated with female qualities, will be in high demand in the future world of work.

Ok, I admit I love this thinking, but let’s get real and focus. ‘Future Strong’ is deeply personal to everyone.

It is about each of us, women AND men being strong differently. This is the crux of Global Learning’s innovative concept, ‘diversity futurism’.

“What makes you, you?” asked Po in the movie Kung-Fu Panda 3.  In one scene, in the midst of crisis, he tells his very diverse panda community to do what “they do best” to help beat the villainous bull, Kai. Which they did….and together under his leadership succeeded in defeating their nemesis.
It’s no surprise that Bill Jensen asks this same question repeatedly throughout his book, in order to illustrate very powerful stories that are woven throughout each of the five critical choices relevant to being Future Strong.

It’s about the choices we make, to take risks and tap into that reservoir of courage and intrinsic drive, that power us to accomplish great things.

Isn’t that what each of us desire for ourselves, in our personal lives and our careers?

Bottom line: What is it that each of us can do to create a space that shifts ‘corporate centric’ to ‘people centric’ capacity, prioritizing individual strengths, dreams and passions? This is career management at its best! Imagine how productivity, profitability and, oh yes, engagement will flourish, with this as a company strategy?!

If each of us says yes to Women Strong, just maybe, we can make this world a better place and truly be Future Strong.

Rhonda Singer

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