I’m not going to put feminism on the psychiatrist’s couch to try to tease out the gnarly history, the benchmark moments, nor dwell in the injustices that still exist – I’ve written many frustrated posts on the topic – but I am going to broaden the scope a bit and say that most women (and many men, and many people in minorities) are primed for the post-industrial world of business … and going a long way towards fixing the planet.

Why?

First a few key concepts and some vocabulary around this …

Seth Godin and other think-y people (even Iggy Pop in the context of free music in a Capitalist world) talk a lot about a few key ideas and phrases:

  • the relationship economy;
  • the ‘gift’ economy;
  • the post-industrial way of doing business being not just a simple exchange (money for goods/service);
  • ‘in with horizontal networks, out with hierarchies’;
  • ‘shifting the value spectrum’

It occurred to me the other day that 2nd wave feminism was trying to do what humans are trying to do (in social entrepreneurial circles, at least) right now, in 2014 (give or take a few years).

Think about the developed world’s concept of ‘consciousness-raising’ (circa 1970). This was where women got together in person to talk about ‘the problem that had no name’ and the lack of choices and equality, and they began again en masse to lobby for large-scale change, at various levels, including respective national policy levels. At grass-roots level, they got together to support each other, let off steam, try to find a way in a society/ies that were built around ‘pay for product’, and stick to the expected behaviours and the social hierarchies.

Now think about Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In ‘Circles’, (circa 2012). This is a bit like an online version of consciousness-raising. The main difference being, the world has changed … and the perceptions of the challenges women face have shifted with it. Again, the word ‘choices’ comes up in this context.

But do we still need networks for women only? He For She thinks not. And there are networks for women popping up, a dime a dozen, all over the shop. I’ve co-founded one myself, and I have my reasons, but the actual question of whether it’s helpful or not to have women-only networks is entirely context-dependent. There’s no rule we can apply to every situation. Just as Sandberg’s initiative is great for corporate women, so consciousness-raising was great for many women at that time who were looking for alternatives. In Australia, there’s the Women In Media network and the . In the US, there’s the .

Women who survive domestic violence need women around them. Women working in obstetrics and midwifery need women around them. Women in corporate need women around them. Because they share common challenges that are related to status quo … and to the cultural stories that are built around ‘gender’ in different contexts.

Over the past few years during my involvement with The Powerhouse in Zurich, I’ve noticed that women often don’t like to think about leveraging their networks in the way you might think leverage means. They think about it in terms of an exchange, of a helping each other out.

Is that the women’s way?

No. That’s the human way. It’s just that the Industrial Revolution (as one example) was the start of a whole new way of living and thinking and interacting and selling that resulted in where we’re at right now.

I was talking to my dentist the other day, after she gave me stage 3 of a root canal (yeah, fun), and I said “Thank you, you have a really important job. Is it difficult?” And she said, “It’s easy because I trained for it, but I wouldn’t go back and do it again if I had a second chance, because it’s a man’s world. I’m a single mother and I can’t work from home. I don’t have a wife.”

(I immediately of course thought, ‘Hmm, there’s gotta be a way a really amazing dentist like mine can work from home,’ but that’s another story.)

Not only that, but many women don’t think in hierarchies. We know the value of the woman or man who swipes the stuff at the checkout because we see ourselves in them. We know the (often other female) person who looks after our kid so we can go and do something that makes us current and relevant in the financial economy because that’s currently how we get food on our tables.

Anyway, all this to say that I don’t see any reason why this moment in time can’t be the moment in which a lot of stuff starts to come back into balance for the human race. We’ve got the smarts, the skills, the networks …

It just takes a bit of faith … and a lot of trust in our fellow human beings.

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