We are in a male paradigm. What would a female work paradigm look like?

For International Women’s Day a few weeks ago, I went to a women in business event organised by Wandsworth Council. Maria Kempinski (on the left in that photo) who founded the Jongleurs comedy club said in passing ‘we are in a male paradigm’ in terms of the working world we inhabit, and expressed that we as women ought to change this by celebrating our strengths rather than feeling we have to act like men.

People didn’t really pick up on her saying this – probably because she was so full of inspiring thoughts beyond this! – but I found it helpful to think about.

The world of professional work has been created and used almost exclusively by men for hundreds of years. We as women have been trying to fit in to it – when we could change the systems for our own benefit.

Watch this film to find out how working hours affect the gender pay gap:

The ‘work is a male paradigm’ thought has had a lasting impact on me. The world of work is a construct – man made – and so it has the potential to be challenged and redesigned. It’s so normal to us that it can be almost impossible to recognise the situation we’re in. It’s worth reminding ourselves that unspoken ongoing difficulties we have may be because the system we’re in is at fault, especially if we see that others are going through the same difficulties. 

I’d love to use the festival I run as an opportunity to innovate how workplaces can *be* in terms of equality, creativity, and collaboration. Perhaps the festival team and the community can demonstrate what an innovative female paradigm could look like. I don’t know what all the constructs are that need to be challenged, but perhaps some are: working hours, what is valued and worth paying for, relationship styles, org structures/hierarchy style, physical spaces, and the boundary between work and personal life. I’d love to learn from others that have thought about this and implemented revolutionary ways of working.

My sometimes poor health has forced me to be open about what I need as a colleague, and I’m progressively improving on not being ashamed of it. In the past, I’ve held an attitude that I ought to get well in order to work; that was unhealthy for me: humans are not work machines. I’m not sure if this idea genuinely stemmed from the male paradigm – perhaps it’s from the industrial age – but it’s said that women are supposedly more in touch with emotions. (Sweeping generalisations make me uncomfortable.) Can a female work paradigm help develop attitudes towards prioritising health and making adequate room for emotions? Might a female work paradigm be emotionally healthier for all, not just for women?

I urge you, dear reader, to consider what the world of work would be like if it was created by women.

QUESTIONS FOR PONDERING
What could the world of work be like in 50 years, with working hours set to work for women?
What management systems (if any) and values will work be based on?
What would the world be like if there was no gender pay gap, and equally accessible work constructs for all?
Might extreme examples of a female paradigm workplace help in eventually creating a balanced workplace for all genders?
Incidentally, what might an all-transgender workplace look like, if all the workplace constructs were challenged and changed to suit transpeople’s needs?

I’m excited by this line of questioning, but not very informed. Please send me any examples you’ve seen of female work paradigms, and revolutionary workplace ideas. Thanks!

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