If Women Ruled the World

If women ruled the world….

I ask this question on my Women Ahead course (designed to boost women’s confidence to move ahead at work) in order to illustrate how the world of work as we know it, could be different. It’s not about having a go at men but about thinking from a different perspective, expanding our horizons of what could be, and maybe understanding better why things are as they are.

Think about it for a minute. The world of work as we know it now evolved during the Industrial Revolution, when labour moved largely off the land into cities and a different type of employment. Professional men went to work and systems of working emerged dependent largely on the fact that there were women at home to literally keep the  home fires burning. (Of course, women and children were busy working for a pittance in the factories etc; they had no voice in how things evolved.)

Women had little or no part in how work was organised.

Imagine though if we had. Allow yourself to imagine if the working world as we know it had been designed solely for women – all women. Imagine that men were at home, (apart from the poor ones who would be working very hard but for far less money than us) and imagine that actually most of the time it wasn’t even thought appropriate to educate them as, well, they were just going to marry successful working women and keep home. It would be a waste of investment. And as for getting the vote….what nonsense.

I have no doubt that different systems would have evolved. We might have a totally different working day, not 9-5 at all. We would certainly have  very sophisticated maternity and child care arrangements because we would have been very important people. Systems would have evolved to support us.  And they would be considered normal. School hours may have been designed differently. Just try and imagine. How many things would be different?

And I am also sure that as time went on and men began to get involved as society evolved they would find themselves at a disadvantage in the systems we had designed. But they would do their best because it was the way of the world and if they wanted to get on they would have to adapt. They would have to suppress some of their instinctive behaviour and behave like us, the dominant culture. We would have set the standards for behaviour in the world of work.

And as time went on, we women wouldn’t really have an incentive to change because actually it works quite well for us and anyway, some men can cope very well. Why look, there is that well known financier guy who is one of the 12.5% of men who has made it to the board in that company listed in the FTSE 100. So it’s fine, isn’t it? Obviously we’d like to see more men on boards but we can’t legislate for changing societal attitudes. We’ll ‘nudge’ them. We’ll encourage them, yes, that’ll do something.

Sometimes we need legislation to change society’s attitudes. If we hadn’t done that in the past, women wouldn’t be voting, children would still be working, and homosexuals would still be persecuted.

Posted on February 24th, 2011 by

5 Responses to “If Women Ruled the World”

  1. Fascinating post, Jane.

    I’m just back from a week in Edinburgh where, the other night, my OH and I sat and had dinner watching what we imagined to be the partner team of a city law firm also out for dinner. They were all men, bar one woman. She was clearly holding her own with the guys, but – and I own that this is a value judgment of mine – appeared to be doing so because she’d sold out on her femininity. In other words she was dressed and was holding and conducting herself just like the blokes.

    And that’s part of the challenge, isn’t it? Not that senior management is still a man’s domain, but that it’s a masculine one. The two things are kind of related but different.

  2. karen birch says:

    Really interesting post Jane.
    The driving vision of the3rdimagazine.co.uk is to bring together a community of women so that we don’t have to imagine what a business world designed to support women might be like, rather we can develop initiatives and partnerships to start making things happen.
    And I agree with Christine too, it’s no use having more women in senior positions if they are really just guys in frocks :0)

    • Jane says:

      Thanks Karen. Agreed. have you read ‘No Excuses’ by Gloria Feldt in my review section? She says the time is now! Very interesting, am hoping to interview her soon for the blog.

  3. A thought-provoking read Jane – thank you for putting it out there. I think if women had ‘started it all’ there would have been a much more inclusive approach from the very beginning, i.e. it wouldn’t be the same as it is now but with the sexes reversed. My own work is about helping women get back to work after children and in my book I encourage women to ask for what they want because it’s not going to be given to them without constant nudges (such as quality PT roles at the top levels). I’m having my own bit of a rant at: http://jessicachivers.com/2011/02/25/part-time-executives/

    • Jane says:

      Thanks Jessica. The post is meant to be a bit provocative! You’ve started a whole new debate about the status of part time working. In my experience employing part timers meant you got far more work. The women I mananged did as much work as their whole time equivalents in fewer hours as they simply got on with it. I know of senior women with childcare responsibilities who have given up a day, lost pay, lost seniority, in some cases lost respect, and still work like stink but get very little acknowledgment.

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