Are Women leading the Humanisation of the Workplace?
While perusing LinkedIn today, I stumbled across a short post from my super awesome friend and mentor Mykel Dixon. Later this month Mykel is putting on a conference featuring Tim Leberecht called ‘The Business Romantic’. It’s described as ‘a unique one day conference exploring the radical humanisation of the workplace'. I’m really excited about the event. It touches on all the things that are flicking my switches in business right now. Things that I for sure, see as being central to the business conversation in current times. The future of work, engagement, experience design, culture and meaningful work just to name a few.
But I didn’t write this article just to plug Mykel’s event. (Cheque’s in the mail right Myke?)
The thing that struck my about Mykel’s post was this and I quote:
“75% of current ticket holders for The Business Romantic Event are WOMEN!”
While I love to see the ladies representing, there’s a big part of me that finds this deeply concerning. This is a very lopsided result. Why are the fellas not getting on board in the same numbers? What has made so many more women click the buy button? What is it about the idea of humanisation that appeals more to women than men? Men, I'm genuinely curious. Can you give me your insights?
Why they humanisation of business matters
The humanisation of business is something we all need to sit up and pay attention to. We are no longer in an industrialised world. As workers we are no longer at our best when operating like machines. Nor does operating like machines help us in an increasingly knowledge based economy. We crave to be real, to express ourselves, to live and work in line with our truth and values. We seek meaning and purpose and to use our talents to contribute something. We seek to be human.
Not only is this important on the employee side, but also the customer side. Look at the rise of the the experience economy. What is helping businesses and organisations create valuable experiences for their customers and users? Human centred design – in all its various iterations: design thinking, co-design, UX, CX, service design and whatever other ‘designs’ come out of the woodwork next. Central to all these modes is the need to connect, empathise with, understand and design for humans. In order to do this, we all need to learn to tap into and express our humanity more openly.
It’s about time the business world got with the program.
The age of artificial intelligence is upon us. Soon (and it’s really not as far away as you think) our humanity will be what sets us apart and keeps us employed – our ability to think, feel and relate as only humans can. Either that or be a really ninja developer.
Are women better at 'humanisation'?
At the risk of massively generalising, it’s women who have traditionally been inclined to the more ‘human’ careers (nursing, teaching, human resources, caring etc). Careers that require greater levels of empathy, nurturing, listening, emotional intelligence and the like. And from my observations (and from the attendee figures of the conference), it appears it’s women who are embracing this different way of approaching the organisational landscape.
Wanting to be sure I wasn’t just blatantly and unfoundedly stereotyping here, I spoke with Dr Jacqueline Baulch, Clinical Psychologist and owner of Inner Melbourne Clinical Psychology to get her take on the natural biases of women vs. men. What she told me is the research shows this natural inclination of women compared to men is not in-built based on our gender, but more so gender programming we have been subject to for most our lives. Jacqueline explains that this is likely because of the different expectations society has about how girls and boys “should” behave. Although these expectations are slowly shifting, typically girls are encouraged to speak freely about emotions, whereas boys are told “boys don’t cry”. Girls and women also tend to have more practice speaking about emotions (with other girls and women) which may be one reason why studies have found higher levels of empathy in women than men. Even if your parents gave you dolls and trucks as a kid and you were dressed in both pink and blue (again with the generalisations), our society as a whole hasn’t fully caught up.
So in some ways it’s not surprising it’s women taking an interest and the lead in this humanisation of business that will lead us into a new age.
The human approach can be learned
But fellas, before you start guffawing on me - know I am being intentionally provocative here. Because you see any conditioning we may (or may not) have experienced in our lives’ based on our gender, does not lock us in. Lise Eliot, an associate professor based at the Chicago Medical School states in an article by the Guardian:
"All such skills are learned and neuro-plasticity – the modifications of neurons and their connections in response experience – trumps hard-wiring every time….There is almost nothing we do with our brains that is hard-wired. Every skill, attribute and personality trait is moulded by experience.”
Man or woman, no matter what our tendencies, biases, inclinations or conditioning - we can change, learn and develop. The way we can do this is by reaching out for those things that will challenge and shape our thinking in different ways. By placing ourselves into experiences that are not in our realm of safety and comfort, but the things that will expose us to something different and unfamiliar.
Diversity is key
In business we need perspectives of all genders (not to mention races, religions, physical abilities, sexual preferences and so on). As much as I love when we women are not the minority, I also firmly believe men stepping up to a different, more ‘human’ way of doing business is key to our organisations contributing to the world in a more positive and meaningful way, fit for a rapidly evolving world.
Step up to the challenge
So gentlemen. I challenge you. Step up and smash this stereotypical box I’ve just neatly placed you in. Next time you see a conference, event, article, workshop, training, book that uses language like romance, compassion, consciousness, empathy, love, care, kindness, nurturing, feminine etc, ask yourself “Could I learn from this?” “Could this equip me and my organisation for this new work paradigm of radical humanisation?”
And for all the women (and men who read this feeling like I was being incredibly unfair because you’re like sooooo in touch with your empathetic, human lady side). I challenge you. The person you know who needs to be at conferences like The Business Romantic, make sure they are there. Hand them that book, email them that article, suggest that training and have that conversation about how important embracing the human is to you, them, their people and your organisation.