Yesterday, in light of the NY Times article, “As Layoffs Surge, Women May Pass Men in Job Force” (see http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/06/business/06women.html), I was interviewed on Fox Business Network TV, discussing this recession trend of layoffs hitting men harder than women, and women potentially outnumbering men in the workplace.
We discussed the following:
1) Will the trend continue
2) If so, what does it mean for women, and how will it affect our lives and work
3) What can families do to keep afloat financially
Briefly, my views are that this trend will very likely continue, allowing women to be more heavily represented in the nation’s payroll, for the first time in American history. But for this trend to be beneficial for both men and women, some key things have to change. Primarily, we need collectively to view this as a potential positive outcome – a change to be embraced for our growth and expansion (both men and women’s), not resisted as a terrible turn of events.
This trend represents great change on many levels for women. For women, access to new opportunities, new experiences of power, authority, and a majority voice in some cases that could help women eventually shape their lives differently, and the lives of other women. For men, a shift in a power dynamic that may bring great new opportunity for growth.
A lasting trend like this will require, however, a transformation in long-standing rigid gender roles. Research has shown that women are still shouldering the majority of domestic responsibility, even when they work, and even when they are the primary breadwinners. From my view, a revision in thinking and behavior needs to occur in both men and women to allow for women to step up the new responsibilities of caring for their households financially. To do so, women have to walk away from their pattern of “overfunctioning” – doing more than is necessary, more than is appropriate, and more than is healthy. They also have to gain strength and confidence in being in a position, and having a voice, of power — in the family and at work. Finally, women will greatly benefit from developing a stronger, deeper capability in earning and managing money – a true “money-mindset” – that will serve them well in all times and eras.
Further, now’s the time for women to understand that women are not “men in skirts” – we will be less constrained now to lead, manage, and work in ways that are inauthentic or not appropriate for us. We need to resist the temptation to do things just as our male colleagues or counterparts have done it, if in fact there might be a different and better way.
Finally, regarding staying afloat in tough financial times, we all have to balance what needs to be done, with what we want to do. We may need to take work now that we wouldn’t have two years ago…work that helps us meet our financial obligations – work that may not compensate us as we wish, or match our skills or abilities perfectly. These are tough times, and these times call for strong measures. We have to find work where we can, and modify our spending and other aspects of our lives to meet these needs.
But the key is to remember that this too shall pass – a brighter future is waiting. My hope is that this future will allow women who want to, to take more of the lead than ever before. Build for your future now – figure out what you want the years ahead to hold, and get on a course of planning for it (of skill-building, taking on new responsibilities and projects, shifting your roles at home to accommodate growth, learning to earn and manage your money capably, and building your network) so that when the time is right, you will be able to do the work you long to, in the way that best fits you, your priorities and needs.
I’d love your thoughts on both the article, and the views stated here. Please share them!