Women entrepreneurs – the future!

Women entrepreneurs – the future!

Two weeks ago, a class of 70 MBA’s and Sloan Fellows were asked to visualise the future of work in 2030. Lynda Gratton: Bestselling author, speaker and professor at London Business School, chose 2030 as the time for this exercise as it’s suficiently far ahead to break current thinking (most will be aged between 40 and 50 at that time), but not too far ahead to be impossible to imagine.

The class went through the various aspects of the future with near total agreement and yes, CO2 emission will be a big theme and will impact on how we work, particularly around transport; and yes, globalisation will increase at an ever greater pace with Asia in particular taking the lion’s share of growth. Also ‘yes’, we can expect big companies to get larger whilst at the same time ecosystems of micro-entrepreneurs to become ever more crucial in the creation of value. It was a future world of work rather different from the current world and there was much agreement on how it would unfold.

And then Lynda asked, “So what does this mean for female representation on executive boards in 2030?”

Unlike the other future topics, there was no consensus within the class about women on the boards of companies by 2030. Estimates ranged from a high of 70% women to a low of 10% (even lower than it is now).

Those on the high side believed that the cooperative nature of many women would be a natural fit with the future of work where cooperation and relationships would take centre stage. They also saw companies taking a more active role in mentoring women and indeed in creating workplaces more conducive for family responsibilities. Those on the lower side argued that many current Gen Y women (those in their 20’s) would make active choices not to seek an executive role – preferring instead to either build a family, or to opt out of corporate life altogether and create businesses. Some of the class talked of seeing Baby Boomer senior women (now in their 50’s and 60’s) struggling to ‘have it all’ and thought this was a crazy. They argued – that looking at their own mothers who worked or other senior female figures, it was clear that tough choices had to be made and tough consequences faced up to and they weren’t going to do it. They see large companies as essentially masculine places built by men for men and this was unlikely to change over the next couple of decades.

If this class is anything to go by, then the jury is still out about women on boards – the boards are dominated by men. Even the most forceful women in this class felt this was a barrier they would have to overcome. And it is not just women who are put off by this culture of masculinity – it is also a turn off for many of the men in the class who want to make a significant contribution to bringing up their children.

But the good news is this: in 2030 women may not be running large companies any more than they are now, but, they will be building and leading their own entrepreneurial companies. In a future world of rapidly falling technology costs, emerging global talent pools and big challenges that need innovative answers – women can take their place in the world of business.

Do agree with these MBA’s and the future of women entrepreneurs?

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