March 2, 2012 by Ilene H. Lang
What does the future hold for women and work?
As Catalyst’s 50th anniversary celebration approaches, and with International Women’s Day less than one week away, I’ve been thinking a lot about the dramatic changes to the workplace we’ve witnessed since our founding and what might lie ahead. Futurists point to the emergence of interconnected economies that place a premium on innovative thinking. Traditional “bricks and mortar” offices—too expensive and impractical to survive—will give way to collaborative work across vast distances in real-time.
But how will women fit in?
We might not be in the same place, but this doesn’t mean stereotypes and gender biases will magically disappear. In fact, we might have to work even harder to identify and root them out. It will take real action—and hard work—to clear a path for women’s advancement. Same strategies, different terrain.
Virtual sponsorship and mentorship programs that leverage social media and technologies like Skype are crucial to breaking down the barriers that remain for women. And as Catalyst’s Workplace Trends report describes, relationship-building to offset the distances of virtual teams is critical. At Catalyst, we gather our staff—50 percent of whom work virtually in locations around the world—twice a year in our New York headquarters office. Establishing a physical connection with colleagues, however infrequent, goes a long way towards sustaining relationships that depend day-to-day on webcams, phones, instant messages and email.
No one can predict the future, but this much is clear: without geographical constraints, accessible talent will be everywhere. Companies must adapt to this new landscape and leverage all available talent—or disappear as the old models fall.