Following is an excerpt from "WOMEN LEAD - Career Perspectives from Workplace Leaders", Edited by Tracey Wilen-Daugenti, Courtney L. Vien, and Caroline Molina-Ray
The Future of Work
Why Women Will Thrive in Tomorrow’s Complex, Connected, and Decentralized Workplace
It’s Tuesday morning, and you’re at the office. But tomorrow, you won’t be here. You’re taking your elderly mom to the dentist in the morning, and then settling down to work from your favorite coffee shop. You’ll check in with your coworkers on your smartphone several times during the morning, just in case they need you, but you won’t keep track of how many hours you’ve worked. Nobody’s checking, anyway. As long as you get your work done on time and do it well, your employer’s happy.
You’re nearing the end of the project you’ve been working on the past few months, so you check the company intranet to see what new projects you might be qualified to join. There’s one that really interests you and seems to exactly fit your niche. You’re not familiar with the head engineer, so you send her your profile—a website containing your portfolio, resume, descriptions of your preferred working style, and “testimonials” from people you’ve worked with in the past—and ask to meet to discuss it.
At times, it does seem like your work and personal life are intertwined. It can be stressful: You’ve had to get up early for conference calls with partners in Europe, and you have to resist the temptation to check your email during your son’s recitals. But the flexibility you have to plan your time and choose what you work on makes it all worth it
Sound utopian? According to top futurists, this is what work could look like, and sooner than we think. And, as we’ll argue later in this chapter and throughout the book, women are, in many ways, poised to lead and thrive in this new interconnected world.
A Freelance World
The world of work is taking an intriguing turn. Ironically, the technologies we associate with the future are, in some ways, bringing us back to the past.
From the Middle Ages until the Victorian Era, most businesses were small, family-run concerns such as farms, stores, and small-scale artisanal manufacturers. Think of The Canterbury Tales or the craftspeople you encounter in a living history village and you’ll get the picture. A town in Europe or North America from the years 1400 to 1800 might be home to millers, weavers, brewers, glovers, printers, carpenters, bakers, blacksmiths, and a host of other independent businesspeople. Typically, a working family would live above or near their shop and employ a small number of apprentices and other workers. Though they lacked the advantages of scale that industrialization would provide, such craftspeople enjoyed a great deal of freedom and control over the products they created and the way they operated their businesses.
Contrast this picture with the typical corporate experience throughout most of the 20th century. Employees once expected that they’d stay with one company for life and move predictably up the ranks to positions with more power and higher pay. They were part of a strict hierarchy, knowing exactly who they reported to and who reported to them, and this hierarchy determined how they presented themselves, communicated, made decisions, and interacted with others. heir responsibilities were handed down to them by superiors, whose thinking they weren’t supposed to directly question. They were paid to work between certain set hours in a certain place. Most of them, at least in corporate America, were white and male, and many had spouses who stayed home to raise the children.
We’re now living in a very different world. Women now comprise half the workforce, and people from varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds populate the workplace. Few people expect to spend many years with the same firm, and, outside the public sector, pensions are a thing of the past. Millions of people telecommute or take advantage of flexible working arrangements.
The ubiquity of the Internet is only intensifying the trend toward greater diversity, flexibility, and complexity in the workplace. Cheap and instantaneous electronic communication has made a wealth of information available to employers, employees, and customers alike—and it’s changing everything.
Dr. Tracey Wilen is a prominent thought leader on the impact of technology on society, work and careers. She’s been a scholar at Stanford University and has held leadership positions at Apple, HP, Cisco, and the Apollo Group. Dr. Wilen has authored 11 books. Her new book Employed for Life , 21st Century career trends was just released.
She has appeared on CNN, Fox and CBS news, in The Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today. She frequently contributes to The Huffington Post, the Examiner, and the Christian Science Monitor and is on radio shows across the US weekly as an expert guest. She is a global speaker on the impact of technology on work, careers, and women’s leadership. She was honored by the San Francisco Business Times as a 2012 Most Influential Woman in Bay Area Business. www.traceywilen.com, @traceywilen
Dr. Wilen is on a corporate speaking tour on the topic of 21st Century Careers and can be reached traceywilen.com, @traceywilen or FB Dr.TraceyWilen