The Quest to Redesign Women

Should Women Lean In or Lean Out of Corporate Feminism?

Corporate Feminism

The assumption that women need to behave more like men to succeed— or rather, a deeply flawed male stereotype — is a fundamental tenet of most corporate “female empowerment” initiatives. Corporations host seminars, promote ‘Lean In circles, and assemble employee resource groups designed to move more women into senior leadership positions. To qualify, however, women need to embrace the psychotic hubris that corporate America demands of its senior leadership. Shed the cooperative attitude and stop being a “nice girl.” Replace a desire to be liked with an unapologetic drive for success; replace a predisposition to be humble with unwavering confidence.

What Women Really Want

Women make up less than 25% of the STEM workforce in the United States; in 2017, women in the US accounted for less than 20% of software developers and less than 5% of network architects. Only 3% of female students would consider a career in technology as their first choice. The attrition rate for women in tech is quite high as well; they are 45% more likely to leave than their male counterparts.

Women in the Workplace

Corporate Traits

According to Frederick Von Hayek, one of the challenges of modernity is that we have to learn to live in “two sorts of worlds at once.” We live as mother and as manager, as father and politician. These two worlds demand different of sacrifices from the individual. Hayek argued that a majority of our moral instincts were shaped while living in small kin-based societies, and therefore all notions of collective purpose, shared ends, altruism are deeply ingrained in our minds. Unfortunately, these moral instincts are not effective in the anonymous world of corporations. It’s easy to give food away for free to family and close friends; it becomes less easy to give things away freely with each degree of separation.

Gender Differences

Free to Be… You and Me

The old brand of feminism was best expressed in the post-1960s world of gender neutrality. Children’s programs such as “Free to Be… You and Me” upheld values cherished by feminists at the time, namely individuality and gender equality. Boys and girls could be anyone and achieve anything they put their young minds to — this thematic message resonated with a society that sorely needed that sort of encouragement at the time and did fantastic service to the little girls who did not dream of being stay-at-home moms. It seems as though feminism has strayed far from this path.

Redesigning women
Running the world while we’re cleaning up the kitchen
Making bank, shaking hands, driving 80
Tryna get home just to feed the baby…
Yeah, ever since the beginning
We’ve been redesigning women

The song “Redesigning Women” by The Highway Women encapsulates our modern expectations for women. The modern woman successfully juggles her responsibilities in all arenas of both work and family life, not just because she can but because she wants to. At a certain stage in life, however, data seems to indicate that many women don’t want to juggle it all, despite Sheryl Sandberg’s platitudes to lean in even when it feels impossible. In reality, if women don’t want to sacrifice their family life for work, then they should feel free to leave the traditional workplace in favor of something more flexible, and not be expected to keep their “foot on the gas pedal.” Many women choose entrepreneurship as an alternative; the number of female-owned businesses in the U.S. has more than doubled in the past twenty years. To Marissa Orr’s point, however, this mass exodus can be attributed to many women feeling forced to leave because of an unfriendly corporate work environment. Perhaps fewer women would have to make this difficult choice if we challenged workplaces to embrace and incorporate feminine traits over what she refers to as traditionally ‘masculine’ ones in their leadership structures.

free minds = free people

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