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Alpha male business cultures don’t work for our 21st Century Lives

This is the first post in The Customer Closeness Company series of blogs about Life and Work in the 21st Century.

Everyone is striving for ‘balance’, but it’s an increasingly elusive goal. Working women and men are struggling to find time for what’s important to them, are more stressed and have more mental health problems. We believe that for businesses to thrive in the 21st Century there is a need for fundamental changes to culture and operations; changes that will benefit the lives of women, men, millennials and our future generations.

We’ll be commenting on articles, books, conferences, and we’ll be sharing our interviews with people from diverse industries. The blogs are designed to provoke commentary and debate. You may or may not agree with our points of view; we welcome contrary opinions and hearing about your experiences. We invite you to join in the conversation!

The traditional model of the man going out to work to support his wife and family while the woman stays at home as the carer of children and the elderly is no longer relevant. Women now have an equal education (at least in this country) and it is a fact of life that 21st century women will be in the workplace, whether that be for a career, or a job that gives them financial independence. To succeed in a career, both men and women are expected to work long hours, make sacrifices and always prioritise work. Yet, we’re all now doing it without the support at home (which men historically enjoyed). It’s no wonder everyone is struggling with work/life balance.

A couple of headlines caught my eye this month; a government review that stated ‘Only 12 top companies led by women’, and McKinsey in partnership with reported that ‘Gender diversity at work has stalled’. Although companies report that they are highly committed to gender diversity, that commitment has not translated into meaningful progress.

So what needs to change? How do companies turn good intentions into concrete actions?

This month also saw the launch of Mary Portas’ book ‘Work like a Woman – A Manifesto for Change’. She argues we need to move away from outdated alpha male cultures in business. The system isn’t working for women, it’s probably not working for many men and it’s unlikely to work for Milllenials and iGens.

In the alpha male working culture success is defined by working long hours, risk taking, competitive behaviour, ruthlessness, logical thinking, control, money and status, ‘it’s business not personal’, maximisation of profits, hiding emotions – and choosing work as a priority over family and leisure.

Women may aspire to leadership, but they don’t want to become leaders in this environment, so it’s hardly surprising that we’re not moving the needle.

To be relevant to the ever-changing needs of the workforce in the 21st century, we need to shift the norms and develop business cultures that enable greater flexibility, where success is also defined by collaborative working, good listening, willingness to learn, transparency, emotional intelligence – and a balanced and full life.

To quote Mary Portas : “It’s about learning to value the power of feminine characteristics, embracing them in the way we work and blending the best of both genders to make us all more productive, powerful and in harmony”

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