Can you feel it? The single women are coming. The educated, capable, driven, single women. And most of them are wearing fabulous shoes.
This post is inspired by Kate Bolick's eloquent "All The Single Ladies," The Atlantic's November issue cover story. It resonated with me like no other piece in recent years because it is not just about men, and if now is the end of them or whether they are necessary. It is about the shift in the sociological landscape from a society which has one script for women to one that has many. Ms. Bolick encourages women to give themselves permission to acknowledge that marriage is not society's, or their, highest ideal. It's fine if it happens, and it must happen with the right person, but it need not be a pursuit. She writes "If I stopped seeing my present life as provisional... perhaps I could actually get down to the business of what it means to be a real single woman." Thank you, Ms. Bolick.
And that's where it gets interesting. What are All The Single Ladies going to do? As women embrace this idea and shift energy they have been putting towards finding a mate -- and potentially caring for a family -- to their life's work, what is going to happen?
Corporate America has no ceiling but the board room's for a woman unencumbered.
This is the most exciting time for single women, should we choose to embrace it. Corporate America is just one place where this shift will have an impact. Here are four changes that will unfold:
A pure increase in activity. A lot of women are going to have a lot of energy and time. I know. I am energetic and full of ideas. I am also single and of a certain age. I haven't happened to meet the right man. In 2004, I started my first company. Five years later, with that first company reasonably established, and with extra space in my head and some time on my hands, I built the technology for my second company. I'm running it alongside my first. Unencumbered single women who by circumstances do not have a mate or childbearing responsibilities have to do something with their time and intellect. Many will channel energy to their careers. Unencumbered single women who also choose to have love happen, rather than pursue it single-mindedly, will have even more time and energy.
More platforms that enable others. As more women establish or take charge of organizations, more platforms will emerge that enable others to succeed. Female managers are generally naturally more collaborative than men, finds Alice Eagly, Chairman of the Department of Social Psychology at Northwestern University, in looking at research on female and male managers. Women, in general, are more interested in helping others reach their full potential, than engaging with an adversary. Oprah has charisma, motivates, and empathetically connects with both her guests and her audience. She also built a platform from which she chose to enable others to launch their careers. Dr. Mehmet Oz, Dr. Phil, Nate Berkus and Gayle King all launched their own shows starting with segments on Oprah. Suze Orman and Martha Beck got tremendous career boosts from her. Yes, men do this also (witness Stephen Colbert's launch from Jon Stewart's show). Women naturally do it more.
More flexible work environments. More single women in senior corporate roles will be better for work-life balance. Single women have lives and they are interested in pursuing activities outside of the workplace. Ultimately they know that this makes them better in the workplace. This philosophy combined with today's technology portends more flexible work environments. More single women in senior corporate roles will also be better for work-family balance. Single women today have great kids in their lives, and they adore them. Okay, they may even be obsessed with them. The age of the Professional Aunt No Kids (PANKS) is upon us. They are going to make sure that there are reasonable and supportive environments for families in their workplace.
A new women's network. With the rise of women in the workplace, naturally a new woman's network will take hold. This isn't bad or exclusive of men. Its impact will be two-fold. First, kids, especially girls, are going to see their aunts and think "I want to be like that." These aunts are going to encourage girls to certainly keep an eye out for a husband if and when marriage is something they'd like to experience, but to definitely take care of their career. Because a financially independent woman is just so hot (and it feels so good). Secondly, these women are going to help other women -- and men (see the point about collaboration above). Madeline Albright has said, "There is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women," and these women believe it.
The earlier women embrace Ms. Bolick's idea of getting down to the business of being a real single woman, the more powerful they will be. Get married, don't get married, of course the choice is yours. But don't let the pursuit of it take all your energy. Take care of your spiritual, physical, emotional, financial, social, and professional self. Make sure you are not emotionally hollow because of tunnel vision focused solely on marriage. After all, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman in possession of good fortune is having a phenomenal life.