From gender fluidity to redefining womanhood to the adoption of the “emotional economy”, women’s empowerment is having an ever-increasing effect on culture as a whole, says a leading cultural strategist.
Kate Terry, currently an analyst at Bauer Media, says there is a hunger for a new kind of thinking and companies getting it right are going to cater for the next generation of women by embracing some of these trends.
Here are four cultural trends she believes are progressing us forward:
First cultural trend: Redefined womanhood
What it means to be a woman is the first notion that is being challenged.
“Women, particularly the younger generation, are definitely challenging and subverting notions of gender, of identity, even of sexuality, and the much greater fluidity around identity now,” Kate says.
“And connecting with digital-first women, brands are starting to challenge gender norms. But they have to live to those values. If we’re going to redefine it, we’ve got to redefine it and mean it.”
Second cultural trend: Fluid mind-sets
Generation Z is the most ethnically diverse in US history and Kate says we’re seeing this played out in a huge range of examples.
“This world of ours is borderless, it’s connected, it’s ageless, it’s nomadic,” Kate says.
“Traditional identities of race, age, and gender are becoming less and less meaningful.”
She says a couple of couple of interesting examples are The Hijab Emoji Project, and then at the other end of the spectrum, the amazing Millie Dresselhaus.”
The Hijab Emoji Project started when 15-year old Saudi girl, Rayouf Alhumedhi, was creating a new WhatsApp group chat with her friends and was keen to make the title of the group a series of emojis to represent each girl.
But being a Muslim and wearing a hijab, she realised none of the emojis really looked like her.
After emailing Apple and getting no response, Rayouf found out how to submit an emoji proposal to The Unicode Consortium, the non-profit corporation that reviews and develops new emojis, and began working with designers to come up with a collection of her own.
She was delighted when her new emojis were accepted and Apple announced they would be released on World Emoji Day last year.
In the male-dominated field of physics, Millie Dresselhaus was known as the "queen of carbon science" and was the first female Institute Professor and professor emerita of physics and electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
She devoted a great deal of time to supporting efforts to promote increased participation of women in physics.
Millie won numerous awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Medal of Science, the Enrico Fermi Award and the Vannevar Bush Award and in 1985 was appointed the first female Institute Professor at MIT.
In 2017, General Electric launched a campaign imagining if Millie was a celebrity on a par with Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Third cultural trend: Emotional economy
The emotional economy is a concept that has begun to flourish since businesses began seeing traditionally “feminine” sensibilities as assets rather than liabilities.
“Female traits such as emotional intelligence, empathy, vulnerability and intuition will be future drivers of business,” Kate says.
The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2020 emotional intelligence will be the sixth-most sought-after skill globally ahead of traditional skills such as decision-making and negotiation.
“The Yale School of Management has actually already started testing their MBA students on their ability to understand and manage emotions,” Kate says.
Fourth cultural trend: Femtech and women’s health
Kate believes if we think and recognise that feminine characteristics have a massive economic force, then with that needs to come a more visible view of womanhood and the key health factors experienced by women.
She says some health factors have been ignored but the new digital landscape can certainly give rise to some interesting and innovative products.
“Digital can democratise this area for sure. It can really bring big opportunities. Femtech start-ups have seen $1.4 billion dollars since 2014.
Natural Cycles App is the first app to be officially used as a digital alternative to birth control.
Another great example in this space is the Pregnancy Pause App which fills in what can be that uncomfortable maternity leave in someone’s CV.
“Women can download the app and put all of the skills that she was demonstrating, using and growing during that period of time. And this is part of the CV.
“When employers upload the CV, they can click on the Pregnancy Pause and can be taken to a website where they get information on what it is and why having great maternity practices is so important.”