Quick SummaryThe new economy is forcing us to re-engineer our work and life. There are many challenges and opportunities. Women have some very strong advantages.
Challenges And Opportunities In The New Economy
Women are at an advantage in the new service-based economy, as they have traditionally been care- and service-oriented.
Facilities that were unheard of 10 years ago -- secretarial services on demand, the Internet, mobile phones, software programs that facilitate administration, answering machines -- are now available to many and can support us to work for ourselves.
Women do not favor hierarchical and rigid systems that come with fixed working conditions. Management trainers tell us that working outside of an office environment allows for creativity to flourish, and this may be the most valuable advantage of working flexibly and outside a fixed office structure. Creativity and originality are no longer going to be just "nice extras." Creative solutions and original services are the basis of a new economy, which is what analysts call "cultural capitalism."
Another noteworthy aspect of the new economy is that new commerce occurs in cyberspace. The shift from primary commerce from geography to cyberspace represents one of the greatest changes in human organization. The essential feature of commercial business in cyberspace is connectedness and co-operation. Electronic networks, by their very nature, breakdown boundaries and walls. This kind of network approach is a far cry from the original approach of capitalism, reflected on by Adam Smith, who postulated that the ability to amass and hold onto resources and exclude others was advantageous. Today, it is advantageous to embed one's firm into a network of mutually beneficial reciprocal relationships designed to optimize the collective effort -- what some in business refer to as a win-win strategy. Women feel very comfortable with this type of approach to business, as they naturally favor co-operation and networking to competition.
One other aspect of the new economy favors women and that is that the role of property is changing radically. In the age of access, companies and consumers are beginning to abandon the central reality of modern economic life -- the market exchange of property between buyers and sellers. This doesn't mean property disappears in the coming age; it is simply far less likely to be exchanged in markets. Instead, suppliers hold on to property in the new economy and lease, rent, or charge an admission fee, subscription, or membership fees for its short-term use. This applies to both physical and intellectual property. Ownership of physical capital becomes increasingly marginal to the economic process. It is more likely to be regarded by companies as a mere expense of operation rather than an asset. Businesses are selling off their real estate, shrinking their inventories, leasing their equipment, and outsourcing their activities. Owning things is considered outdated in this fast-paced, more ephemeral economy of the new century. The implications for society are enormous and far-reaching. Women, who have traditionally had less capital than men, are now at an advantage, as long as they can market their creativity.
Concepts, ideas and images -- not things -- are the real item of value in the new economy. Wealth is no longer vested in physical capital but rather in human imagination and creativity. Exploiting these items is the real challenge and opportunity.
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