I attended the Women's Conference 2009 today in Long Beach and listened in admiration to the many tales of triumph and hope that I heard throughout the day. There are so many phenomenal women doing it all - literally - from Jane Goodall and Somaly Mam, to Shelia Bair and Katie Couric, to the women who sat at my table and next to me in the break out sessions. These are all women who are making positive choices and taking on causes that strive to improve the lives of people within their families, communities, companies and even countries. These are women who have or are overcoming hardships, breaking down barriers, questioning status quos and are unaccepting of "no" or "can't" as answers. They are managing the chaos and finding meaning and goodness in seemingly impossible situations. They are truly inspiring.
One thing that weaved its way through the day for me was how much the world has and is continuing to change. One panel with Madeleine Albright, Amy Holmes, Valarie Jarrett and Claire Shipman, moderated by David Gregory, discussed "How a Women's Nation Changes Everything." It drew on statistics from the Shriver Report, which covers the social transformation currently taking place as the result of women comprising half the workforce and being the primary or co-breadwinners in two-thirds of American households. The discussion centered around the implications of these statistical truths not only in business, but in government and for the family unit. Questions around potential corporate support infrastructures, management styles, spousal negotiations and the evolving role that both men and women would need to play in this new work and home reality all emerged.
And the network too played its role. It was not a surprise to me when Madeleine Albright pointed out that with all the new enabling technologies available to us today, the old paradigm of punching a time clock no longer need apply. Mothers, who used to have to choose between their career or being a stay-at-home mom can now make a more integrated decision - one that allows them to contribute in a variety of ways to a variety of constituents. They really can be architects of change - and create the life they want to lead.
People can work from anywhere at anytime, giving them greater flexibility and an ongoing lifeline to both their work and personal lives. By the way, telecommuting has also been shown to increase productivity by up to 30%; so not only are companies able to attract, retain and harness the value that working mothers bring to the table, they are also able to increase the proficiency of those employees.
The mobile phone, blackberry and facebook have replaced the microwave and vacuum cleaner as the most essential technological devices for any mom, allowing them to stay connected to work, friends and family as they go about their daily activities and obligations. There are social media services, from mom's groups to consortiums, that are being used to create support networks that provide valuable resources, tips and efficiencies for women trying to juggle it all.
The newtork is also lowering the barriers of entry into markets, helping women with the entreprenuerial spirit blaze their own trail. Business owners can cost-effectively attain customers through viral (word of mouth) marketing efforts and serve a global audience through their online presence. They can bring their own unique perspectives to the market and deliver goods and services that customer needs on their own terms, generating opportunity and potential prosperity in the process.
The world is certainly changing. And as women evolve their role, the network will continue to play its supporting part to help them find balance, take control and follow their dreams.