The enterprise has seen many cultural and technological shifts over the past decade. And while women still make seventy cents to every dollar, there are forces at work that may challenge traditional concepts of the business world. Welcome to the Womenterprise!

More Women, More Opportunities

According to the American Enterprise Institute, women earned a majority of doctoral degrees in 2011 for third straight year, and outnumbered men in graduate school 141 to 100. And regardless of what the latest political campaign ad tells you, the Department of Labor reports that women continue to have a lower unemployment rate than men and are less likely to experience long-term unemployment. The impact of these stats has the potential to lead to more women in the workplace -- one billion to be precise.

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What does more women mean? According to Booz and Co., who launched its The Third Billion campaign earlier this year, “if women's economical potential can be successfully harnessed and leveraged, it would be the equivalent of having an additional one billion individuals in the work force, contributing to the global economy: often referred to as the 'third billion.'"

Elements of Global Change

There isn’t just one reason why women are more ready than ever to participate fully in a global economy, but there are several elements that have empowered women around the world in developing, emerging and industrialized nations.

  • Education: more access means empowerment. The United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) reports that more girls and women are in education than ever before, from primary through to tertiary education. However, there is still work to be done. Two thirds of the world’s illiterate adults -- of which there are just under 800 million -- are women, and less than 40 percent of countries provide equal access to education to both sexes.
  • Technology: According to a recent report from the Wireless Association, mobile technology has helped many under-served populations, from migrant and overseas worker communities to groups of women around the world engage, empower, and create communities.

    Not only have more companies begun to develop women-focused apps that promote better education, health and access to agricultural information, but access to mobile technology has increased exponentially. The World Bank announced last week that three out of every four human beings worldwide now have access to a mobile phone. In developing countries, citizens are increasingly using mobile phones to create new livelihoods and enhance their lifestyles, while governments are using them to improve service delivery and citizen feedback mechanisms.

  • Knowledge Sharing: As we know, having a company culture that supports and facilitates knowledge sharing can be instrumental to innovating, so you can only imagine the impact that sharing information can have on helping communities identify sustainable opportunities and development solutions.

    According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) sharing information is at the core of its mission and much research has show that “people-oriented and sustainable development can only realize its full potential if ... information and knowledge are shared.” Of course, the advent of the mobile web and other telecommunications has helped facilitate more effective knowledge sharing. 

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Organizational Change Starts Here

More women in the global workforce presents an opportunity for those of us in the traditional workforce. Companies need to wake up and take action to make sure they are adapting to meet the needs of a changing global economy as well as a changing gender culture. Here are just a few things companies need to prepare for:

  • More Women On Board: As we saw in our Inside the C-Suite series, not one of those executive positions can only be done by men. Yet, there is still a resounding lack of women in executive offices. In the United Kingdom, out of 950 C-suite level positions only 70 of them are occupied by women. In the United States, 77 Fortune 100 companies have less than 25 percent women corporate officers represented on their Executive Committees. Of course, women struggle to assert themselves as leaders and are behooved to join professional associations or community organizations to find role models and try out new leadership styles outside the office.
  • More flexibility: Creating a flexible workforce isn’t just great for women, it’s good for business. Offering paid maternity leaves, more flexible schedules, and telecommuting, among others may seem like luxury perks, but for many businesses it has lead to less turnover, and more revenue. According to the New York Times,  workplace flexibility “is the No. 1 issue for women, but it’s also the No. 2 or 3 issue for men.” As a result, companies who provide employees with flexibility about how they do their work and the hours they work, can attract more diverse candidates, improve the work/life balance of their employees, while enhancing the bottom line.
  • More Philanthropy & Angel Investing: The Old Boys’ Network may have once been responsible for making robust investments in startups and to their ivy league institutions, but new research by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute suggests that women are more likely to give and give more than men. Additionally, the number of campaigns and foundations run by and for women has risen rapidly, while new studies show that successful startups have more women in senior positions than unsuccessful one. Organizations can heed these trends by diversifying their investment portfolios, while expanding their fundraising outreach appropriately.

The rise of the "Womenterprise" is not something that will happen overnight, the wheels have been in motion for many decades. However, companies who refuse to build and evolve infrastructures that accommodate these cultural changes will be left in the dust. Is your company ready for one billion women? If so, tell us in the comments.

Editor's Note: To read about how some women have made it to the C-suite, check out Four Highlights of the BoxWorks 'Wonder Woman' Panel #BoxWorks