Terry Grim

Photo credit: Clif Grim

We’ve just heard that for the first time there are more U.S. women Olympians than male Olympians. Women have continued to make significant progress in all aspects of our society. One way to understand this progress is to look very precisely at the ways women are accepted in our culture. Edgar Schein, notable in the field of organizational development, has a wonderful model that identifies three layers of organizational culture: (1) artifacts, (2) espoused beliefs and values, and (3) underlying assumptions. While each layer is more difficult to uncover, the deeper you go, the more intrinsic the ideas are to the organization’s beliefs and corresponding actions.

I’d like to propose a corresponding set of layers for women’s roles in an organization: (1) Pinking the Organization, (2) Empowering Women, and (3) Embracing the Feminine.

  • “Pinking the Organization” is about the artifacts an organization uses to appear welcoming to women, from the trivial — such as how women’s bathrooms are outfitted — to the more serious issues such as family-friendly benefits. In organizations at this level, there is an awareness that women are needed and effort is made to ensure appropriate accommodations. Men also benefit from this, for instance via time off for births, flexible work conditions, and an increased focus on communication.
  • “Empowering Women” is the next level; beliefs about the value of women are turned into formal action. There is real energy around enabling women to be successful. Companies promote and mentor women because they’ve recognized how much value they get from the skills and knowledge women bring, seeing empowered women as good for business and the bottom line. Enthusiasm at this level is genuine: women are encouraged, promoted, and mentored to succeed. Women appear at all levels of management in this organization, with some rising stars running major areas.
  • “Embracing the Feminine” is a much more transformational level. Beyond enabling individual women, it’s about enabling a feminine culture. This requires questioning and, if needed, changing the prevalent business model. Instead of masculine values of win-lose, the focus is on win-win. The organization solves conflict through negotiation, is relationship-oriented, and places a high value on people. Whereas in “Empowering Women” women compete on equal footing with men in the existing organizational model, “Embracing the Feminine” encourages both men and women to solve new problems with new behaviors.

How would you assess your organization?

We’d be interested in hearing.


Image: BestofWDW, Flickr

I recently had the opportunity to be futurist in the “ask a futurist booth” at the American Association of Museums conference. The intent of the booth was to pose alternative scenarios that would encourage museum folks to think about different possible future environments and what changes they might suggest for the museum experience.

The theme of this year’s conference was The Museum of Tomorrow. In looking toward the future, participants were trying to understand technologies and visitor needs that are changing and what these changes mean to them. Museums do a wonderful job of preserving our heritage and are now working to become social spaces for communities. It’s important to understand where we have been, and both how and why we ended up where we are today. But museums are looking into a rearview mirror.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a Museum of Tomorrows? This museum would present multiple plausible scenarios for the future. Each person that entered could experience different futures and gain more awareness of the possible options. Perhaps we should call our museum, a muesum? Imagine how much more creative and constructive our decision processes would be if we could imagine ourselves in lots of varied environments? We would be driving by looking forward and be able to see many of the possible roads on our journey.

GE created the Carousel of Progress at Disney World in 1967 and it has been updated five times. The attraction created an enduring and shared vision of what technologies and even social changes are possible (remember in the last scene, Mother is the one working). But it was only one, very technology heavy view of our future. So let us imagine what a Muesum of Tomorrows might look like and maybe together we can gain some traction to build one! In the meantime, futurists can continue to help by creating stories and scenarios of many possible futures.

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