Women 'key to working future'

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The Independent Online
MEN will be 'de-skilled' and women will be better qualified for the jobs of the 21st century, Charles Handy, visiting Professor at the London Business School, said yesterday.

Professor Handy said that men who had traditionally relied on power for authority in a company hierarchy would be traumatised by changing employment patterns, and would have to 'bring out the feminine side of their characters' to succeed.

Almost three-quarters of the new jobs would be professional, managerial posts mainly for those with a degree or professional qualification. Companies would become more flexible with increasingly independent workers or freelancers carrying out their own 'work portfolios'.

The new jobs would demand 'the skills of negotiation, persuasion, relating to customers and building up trust, which women are instinctively better at than men because they have had to be. Women are great wheeler-dealers,' he said.

Speaking in London at the 'Walking the Tighrope' conference on the conflicting demands of work and family life, Professor Handy said: 'Men must realise the sort of feminine side of their nature which has been suppressed by our culture and schooling because they will not be able to rely on power.'

Increasingly, advanced communications technology meant that knowledge-intensive businesses - publishing, television - were becoming more flexible, with employees working from home and services contracted out to private companies. Pressure to cut costs meant that this process would 'inexorably extend' to most of the service sector and manufacturing. Offices with their rigid professional hierarchies would become 'more like clubs'.

As work changed so would family relationships, he said. With increasing numbers of women working, couples would move between 'role segregated relationships' and 'role mixed-up relationships' as the nature of their work altered.