Happily, our positively shifting attitudes are now taking us toward a more fluid future when it comes to gender, which is being realised on two different fronts: firstly, through enabling anyone to self-identify and determine their own gender, and secondly, through increasingly fluid and less prescriptive definitions of gender binaries themselves – including the many accepted tropes that sit with them.
This, then, is the future as it could and should be; one where we can scenario plan for tomorrow – as Devon Powers and Ryan Lanji suggest in their recent Back to the F**kture podcasts – in ways that allow us to imagine a brave new world of a very different and multiplex sort.
Taking this approach, what if we use this watershed moment to break apart and destroy our canonical definitions of gender altogether, rather than integrating these developments into existing gendered institutions? It’s an argument put forward by Heath Fogg Davis, a professor of political science and transgender man, in Beyond Trans: Does Gender Matter?, a book which questions the need for gender categories in the first place.
Following Davis’s line of thinking – and imagining what a society built around a new narrative of emphasising self-expression and identity would look like – reveals a different and potentially brighter future to our pre-pandemic path.
Firstly, there would be greater prosperity if the patriarchy was dismantled. According to research cited by the European Investment Bank, achieving greater gender diversity could lead to an increase of 26% of annual global GDP and $160 trillion of human capital wealth, while enhancing business performance by 15%.
The world would also be better led. While we often talk about three responses to difficult situations – fight, flight or freeze – this is applicable generally to men. As founder of SheEO Vicki Saunders explains, women exhibit another option – tend and befriend. ‘If we look at the leadership responses during the time of Covid, we can see the result of a tend and befriend approach,’ she says. ‘Countries led by women are outperforming those which are not.’
And innovation could abound. Reimagining the workplace as a truly gender-neutral environment through universal design, for example, could deliver psychological safety for all employees, encouraging people to contribute unique ideas and present contrarian views.
For this future to be realised, however, we first need to banish talk of the ‘new normal’. As the pandemic has shown, normal wasn’t good enough. Instead, we should be focusing on the new extra-ordinary – and that means rebuilding society with inclusivity at its core.
Brands have an opportunity to spearhead this transformation, whether they use this tipping point to reinvent retail through a genderless lens, to build spaces and cities designed for people, not men, or to create hospitality concepts that are truly inclusive.
Some, like Superfluid, are already on this journey. Superfluid states that it intends to offer ‘tools that empower us to break free and navigate identity, allowing us to become as we wish’ – a powerful proposition that all businesses, regardless of size or sector, should embrace when it comes to building the new extra-ordinary.
Our foresight reports are a compelling resource that provide insights to your company internally and help you carve out a distinct viewpoint externally.