I’ve been reading this fabulous book based on a Japanese concept called “ikigai” – which is the common ground between what the world needs, what you can do, what you can get paid for and what you love. It’s the sweet spot that allows your mission, passion, vocation and profession to merge into one. Something that’s mostly elusive to the vast majority. But I think technology provides unique hope.
“Girls don’t like maths as much as boys”, “girls don’t like to build”, “girls are more suited to the softer professions” – all awful stereotypes that girls and women have endured for generations. Yes, there are women who break each stereotype [for those coming after] and forge ahead despite the odds; but these are outliers. With every wave that’s come, the learning curve has been steep and slow. But technology eliminates all that in a relative sense. Specifically, there are three characteristics of technology that make it a fabulous space for women to find their “ikigai”.
First, technology is flexible. It can be moulded into any field be it science, art, culture, health, banking and, of course, shopping. This means, anyone with a mind for logical thinking and the ability to spot a need gap, can find a way for technology to work for them. This can, and does, level a significantly tilted playing field between men and women. In fact, the flexibility that technology provides is probably the hidden ticket that women have needed all along to get them into the arena as serious players.
Second, technology can mould perspective and experience into logic and sequence. There are so many ventures that have been established here in the region which are spearheaded by women in areas that are relatively untouched and unseen by men. To mention a few, we have Mathaqi, a Saudi-based platform for on-demand delivery of home- cooked meals; Annada, a cultural initiative that uses technology to market art to a larger audience in unique forms and also ventures like Telp and Daresini that focus on bringing tutoring services into a comprehensive and accessible marketspace. These are spaces that have always existed, but it takes a unique female experience to realise the potential and convert it into a business.
The last, and my favourite, is that the learning curve is gender neutral. Technology, as we know it today, has been developed in an age that, at least on the surface, gives equal opportunities. That means, all women can get the education they need. Its also a self-learning tool. Hence, technology itself can fill a learning gap through learning platforms. Women who need flexibility can access this learning. Women who don’t have enough money can access this learning. Women who don’t have enough time can access this learning. And from learning to implementation requires knowledge, not a degree. That’s a game changer.
Before technology, businesses were all about things one could touch and feel. Now businesses are about what you can feel or perceive, how far and how wide an audience you can reach and how many smaller gaps can be identified and filled. All of these require deep intuition, solid logic and the ability to look at things from varied perspectives. These skills are not unique to women, however, the applicability to women’s issues has been limited. With more women being able to enter the field as relative equals, a large untapped market is waiting to be explored. Women can now get their surfboards and keyboards out and enjoy this wave to their own full potential.