I had the pleasure of attending the Further With Ford Trends conference this year in Detroit. This was my second trip with Ford (I went to the North American International Auto Show in January). The Further With Ford event not only gave us an additional look into what goes into designing and creating Ford’s lineup of vehicles, but we also go to hear about innovation from Clayton Christensen, a Harvard professor, and Kenneth Cole, the famous designer; design from one of the makers of the FitBit; and so many more gifted experts from companies around the world, like IBM and Mastercard.

The first session of the second day of the event was “The Female Frontier” and covered the way that women in the workforce is changing not only our society, but our ideals and economy. Here’s some of the takeaways I learned.

Chantel Lenard

Chantel is the Director of U.S. Marketing at Ford. She just returned from working in China for many years, and Ford allowed her to take a year sabbatical after having her first child (something that is unheard of in almost any industry). Chantel gave us some facts about women in the U.S. versus women in China:

  • There are 1billion women in the workforce, and it will be doubling in the next ten years. Will change the GDP of evolving markets
  • The economy is also changing– moving from a manufacturing econ to a knowledge econ, which is great for women because they are good at communication
  • 67% of senior management roles in the U.S. are women, China has over 80%
  • 95% of all adults in China are married, but this is actually a decrease from 99%.

Changing Households

Our households as we know them are also changing. There are now 2 million stay-at-home dads in the U.S., and a recent study reported that 51% of dads would stay at home if they could afford it.

Jenna Wolfe

jenna wolfe female frontier 2014 Ford trends

Jenna is a correspondent for NBC’s Today show and is the anchor for Weekend Today. She spoke about her experiences of often being the only woman interviewing athletes before and after games and her experience of coming out on the Today show when she announced she was pregnant with her partner, who also works at NBC.

My favorite quote from Jenna was:

“These women did not wait when people said, “Wait until the time is right,” they just did what they wanted to do.”

Jennifer Senior

Jennifer is an author and writer for New York Magazine. She spoke about our culture shift when it comes to having children and trying to “balance it all” (which is an idiom that men never get asked about). Adults are now having less children: in 1850 there were 5 kids per family, now there are two; the average age is 30.2 to have a child.

Jennifer also spoke about the brattiness of today’s kids (my words, not hers), saying, that there isn’t a problem with the kids. There’s a problem with how we raise kids today. Studies showed that having kids does not make adults happier.

jennifer senior female frontier 2014 ford trends

We now have choices

The role of the child has changed dramatically in the last 70 years. Kids, until recently, were considered economic assets. Now, it’s the opposite. They used to work for us, now we work for them. Jennifer also mentioned how easy it is for women to get overwhelmed compared to men.

“When women come home, they don’t see it as a haven. They see it as a shot clock, waiting to get everything done: cooking, childcare, cleaning. Men have less deadline-centered stuff, like yardwork.”

Women also multi-task much more at home; they see it as a video game, ducking and diving.

We are still extremely ambivalent as a culture about women working. It doesn’t matter that more women as sole breadwinners. 60% of US are okay with women outearning men. But 50% of US also said they would be ok/women should stay at home full-time with their kids. There is a big discrepancy here.

We now spend 4 more hours per week with our kids now than in the 1960s, because more women in the 60s cleaned and cooked. Now women focus more on their kids. Think of even the title has changed: housewife (then) versus stay-at-home mom (now).

This culture shift has also changed fatherhood. Men are now spending 2-3x as much time with their kids than their dads spent with them. They are trying to be more like their mom than their dad.

John Gerzema

John is the co-author of the Athena Doctrine and he traveled the world learning about the qualities of women that make them such powerful leaders. One of his favorite pearls of wisdom he mentioned (that was my favorite too) was that the President of Israel told him:

 “We are in a new world with many old minds. We must adapt ourselves as leaders.”

Panel Discussion

At the end of the session, Jenna led a panel with the speakers and they answered questions from the room on Twitter. Here are some of their bits of wisdom that stuck with me:

  • “Lets be open about what we don’t understand.”
  • “In all 50 states, we pay more for childcare than we do for rent.” -Jennifer Senior
  • “Having it all is a continuum.” -Chantel Lenard
  • “Most of us lead lopsided lives. We need to embrace that.” – Jennifer Senior
  • “Where ever you are [at work or home], give 100% of your whole self [while you are there].” -Jenna Wolfe
  • In Sweden, it’s a mandatory 3 month paternity leave; it’s a foreign concept to take a lot of time off here in the U.S.
  • “Are women being asked to adapt, or are men?”
  • “The more men that duck out early from work for their kids’ recitals, the better for all of us.” -Jennifer Senior
  • “Women don’t feel a sense of entitlement for their own personal time, women need to take time for themselves and not feel guilty about it.”

Thanks to all the speakers and to Ford for this great session and event!

Kelsey Jones

Kelsey Jones

Founder/Chief Marketing Consultant at Six Stories
Kelsey Jones helps clients around the world grow their social media, content, and search marketing presence. She enjoys writing and consuming all kinds of content, both in digital and tattered paperback form.
Kelsey Jones
Kelsey Jones