I’ve always accepted the received wisdom about men and women and multitasking. Mars and Venus. Men solve problems and work sequentially and logically, women are good at multitasking and some sort of ordered chaos. Or something like that.
Now, as I watch Generation M and the modern workforce, I’m not so sure.
Maybe housewives were the world’s first knowledge workers.
Maybe men did sequential and problem-solving and breadwinnining things because that was their ‘allotted’ place in society, not because their wiring was different.
Maybe women handled multitasking better because they ran the home and you couldn’t run a home with kids like an assembly line, you had to learn to multitask. Not because their wiring was different.
And as women “entered the workforce” some of these lines blurred, and we still tried to believe it was all wiring, but it really wasn’t.
Maybe it was always nurture and not nature, as far as multitasking abilities were concerned.
And now, as Generation M enters the workforce, they don’t care about perceived differences in wiring. In fact they don’t agree that there is a difference in this respect. They already know that it has nothing at all to do with sequential and parallel wiring, it has to do with what they have to do, and how they adapt to that task.
Maybe Generation M multitask because they can. Maybe we could have as well, but we were conditioned, “nurtured”, to believe men couldn’t and women could.
When I look at voluntary organisations and startups, they seem to have got this already. In both cases they did not have assembly line thinking to colour their perceptions, they did not have the luxury of assembly line behaviour, they had to multitask, no choice.
Yes, maybe housewives were the world’s first knowledge workers, working networked and in community, with collaborative filtering and ratings and reviews and recommendations. With constant interruptions and an innate sense of deciding what’s important, very quickly. An innate ability to make mistakes and learn and move on. They had all the practice. They just didn’t have the technology.
Now, with the altered workforce and the entry of Generation M and the availability of relevant technology, maybe we will see multitasking proven as a gender-neutral thing, as it probably was in the first place.