How feminine values can change digital business modelsby Maria Meermeier
What could a tech world look like that uses feminine values like generosity, looking after the vulnerable, and a better quality of life for all as its principles?
Last week, while standing in front of our diffferent office in Berlin-Kreuzberg, one of the many promoters on the street handed me another flyer for a delivery startup - at the next curb, I threw it away in the orange BSR trash can.
For me, launching a delivery service in 2023 is not very innovative. And it shows: We may be trying to create something new, but instead we're creating more and more of the same.
Business models with a masculine connotation that always follow the same logic.
The principles according to which such business models are built have a male connotation. They are mostly startup founders who are read as male and to whom courage, risk-taking, assertiveness and also ruthlessness toward competitors are attributed. They take already established business models and try to make them even more efficient and push them with even more power into already saturated markets, only to make the successful exit a few years later and invest in startups themselves, which again follow the same logic.
This logic is not surprising in our growth-oriented economic system: With the "strongest wins" approach, multi-billion dollar companies have been built up, new jobs have been created and a new level of convenience for consumers has been made possible.
But they are also business models focused on increasing the benefits for a privileged few, while the consequences come at the expense of society as a whole: Social networks in which marginalized groups suffer from social harassment; the gig economy, which creates new jobs but under precarious and insecure conditions; neighborhoods that disintegrate because only tourists move in and out of vacation homes for a weekend.
What if we were to complement the masculine values underlying these business models with feminine values such as generosity, care for the weak and a better quality of life?
In this context, masculine and feminine values are not contradictory, but complementary: Leading a new digital business model to economic success requires assertiveness and a willingness to take risks. But it also requires a clear mindset, from which to consider which resources should be used how, which communities should benefit from them, or how collaboration with other companies and institutions can look, in which everyone learns from each other.
Feminine values open up new perspectives - this has already been proven by female leadership. It is now common sense that a leader should not only be decisive and visionary, but also empathetic and inclusive.
Extending this concept to the design of digital business models is therefore only the logical consequence. And there are already many examples that show the potential of integrating feminine values into one's own business model.
Digital business models have the advantage of zero marginal costs. This means that more users of one's own service do not automatically result in more costs. This opens up the potential for people who do not have the necessary financial resources to benefit from one's own offerings - without additional costs for one's own company. What if e-learning platforms like Udemy were to offer their services to these people free of charge and thus open up new educational opportunities for single parents, students, job seekers or precariously employed people? A socially graduated price model would also be conceivable: Higher earners would be given the opportunity to pay a higher price, thus enabling a more favorable offer for people who do not have the financial means.
Caring for the Vulnerable.
B Corp certified startup Sama trains Large Language Models (LLMs) for AI applications on behalf of tech companies like Google, Microsoft, and NASA using a crowd-based approach. Sama launched with a mission to provide training to their crowd workers, primarily women and young people in the Global South, so they can provide for themselves and their families. In the pandemic, they have also ensured that their workers have safe housing, food and medical care. Sama is taking responsibility for communities that are still disadvantaged from a global economic perspective. Their relationship with their employees is not only transactional, but they want to improve their living conditions in the long term.
Improved quality of life for everyone.
Backmarket.de repairs technical devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops and then puts them back into circulation. In this way, they enable access to technologies for a broader group of people. Moreover, they contribute to the fact that less valuable resources such as rare earths have to be used to manufacture technical devices. In the coming years, our quality of life will depend on how we manage the resources that are still available to us - and who will benefit from them. Anything that helps to reduce the consequences of social inequality and the waste of resources will help to improve the quality of life for all.
Integrating feminine values into the tech world opens up new perspectives on business models and pricing logics. With the challenges of our time, we can no longer continue as we have in the past. These new perspectives are therefore no longer a nice-to-have, but a must-have. The tech world can make a major contribution to how we shape our society and distribute our resources in the coming years.