Are men finished?
That’s the conclusion of the cover story of the most recent issue of The Atlantic, where Hanna Rosin documents “How women are taking control—of everything.” I can’t speak to “everything,” but I’ve certainly witnessed a major demographic shift toward women in my industry. I’m not saying my experience is representative—but The Atlantic is saying it.
I’ll get deeper into my observations in a second. The first thing I did after reading the article was reach out to tongue-in-cheek-self-described “feminazi” Katie L. of this great operation, who more or less declared herself an “ur-general” in the gender war per the clip below (If it never shows up, just click on the link if you’re into that kind of thing. I’m working on it.):
|The Colbert Report||Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
(I’ll say this: Colbert’s female replacement is going to be gooood.)
Back to my experience. I’ve had three real jobs in my adult life. The first one lasted nine months, during which the owner of the company purged two entire editorial staffs, myself and gender considerations excluded. I think we can call that one a wash in the gender war. It’s the next two jobs that have had undeniable trends toward hiring women merely as a matter of circumstances. In neither case was it a crusade; we were just hiring the most qualified people. It may be a tiny sample size, but it happened.
My next job was at the Queens Chronicle, which had an editorial staff of six, one of whom was a woman in her sixties who had basically earned the title of Managing Editor for life by dint of her extensive knowledge of certain parts of the borough and her house four blocks from our Rego Park offices. The remaining five editors were all in their twenties—and they were all men, if only in the technical sense. Sports party! I joined at a time of light staff turnover, but soon we locked into a four-man, two-woman rotation that lasted for about 18 months. I left when that arrangement fell apart, and when I did, I was the only male among the staff members—and they were replacing me with a woman.
When I joined the magazine at which I currently work (No link; Church and State, at least for now), I walked into the same arrangement into which I did at the Chronicle: six editors, one woman. Four years later, we’re down to four editors, and I’m again the only male.
Fun fact: all three of these companies were owned and operated by women.
So I found myself nodding along to the article as I read it, though as I’m sure some people found themselves shaking their own heads, disbelieving, based on their own experiences, Rosin’s conclusions. I’m just saying. And all of this was before I walked into a business lunch yesterday on the top floor of the Hearst Building, which was to be a 10-person roundtable discussing Hearst brands, and branding in general. I was the only male, and I hesitate to say it was a great meeting just to make the point of emphasis—it was a professional one, pure and simple. (Okay, it was pretty good too and the city views were, well, wow.)
To what does Rosin attribute this shift?
The working class, which has long defined our notions of masculinity, is slowly turning into a matriarchy, with men increasingly absent from the home and women making all the decisions.
The postindustrial economy is indifferent to men’s size and strength. The attributes that are most valuable today—social intelligence, open communication, the ability to sit still and focus—are, at a minimum, not predominantly male.
Researchers have started looking into the relationship between testosterone and excessive risk, and wondering if groups of men, in some basic hormonal way, spur each other to make reckless decisions. The picture emerging is a mirror image of the traditional gender map: men and markets on the side of the irrational and overemotional, and women on the side of the cool and levelheaded.
We don’t yet know with certainty whether testosterone strongly influences business decision-making. But the perception of the ideal business leader is starting to shift. The old model of command and control, with one leader holding all the decision-making power, is considered hidebound. The new model is sometimes called “post-heroic,” or “transformational” in the words of the historian and leadership expert James MacGregor Burns. The aim is to behave like a good coach, and channel your charisma to motivate others to be hardworking and creative.
Now let’s go back, as yesterday, to Moby-Dick:
The White Whale swam before him as the monomaniac incarnation of all those malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating in them, till they are left living on with half a heart and half a lung.
I couldn’t work with half a lung.
But, as we develop as a society and get smarter, companies are realizing that they don’t need to hire men based on invisible potential, machismo based in their invisible, “monomaniac” potential. The Internet has helped push analysis to new heights in an incredible number of areas—take baseball, for one—based on facts of productivity instead of promises. Gone are the days where a young, big baseball prospect is valued for what the scouts believe he has the potential to do; he is now inferior to the small, scrappy player who has proven he can, you know, play baseball. So much of being a professional anything involves listening and absorbing ideas that those who are caught up in “the malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating in them” aren’t going to get hired in the first place, especially in a reeling economy where financial recklessness cannot be tolerated.
It might be tempting to think that if the economy improves, there will be more risk-taking, and might more closely resemble the man-driven world of oh, all of time up until (and many would argue, including) now. But I don’t see us going backward. There may be more risk-taking in a thriving future, but they will be better calculated risks, and there’s no reason to think that women can’t make them. Thousands of years of free lunches for men might be coming to an end, and I’m fine with it.
Enjoy the weekend.
Apropos of nothing, I’m wearing this shirt today: