The End of Men?

Hanna Rosin’s recent op-ed, The End of Men, is (in my opinion) a slightly over-optimistic piece on the professional advancement of women. If you follow her argument, she is suggesting that culture is following economic gain—and women are finally gaining economically, and thus the culture is shifting from the male advantage to a female advantage.

She noted that more women in 2003 (>15%) said that they “must have a son”, down from about half in 1985. Of course, this should be seen as a boon to women! But before I can form an opinion about its relevance I’d like to know what the difference between 1985 and 2003 for the question “wants any children”. The decreasing trend of “must have a son” could be mostly attributed to the falling rate of women wanting children, period. And still, what did the fathers say–then and now?

That said, women are starting to gain an economic foothold, which means we are increasing our societal worth. Women are smart and we proved it to ourselves, and to men, by going to work. That we had something real to contribute appears to still shock some people.

Many of the new jobs, says Heather Boushey of the Center for American Progress, replace the things that women used to do in the home for free.

Well that makes perfect sense. Food service, cleaning service, child care, and many other homemaker chores are being outsourced. As a group, the women entering the workforce created more jobs. Not only did they create more jobs, the ones that are rising in demand are the more nurturing/service careers: care-giving, nursing, food-service, teaching, etc. However, nurturing careers don’t usually provide equitable wages. Again, our gain still manages to be our loss.

For example, if you look at Bureau of Labor’s “Women in the Labor Force and compare the percentage of earnings—women to men—you won’t see many categories that are equal. Just looking at the broad category of “Management Occupations” one can see that women are still only making 70% of a man’s salary. And a female physician or surgeon is only making 64.4%.
What. The. Hell.

And how sad is that under “Office and Administrative Support Occupations”, our earnings are only about 90%. It’s a female-dominated field and we still suffer from pay inequality?

I’m feeling less advantageous.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women now hold 51.4 percent of managerial and professional jobs up from 26.1 percent in 1980. They make up 54 percent of all accountants and hold about half of all banking and insurance jobs. About a third of American physicians are now women, as are 45 percent of associates in law firms, and both those percentages are rising fast. A white-collar economy values raw intellectual horsepower, which men and women have in equal amounts.

The assumption here seems to be that we can determine an increased corporate value for feminine traits by noting this increasing trend. I don’t think so. I think the managerial position increases are a natural result of the progression of time. Women entered the workforce later. Career advancement normally follows experience. Thus couldn’t the gain be explained as the natural progression of career advancement over time rather than an increased desirability of female workers? When looking at gender gaps, I find it the gap in the number of male versus female Chief Executives, 251 and 793, respectively (though the pay gap is better at 80%). Then there is the pay gap for women in the Financial Manager occupation, 64.9% even when there are more women than men employed.

As I dug deeper into the just the numbers of women employed in a specific occupation and the ensuing pay gap, I looked at jobs that have been more traditionally male. The obvious choices for me were the broad categories of “Installation, maintenance and repair”, and “Construction and extraction”. Despite being very heavily male-dominated, there pay gap was in favor of women, 100.6 and 108.6, respectively.

That was shocking. That pay equality is demonstrated more in jobs where gender inequality is also the highest? That makes the rest of it seem a little less progressive.

On a macro level, I think a lot of our gains can be explained by simple economics. One cannot ignore the fact that employing a woman is still cheaper than employing a man to do the same job. Once we proved to be of equal intelligence, why wouldn’t a business chose the economic advantage of cheaper labor?

So perhaps our employment gains are really masking a loss–of equal pay.

One would think that if men were acting in a rational way, they would be getting the education they need to get along out there, says Tom Mortenson, a senior scholar at the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education. But they are just failing to adapt.

When we say men, man, manly, manhood, and all the other masculine derivatives, we have in the background of our minds a huge vague crowded picture of the world and all its activities. To grow up and “be a man,” to “act like a man” — the meaning and connotation is wide indeed. That vast background is full of marching columns of men, of changing lines of men, of long processions of men; of men steering their ships into new seas, exploring unknown mountains, breaking horses, herding cattle… of men everywhere, doing everything — “the world.” –Vandyke Jennings, Herland, Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

The continuing theme is that the fall of man is imminent simply because men are not showing an interest in the future, high-demand jobs, like nursing. That it is the cultural stereotypes that will prevent men from being successful in the future. I would imagine that the lure of higher pay will convert enough men to prevent the annihilation of the Y-chromosome.

3 thoughts on “The End of Men?

  1. I thought that was a pretty lame article. It seemed to just pull a bunch of facts and figures together in a lazy way to create a sensationalist point. It looks like it is framed as a feminist or at least pro-women article but after I read it, I would put in into the “backlash” category of writing that says men are now “suffering” inequality due to women’s burgeoning equality. It is hard to notice privilege when you have it, so the smallest removal of undue privilege feels like your “rights” are being trampled upon.

  2. “I think that the traits traditionally seen as masculine that push both men and women to achieve more in the workplace are still, sadly, viewed as a positive for men, and the opposite for women”

    I agree with that, to a point. I know salary was the one thing I wasn’t pushy about when I worked. Usually. I also know that every time I got pushy, I usually got a raise. It’s an interesting factor, since I would have assumed for CFOs and Surgeons would be pushy enough to demand the same pay.

    But using old school Food Kitty as an example, my job as a Customer Service Manager (customers + handling all of the money) had a max cap rate of 13.50 per hour. The grocery manager who didn’t have to deal much with customers and was not accountable for the cash had a cap rate of 14.25.

    People pay their babysitters $10 per hour and their lawn-mowers $50. There’s a disconnect somewhere, for sure.

  3. I’ve read that one of the reasons we are slow to catch up to pay equality is because of the ‘feminine’ traits of lack of confidence, demureness, whatever you want to call it that makes men more likely to ask for, and get, a higher salary.
    Do you think that there are still women out there who haven’t come to terms with the shift in thinking that they can be seen and heard? That just being content with their lot in life (here, offered salary) is enough, and that being ‘pushy’ or competitive is negative?
    I think that the traits traditionally seen as masculine that push both men and women to achieve more in the workplace are still, sadly, viewed as a positive for men, and the opposite for women – he’s ‘a go-getter’, and ‘thorough’, and ‘asks the tough questions’. She’s ‘a bitch’, and ‘on the rag’, and ‘nags’. I wish I could blame it on the older generation on the way out, but while it is changing, it’s very slow to change.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.