What's A Man To Do? Part I

Men must adapt and evolve, or we will quickly but inevitably, become less and less relevant.

My personal walk and journey regarding gender equity began when I finally realized my form of "male scripting" was often causing frustration and pain (intentionally and unintentionally) with the women in my life.  Even though I was considered respectful, nice, friendly, open, and seemingly able to get along with everyone, the other dimensions of my male behavior were having mostly unrecognized and unintended negative consequences with women and other men.  This included my overly competitive nature, narrow focus, being uncomfortable with emotion, insecure about always having the correct answer, a strong desire to be accepted by peers, an unwillingness to be reflective, and often blind compliance to authority figures and institutions.  These traits usually created difficulty for others, especially the women, around me.
The world and business environment of today is unlike any other time.  Nanotechnology, jet-speed transportation, 24/7 instantaneous communication, global markets, inter-connected economies, and a relentless demographic shift in our current and future workforce, customer base, community, regulatory and legislative bodies have all combined to make planet Earth a very small place spinning in a very large universe.  We now live in what I will call a “compact life space.”
Our "compact life space" is magnified by all the human diversity differences, cultures, religions, and economies, mixing together in ways no one could have imagined a century ago.  It's my belief the cause and effect of this churning riptide of change will have a lasting impact on our children, our children's children, and generations beyond.
The scope and force of change has created quite a dilemma.  That is, either we come to fully understand what "inclusion" means individually and collectively, develop competencies to make mixes and complexities work better together, not perceive our efforts as zero-sum and the pie getting smaller, or we eventually sink.
One specific wave within this cross-current of turbulence is the exponential expansion of influence women have in the U.S. workforce, customer base, community, and economy.  Using the research that Catalyst has conducted over the past fifty years regarding the progress and gaps of women in the workplace, I want to highlight several key trends that seem important for men to internalize:
• Women represent 48% of the total labor force, and by 2015 will outnumber men.
• 40% of working wives out-earn their husbands.
• Women will be the majority of primary breadwinners within the next generation.
• Women businesses employ 35% more people than all the Fortune 500 companies.
• Women owned-businesses represent 40% (9.5 million) of all U.S. businesses.
• Fortune 500 board seats held by women is 16.1%.
• Fortune 500 corporate officer positions held by women is 15.7%.
• Executive officer positions held by women is 14.1%.
• Management and professional positions held by women is 51.4%.
• Women represent 30% of practicing physicians, 20% of dentist, and 40% of lawyers.
• Beginning in 2006, women outnumbered men in college by over 2 million.
• Women are earning better grades and more advanced degrees than men.
• By 2019, 59% of Bachelor, 62% of Masters, and 55% of PH.D's will be women.
• In 1966, 61% of all college degrees were awarded to men.
• In 2018, 61% of all college degrees will be awarded to women.
• Women represent at least 50% of students in medical, dentistry, and law schools.
• By 2015, 75% of all entrants into the labor force will be women and people of color.
Note:  Data from Catalyst, Department of Labor, Census Bureau, National Center for Educational Statistics and CollegeTimes. All percentages and years listed are approximates. The trends do not reflect what African American and Latina women are experiencing in educational and job levels today, which is significantly lower than the data presented.
Even though we have likely seen this data in snippets before, step back and grasp the accumulative effect of all the different fragments.  For me, the reasonable conclusion is that men must adapt and evolve, or we will quickly but inevitably, become less and less relevant.
Despite meaningful progress, women still significantly lag behind men with respect to pay, income, executive, and board positions.  As women continue to outperform men in the areas identified, aggressively close the gap in the fields of engineering and science, and as more and more women get proficient at exerting their existing power and influence to create more change, is it possible that we have already reached a gender tipping point and just haven't realized it yet?
In other words, given the increasing representation level of women in the workforce, on college campuses, along with their expanding consumer purchasing power, business and entrepreneurial reach, and financial investment control, is the current perception that organizational power and control belong to men becoming a vestige?  Is the current modus operandi (often re-enforced unintentionally by D&I efforts) that a woman's advancement hinges on the graciousness and benevolence of male leaders also at a point of slow decline? If you say "not now," then at what future point will the existing institutional dynamics between men and women completely turn?  The demographic shifts and forming tsunami will not recede.  It's only a matter of time. It's not "if," but "when."
Given this clear forecast of inevitability, what's a man to do?  Do we blindly and stubbornly swim into the fast current and fight it?  Or should we swim with the current, but learn how to swim using different strokes?
I am not implying that men become emasculated or victims.  Not at all.  It seems, however, that the natural qualities and strengths that are associated with men worked well when organizations were hierarchical, decisions and communication were exclusively top-down, there was an overabundance of workers, marketplaces were somewhat isolated, and outcomes were still relatively predictable.
This description is definitely not today's business reality.  The business world is operating as one entity. It is chaotic with fast flowing information, technology, empowered consumers, and inter-connected economies.  Business survival now requires a high premium on group collaboration, partnerships, innovation, and decision making being pushed down into decentralized organizations.  Rather than overabundance, we now have a growing shortage of workers with the necessary skills to compete in a global market and economy.  Finally, the U.S. worker's level of engagement is at an all time low.  Concurrently, mistrust in management is at an all time high.
These are serious leadership challenges to overcome, especially when we consider the fact that the complexities of doing business, fierce competition, and the significance and consequence of “inter-connectedness,” have created a dynamic where outcomes are now largely unpredictable.
Next month in the July MARC, part 2 of this Blog Post will explore the empirical evidence supporting the conclusion that female leadership traits and style become the competitive edge of the future.  Additionally, we will identify the number one barrier preventing men from not only accepting responsibility for inclusion but also modeling and being the change we want to see in the workplace and beyond. See you then.
In the meantime, one question for MARC readers…what do you think the number one barrier is?
Posted by Frank McCloskey on Jun 20, 2012 11:03 AM EDT


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