As a an aging male with 60 years of perspective I can’t help but note the huge change American women are undergoing in terms of their career options. As women have demanded and are realizing a shift in social, political, and economic power sharing there is a wide and growing range of work choices available to them.
I still remember how odd I thought it looked to see my first uniformed female police officer and big rig female truck driver and woman on a construction crew. It’s not that I thought it wrong, but it did seem out of place. Growing up in the 50s and 60s I basically thought as a young person that work for women outside of the home was limited to being a secretary or elementary school teacher or nurse. Now women seem to be in nearly every profession, including the running of companies. In retrospect I suppose observing the integration of women into traditional male jobs was my first eye opener to cultural change, that since has only increased in pace.
For those of us who think increased equality among citizens is a good thing, then the news is great. The power structure long dominated by male viewpoints is yielding to a more balanced approached enriched by ideas contributed by women. Conventional wisdom suggests this is leading to a society that is more fair and representative of every person’s interests.
While I applaud this historic development and in no way wish for a regression I also notice an angst and relative lack of direction on the part of men. In general while the career prospects for women are expanding men appear to be more adrift with their changing role. Here are some of the signs I see:
- Men took a greater unemployment hit during the recession than woman. Jobs requiring brawn like construction and traditional manufacturing were being shed faster than jobs requiring nurturing and education like healthcare and business services.
- Women now outpace men in receiving college degrees. In a world that is going to rely only more on an educated workforce this bods well for those individuals embracing higher learning.
- The trend in leadership roles is to become more gender neutral. As women move more into management and executive positions it displaces the men who formally held those spots. In fact as men accommodate the integration of women into all sorts of jobs once held by men it results in widespread displacement.
- The competition field for securing jobs is getting deeper. Not long ago men had to form job search strategies that pitted them against other men only. Not any more. Now men have to compete against women. This is not a comfortable place for many men to be.
- The nature of work is changing in that physical strength, the greatest value point men have traditionally had, is increasing in less demand. Technology, mechanical engineering, and robotics are already handling much of the digging, lifting, and carrying once done by strong men. And as time goes on there will be even less need for physical strength on the job.
- Increasing numbers of men are wanting to spend more time with their kids. Men putting their careers on hold or at least slowing the pace of development in favor of parenting seems to be becoming quite acceptable among the children of Baby Boomers. How this choice is seen by hiring managers once the man wants to re-engage with the workforce is still unclear, but potentially damaging to his career.
By Bill Ryan