Is This The End of Men in the Workplace (and Everywhere Else)?

I don’t really consider myself a “Man’s Man.”

I love to fish, go to college football games and I’ll watch back-to-back ESPN SportsCenters that are the exact same episode like it’s all brand new material.

But I don’t hunt, I can arrange flowers better than my wife, and musical theater is something I look forward to. I’m probably more metro than macho – at least from a Midwest standpoint – and I’m not Manhattan Metro but more Milwaukee Metro.

I have three sons, so the topic of males is something I tend to study. I want to raise my boys to be successful men – in work, in life, and in love. That is no easy task in today’s American society.

Why gender roles have shifted

Hanna Rosin recently released the new book, The End of Men and the Rise of Women, which looks at how society over the past 50 years has slowly but surely shifted to a point where women have begun to move ahead of men in almost every measure. This isn’t a feminist look at the topic, it’s a data driven look – and in many ways, it blows away much of our traditional views on gender in our society.

From a Time article on the book:

Changes in the world economy have dramatically shifted gender roles. Women have adapted more skillfully to the new socioeconomic landscape by doggedly pursuing self-improvement opportunities, rebranding as the economy requires it, and above all possessing the kind of 21st century work attributes — such as strong communication skills, collaborative leadership and flexibility — that are nudging out the brawny, stuck-in-amber guys. Rock steadiness, long a cherished masculine trait, turns out to be about as useful in our fleet-footed economy as a flint arrowhead. Life favors the adapters, and it turns out they’re more likely to be women.”

Have we forgotten how to teach boys?

Our educational system has been pushed to include girls so much over the past 50 years – that we’ve done a right ditch-left ditch that now has forgotten how to teach boys. Forbes also had a recent article on the subject highlighted in the book Why Boys Fail: Saving Our Sons from an Educational System that is Leaving Them Behind:

  • Schools have in effect become microcosms of the larger economy. Richard Whitmire, author of Why Boys Fail, summarizes the trend this way: “The world has gotten more verbal, boys haven’t.”
  • Beyond straight verbal skills, boys tend to get tripped up by what researchers call “non-cognitive skills” meaning the ability to focus, organize yourself, and stay out of trouble….
  • In the late 1990s, educators acted on the correct assumption that all jobs now require more sophisticated writing. Cops now need advanced degrees and practice in communication skills; factory workers are expected to be able to fill out elaborate orders. Society expects most workers to have college-level literacy, even if their day-to-day jobs do not really require it.”

A diversity group of white males?

So, what does all this mean?

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I’m not naive; I know men in executive leadership roles still dominate, and in most segments of our country/world, we still have major pay disparity. But these differences are changing at a historic pace, and experts believe one day soon (by looking at college graduate projections) women will flip this upside down.

I wonder how many HR Shops are starting to put together diversity groups of white males? My guess would be zero. I do believe that one day before my career in HR is over, HR shops will have to address an issue that involves “Developing Males,” but it seems almost laughable to write that down.

Corporations having to be concerned about encouraging and developing male leaders seems like something I would never have to worry about in our society, because it was always the “natural” way – until it wasn’t.

This originally appeared on the blog The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


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