Future of Gender Roles

Women will lead Generation Y – what will men do?

– Healy Rebecca (2014)

Evolution from an industrial to a knowledge economy realises the day of Hercules – known for strength, dominance, and authority – as fleeting. “Men could become losers in a global economy that values mental power over might,” Business Week argued. The age of force is over.

Issues of dependence and independence, dominance and subordination are largely irrelevant to how emerging young women see themselves, Harvard psychologist Dan Kindlon argues in his book Alpha Girls. “Generation Y is the first generation that is reaping the full benefits of the women’s movement,” he says. “Women corporate leaders blend feminine qualities of leadership with classic male traits.”

We already see in the US, more women than men attaining bachelor’s degrees. In 2005, nearly 59% of undergraduates were granted to women. By 2050, it is projected that the degree gap will grow drastically.

Jobs are no different. Business Week reported that “from last November through this April, American women aged 20 and up gained nearly 300,000 jobs, and American men lost nearly 700,000 jobs.” Research also shows that women who are in management make companies more profitable, even among the Fortune 500.

Roles traditionally filled by men – that of lawyers, doctors and managers – are seeing an influx of women. Other male-dominated industries such as manufacturing and construction seem to be perpetually in a downturn, while women are found concentrated in upcoming and thriving industries such as education and healthcare.

As men are being hemorrhaged in blue-collar, white-collar, andgold-collar jobs, young women are picking up the slack, becoming both the providers and the glue for families.

The new economy is largely dominated by young women who have unique skills, not by men who have been taught to follow the rules.

“Men are less suited than women to the knowledge economy, which rewards supposedly female traits such as sensitivity, intuition, and a willingness to collaborate,” reported Peter Coy in Business Week. “Men have tended to do better in the hierarchies, following orders and relying on positional power.”

Young men then, seemingly devoid of the meaning and opportunities that once defined them, are left in a prolonged state of adolescence. And this limbo doesn’t bring out the best in young men, columnist Kay Hymowitz argues.

Our perspective

Surely, an interesting and great evolution for women. Just as software is assuming larger significance than hardware, it is the soft skills that are becoming important for success; knowledge is the invisible soft in our head.

Many men already born in a patriarchal and unequal world may find themselves caught unaware in this transformation whirlwind. To be honest, it won’t be easy initially for the first generation working women who grew up in men centric homes and the new demands and role of championing home and work could be too much of a change and stress for women too.

However, the change is for real and already setting in. In India, we often hear parents bragging that they have parented and raised their daughter/s like a son. In a generation or two, sons would also grow up quite differently and imbibe many qualities like being more communicative, emotive or effusive, being nurturing and having an appreciation for beautiful or aesthetically pleasing things, we today classify as feminine but are indeed just human.

Probably for the first time in history, women are out manning men. And not only in economic and academic spheres but they are also competing shoulder to shoulder in male bastions of ultra-endurance sports. Surprisingly, it is a woman’s physiological trait (often considered a disadvantage) that makes it possible for them to compete with men and sometimes beat them altogether. In ultra-endurance running, where distances could be over 150 miles, and endurance riding, women have a huge advantage simply because they’re smaller. But physiological advantage aside, any endurance sport also needs a psychological framework of tenacity and determination.

Of course, if women are racing ahead, it all means an amazing equal world and that means men have nothing to fear and, if they lag behind, it is their own creation. Throughout this book, we mention how machines and AI will beat humans in their race for supremacy, but emotional and spiritual strengths will be the last to be robotised and till then, anyone among men and women can la better claim on them.

Boys have to do a lot of catching up with girls; a great time to live in a fairer and equal world.

Gazing through the crystal ball

  1. Education and workplaces are undergoing assertive ‘feminisation’; it will be a world of different head and heart for both men and women. The formal thinking and response at individual and institutional level will be far more inclusive; a not-so-easy growing up for boys.
  2. Both men and women will need to redefine their roles as traditional gender roles in social, business and economic spheres are changing and merging. Expect high level of stress among men and women with no easy solutions at societal levels; ‘new-age parents’ can reduce the stress for the boys and girls under their care.

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