Evolution from an industrial to a knowledge economy realizes 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 argues. 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.”
Gen Y women have both masculinity and feminity, developing as the best of both worlds. We balance the typically female feeling part of ourselves with the typically male thinking parts. We are powerful hybrids integrating “the intuitive and rational, the tender and hardheaded, the self-sacrificing and self-serving.”
We utilize a “transformational approach that focuses on building a team. The team approach is less hierarchal than the traditional business model. A girl’s primary goal is not to win but to maintain relationships,” Kindlon says.
The way of the alpha girl is the rallying cry for Generation Y. We disdain complex rules and authoritarian structures.
In contrast, men and boys “base their reasoning on how established rules or laws should be applied, rather than on the feelings of those affected by their decisions,” Kindlon reports. “Male children learn to put winning ahead of personal relationships or growth, to feel comfortable with rules, boundaries, and procedures.”
Men and boys with such personality types are not naturally in tune with other people’s feelings, a key to success in the new economy. Leadership that marshals and directs is often observed by young women as part of the dinosaur age.
Gen Y women will lead the new generation to positive and meaningful change. The ascent of women in the workforce will be unprecedented in history, and promises to have far-reaching implications.
We already see more women than men attaining bachelor’s degrees. In 2005, nearly 59 percent of undergraduates were granted to women. By 2050, it is projected that the degree gap will grow drastically.
Jobs are no different. Business Week reports, 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 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, and gold-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,” reports 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.
“Men feel threatened by female empowerment,” Hymowitz states in one theory, “and in their anxiety, they cling to outdated roles.”
Today’s young men are “following the line of Peter Pan, ‘I don’t want to grow up.’” Hymowitz argues. “Plus, who needs commitment when there is a fantasy football team league to dominate, the possibility that a gaming product better than the Xbox 360 could be on the horizon, and your live-in girlfriend will have sex with you whenever you want?”
Young men today “suffer from a proverbial fear of commitment,” and this may be the biggest problem – “a tendency to avoid not just marriage but any deep attachments,” leading to a life that is as empty of passion as it is of responsibility, Hymowitz says. For the contemporary guy, it’s “easy to fill your days without actually doing anything.”
The solution? Not a new career, but marriage. Marriage, she says, turns boys into men.
Kindlon agrees. Married men are more successful in work, getting promoted more often and receiving higher performance appraisals than single men. Married men are much less likely to engage in risky behaviors such as drinking heavily, driving dangerously, or using drugs. They are more likely to work regularly, help others more, and volunteer more. Married men also have better immune systems, and are half as likely not to commit suicide.
“Marriage is generally more beneficial to men than women,” Kindlon reports. “Research found that women who stayed single in their lives seemed to have good mental health, while men who stayed single all their lives did not. Choosing to be single seems to be good for women but not so good for men.”