On 11/7/2010, I put up a post that was entitled “Women on the Rise.” It discussed demographic trends in the US and some Western economies. With more women graduating from college than men, getting advanced degrees and entering law and medical schools it was inevitable that 15 years from now women would be leaders in law, medicine, business and academia. At the end of the piece I referred to an article in the Atlantic by Hanna Rosin called “The End of Men.”
Very recently, Ms. Rosin has expanded that article into a book of the same name (Riverhead Books, 2012). It is a fascinating read and her treatment of a very complicated and, at times, delicate subject, is very well done.
Why do things seem to be shifting in women’s favor? Ms. Rosin’s thesis seems to be that as the world has changed, women are more flexible than men. Importantly, as we have moved in to the information age, the service oriented economy is far more welcoming to women than the industrially dominated economy ever was. It is an interesting thought and, as you drill down in the details and demographics, the case is very well made.
She also talks of 60% of college graduates now being women. That, by definition, means that many good positions have to go to women in the future. She does not explain why young women seem more organized than young men and plan their careers with care while millions of young American males just seem to drift. Over the next decade this will cause an imbalance in society that we have never seen before. Women will be dominating in many fields with key senior positions. She guesses that high finance may be the last of the “old boy network” bastions to fall. More women may not ever marry as they are both very career driven but also will discover a distinct shortage of men who are similarly educated and sophisticated.
The top-line statistics regarding men are indeed a bit scary. In 1950, five percent of men in their prime earning years were not working—today, it is 20%
which is indeed ominous. In 1970, women contributed 6% of the family income while today it is 42.2%. That last statistic to me is a reflection of economic necessity not just the advance of women. Almost all two income households have two incomes simply because it is necessary economically.
Critics have said that Ms. Rosin overstates things. Why are only 3% of Fortune 500 companies headed by women? Why are only 20 of the 180 global heads of state women? Sadly, they miss the obvious—demographics. Today, the pipeline is being filled with women college graduates and those with professional degrees. Fast forward a decade or two and women will be far more dominant. Demographics, as I have said in this space before, are destiny. This tidal wave would take a generation or two to reverse and, to do so, young men would need to get far more motivated than many are now.
Others say that this is just a blip. The real gloom and doomers have said that the men have been fired first in our long running economic malaise and the women will be next. Again, they miss the demographic certainty that is firmly in place. If three women for every two men graduate from college each year, then more women will be tapped for senior positions than men in the future.
Ms. Rosin has a somewhat rosy view of globalism and states again, with women being more flexible than men, they should do relatively better as certain industries shift overseas. I am not at all sure about that hypothesis. Globalization is terrific for the consumer but some people always get hurt in the transition and women may be equally affected as men.
Overall, this book is modestly upbeat unless you are a 23 year old man who dropped out of college. If you want to get depressed, read “The Decline of Men” by Guy Garcia. Written about four years ago, he says that millions of young adult men are spending way too much living in their parent’s basements playing video games, analyzing fantasy football leagues, watching lots of ESPN and some pornography as well. At the same time, an increasing number of young women are planning their futures with care. His solution appears to be that men should get in touch with their feminine side and be more sensitive and communicate better. My advice to these young fellows is to get off the couch!
Ms. Rosin’s book is timely and well done. It reminds me how marketers have to start shifting gears with their advertising messages. As more women earn six figures they will not be only the primary breadwinner in many households but also the decision-maker as well in any number of categories. Sales people will have to adjust as these successful women will be very pressed for time. Mobile advertising will likely play a very prominent role with these high achievers. The die is cast demographically. There is no turning back on this trend over the next few decades. The odds will get stronger each year that your doctor, your lawyer, your financial advisor, and your best customers will be women. Now we will need appropriate ad copy and media placement to reach them.
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