It’s a new world out there in the battle of the sexes, and women’s wages are now growing at a much faster rate than men’s. Bloomberg reports:
Women still earn less than men, but they’ve narrowed the gap because they tend to work in jobs that require more social and analytical skills, a new study from the Pew Research Center finds. Those jobs are increasingly prized in the U.S. economy, while jobs calling for physical and manual skills are becoming less important, the study says.
Women’s pay went up 32 percent while men’s pay went down 3 percent from 1980 to 2015, according to the study, “The State of American Jobs.” Those figures are adjusted for inflation and apply to people working full-time, year-round.
This is one more sign that the information revolution is shaking the foundations of American life: as work shifts from fields in which many men have advantages over women (muscle strength, for example) to fields where the genders compete more equally, women are moving up and men are moving over.
The chances are that this trend will continue. Women are also earning college degrees at a rate higher than their male counterparts. Women now make up sixty percent of students enrolled in college, and for every two men that complete a college degree, three women will do the same. In an economy dominated by brains rather than brawn, those degrees will make a difference. The men who don’t earn degrees are likely to earn less, and in some cases, much less, than the women who do.
What this means is that our prevailing assumptions about gender oppression stand to be disrupted and realigned as women continue to progress in the world of work. This is undoubtedly a good thing. The industrial revolution began to liberate women from second-class status in the human family. Improvements in health care reduced maternal mortality, public schools opened the doors to secondary and tertiary education for women, and the rise of clerical and factory jobs gave women more opportunities to earn independent livings than in the pre-industrial past. Changes in the social status of women and in cultural mores moved slower than the economic and technological changes; nevertheless almost everywhere in the industrial world, the status of women in 1975 was significantly better than it had been in 1850.
The information revolution is going to be more of the same, and the 21st century is going to be the Century of Women—not just in the West, but around the world. It’s not just a handful of women at the top in government—Germany, the UK and the United States will probably all have women leaders after January 2017—but a mass movement of women into more and more positions of leadership and authority in politics, the economy and in civil society.
This is all good, but there will still be a problem: men. The status men used to have as breadwinners had the effect of providing a sense of purpose for men, and the need to socialize new generations of rowdy adolescent boys into stable, disciplined pillars of family life shaped many social institutions and economic policies. As women have become more fruitfully and effectively integrated into the economic world and into politics and civil society leadership, many men—especially working and middle class men—have been growing increasingly detached from both the labor force and family life. More and more young men are caught up in a cycle of video games, casual work and recreational drugs, and many young men are failing to make the transition from prolonged adolescence to mature manhood.
That’s a bad thing for young men and boys, for children generally, and for women who want stable families and productive partners. It’s also a sad waste of human life and creative energy. Most policymakers and leaders of educational and cultural institutions grew up in a world that needed to learn how to make room for women. While women continue to face many forms of discrimination and worse, it’s likely that in a post-blue model world our institutions are going to have to think harder about how schools, universities and other institutions can do a better job of engaging boys and young men—and at helping them through the difficult but vital transition from immature adolescents to mature and strong men who are ready and willing to bear up their half of the sky.
Just as the social revolutions inspired by the last 200 years allowed new ideals of femininity to emerge, so masculinity is due for a rethink and a redevelopment. We have inherited three ideals of masculinity: the brave soldier willing and able to fight at the risk of his life to protect his family and nation; the hard worker who puts the well being of his wife and children ahead of his own happiness as he toils at difficult, stressful, dirty and often dangerous work to provide for them; and the gentleman who combines the ‘masculine’ virtues of strength and leadership with the cultivation of character and the protection of the weak. Those ideal types of manhood all need to be re-imagined in the light of the gender revolution, but they all contain elements of permanent value that must not be lost. It’s the job of men today to think these things through and to find new ways to express the ideals that shape us, and then to build the educational and social institutions that can help new generations of boys to achieve maturity.