The May 30 edition of The Economist leads with a provocative, informative and instructive article, heralding “social change” the like of which the world has not seen since decolonization and desegregation during the 1960s.
The change in this case refers to the way women are poised to dominate the ranks of traditional professions, including law, dentistry, accounting, and pharmacy; so much so that one can fairly analogize the representation of women and men on organizational charts in these professions (in the United States) to that of Blacks and Whites on similar charts in the NBA and NFL. And it’s only a matter of time before women and Blacks dominate the top positions, respectively, as well.
With all due respect to The Economist, however, the media have been replete in recent years with stories about young women replacing middle-aged (mostly White) men in professional workplaces across the globe. Less covered but no less transformative, though, is the way technology is making middle-aged men in blue-collar jobs not only redundant but also unemployable.
I already knew
This unfolding reversal of gender roles was clear for any college student during the 1980s to see. Not least because, even though boys always had the most to say in all of my classes, girls always ended up with the best grades.
But, unlike many of my male contemporaries, I wholly embraced female empowerment. In fact, I was quite unabashed in championing it as soon as I had a public platform to do so.
Now, lest you begin feeling sorry for these endangered species, bear in mind that middle-aged men can avail themselves of many continuing education and/or retraining opportunities that could lead to gainful employment. Only willful ignorance or foolish pride prevents them from doing so.
Moreover, here is the dispassionate but correct way The Economist distilled the transformative challenge this reversal of gender roles presents:
“Women have learned that they can be surgeons and physicists without losing their femininity. Men need to understand that traditional manual jobs are not coming back, and that they can be nurses or hairdressers [or stay-at-home dads/househusbands] without losing their masculinity.”
I hope they man up and rise to the occasion. But here’s to the stronger sex. To say, “You’ve come a long way, baby,” now has real meaning.
Anthony L. Hall is a Bahamian native with an international law practice in Washington, D.C. Read his columns and daily weblog at www.theipinionsjournal.com.