The Ascendancy of Women
The signs are everywhere. In 2014 we saw the first woman CEO of GM, the first woman Chair of the Federal Reserve Bank. In Europe the leaders of the IMF and Germany are powerful women. In the last few years the majority of graduates of higher education in the U.S. and developed nations are women: roughly 60% of bachelors’ degrees, 55% of masters and professional degrees go to women and even at the PhD level women are 51-55%.
The title of this column was one of the chapters – and a mini-eBook- in “Entering the Shift Age”, written in 2012. In that chapter I wrote about the 50-year arc from 1975 to 2025, from the beginning of the Information Age to the zenith of the Shift Age. Viewing this arc as the trajectory of advancement of women in all aspects of society. We are now 80% through this arc. Think of all the change that has occurred in this time. An incredible amount when looked at through the longer lens of the history of civilization. As I wrote, in 2012:
“However, this change will be easily met and surpassed by the remaining 25 percent to 2025. The amount of change, the amount of flow to women, the amount of power that women will gain in almost every area of human endeavor in the next thirteen years will match and almost assuredly exceed the last thirty-seven years”
Recent media stories point to this continued trend. A couple of weeks ago in the European Union, there was a call to mandate an increase in the number of women on corporate boards from the existing 20% to 30%. The response was that this was a reasonable and long overdue step to take. In the U.S. we are looking at the clear possibility of the first woman to become President of the United States. There are a greater number of women in Congress and across all levels of government in this country than ever before.
In entertainment there has be a new developing trend this year at the box office. The top box office movies recently have all been targeted to women. Female casts and female audiences have dominated in recent weeks. At the same time a number of movies targeted to young men have tanked. In a recent article in the New York Times it was noted that “Women are driving ticket sales to a degree rarely, if ever, seen by Hollywood”. It will be interesting to see how all the male oriented, super hero, blow things up blockbusters coming this summer will fare. This could be the year when a fundamental paradigm shift occurs in the movie industry, from targeting young men to all women. Probably time for some more women heroine franchises similar to the “Hunger Games” one.
In a recent Book section of the New York Times, 19 of the authors of the top 30 fiction and non-fiction books on the best seller lists were women. A woman was just named editor of the Guardian. Everywhere one looks in the cultural landscape and sees women moving to parity, often slowly but the direction is clear.
There has been wide coverage about the gender gap in Silicon Valley, with the vast majority of entrepreneurs and employees still largely male. This is a regular story these days as Silicon Valley, the epicenter of technological change and disruption, is now backward relative to the gender equality present in the larger work place landscape. The current gender numbers in Silicon Valley are like the larger work place numbers of at least decade ago. This will change dramatically in the next few years.
Simply put, we are in the most transformative time for change of gender roles and the destruction of most of the restrictive ones, as least in the developed countries.
In a number of Q&A sessions or personal conversations after speeches that include presentation of this powerful trend I am often asked: “What is happening to young men?” The answer to this is an aggregation of social and cultural dynamics not all of which I can fully explain. Fortunately a friend of mine, Jack Myers, is writing a book “The Future of Men” that will both explain the current reality and the probable future of Men and Masculinity.
Fundamentally, this time, the Shift Age and the first third of the 21st century is the time when most, if not all the social, political, economic and cultural gender roles that have been in place since the Agricultural Age will come to an end.