We have recently seen a minor brouhaha over the participation of women in the workplace: more specifically, the participation of women in leadership roles in commerce and business. The NZ Stock Exchange is deeply concerned to the point where it is going to require listed companies to disclose the number of women in senior management roles and their salary differential with males, and the number of women who serve on the respective Boards of Directors.
Yada, yada, yada. We predict nothing much will change, but the constant will be a bout of collective handwringing every twelve months or so, coupled with a bit of a media beat-up. The feminist meme is also unchanged: women are victims of discrimination in the workplace; leadership of companies is controlled by a sexist old-boys'-network; women are repressed due to systematic pay discrimination and they lose interest in their careers. It's wrong. It's evil. It's unjust.
New Zealand is not alone.
Kay S. Hymowitz, has penned a piece in City Journal entitled The Plight of the Alpha Female in which she discloses a similar phenomenon in the United States. She begins by raising the possibility that men are disappearing from society:
Are we witnessing “the end of men”? You can see why the idea—also the title of a new book by journalist Hanna Rosin—makes sense. Women obtain the majority of college and graduate-school degrees. In their twenties, if they don’t have children, they outearn their male peers. They’re the primary wage earners in a rapidly growing percentage of households. American women even won more Olympic medals than their male compatriots did this summer.What's the beef, then? It turns out the pyramid's top is much, much lower for women.
But for all of women’s success, there’s one area in which the rumor of male demise has been greatly exaggerated. At the top of every industry, men remain in charge. Finance, law, medicine, business, government, media, academia—you’ll have a tough time finding enough alpha-level women in any of these fields to fill a Davos conference room.What's the problem? Institutional discrimination, of course. Not so. There's an unpalatable truth lurking in the dark places of the world:
But “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” a recent, widely discussed Atlantic cover story, should help redirect the conversation to the obvious: it’s the kids. The author, Princeton professor Anne-Marie Slaughter, described leaving “work I loved”—being the director of policy planning at the State Department, and the first female one, at that—to spend more time with her troubled teenage son. She had discovered, you see, that running a government agency means that you don’t see your kids much.We are well aware that in the genderless world of utopian rights activists and socialistic central planners children, homes, and family are of minor importance. If children are required to perpetuate the race, they can be raised in nurseries or state funded institutions of care just as well, if not better, in the Brave New World. The idea that women might actually choose to lay aside careers for the sake of children is a concept hard to grasp by the materialist utopians that dominate the West's Commentariat. The idea that the State and its central planning institutions cannot replicate parenting and motherhood in a new improved model is nothing more than primitive ignorance. The idea that women might prefer to concentrate their energies upon children rather than their careers is not just a tragedy of ignorance, it is tantamount to treachery.
Slaughter stumbled onto a truth that many are reluctant to admit: women are less inclined than men to think that power and status are worth the sacrifice of a close relationship with their children. Academics and policymakers in what’s called the “work/family” field believe that things don’t have to be this way. But nothing in the array of work/family policy prescriptions—family leave, child care, antidiscrimination lawsuits, flextime, and getting men to cut their work hours—will lead women to infiltrate the occupational 1 percent. They simply don’t want to. (Emphasis, ours.)
In every field, in fact, women who make it to the very top are far more likely to be childless than the average woman. In The New CEOs, Richard Zweigenhaft and G. William Domhoff looked at 28 female current or former chief executives of Fortune 500 companies and found that only 16 had children, a far smaller fraction than the eight out of ten women in the general population who have kids. Mason and her daughter, Eve Mason Ekman, report a similar imbalance in the sciences in their book Mothers on the Fast Track. Among tenured academic scientists—the sort who may go on to make big discoveries and win big prizes—72 percent of the men are married with kids; the same is true of only half of the women. Cornell professors Stephen Ceci and Wendy Williams examined 20 years of data about female scientists and concluded that, if childless, they were “paid, promoted, and rewarded equivalently to their male peers. . . . Children completely change the landscape for women.”Well, that will have to change. Society will need to provide perpetual childcare centres. In New Zealand, we call them Early Childhood Education centres. Once a child turns five, we call these centres, schools. That's how the social planners think of these things. The goal is to level the playing field for women, so that they don't have to face the grind of work and the grind of child care. They can do the grind of work, and someone else will look after their children. At least that's the idea. But it just does not meet reality.
Aspiring mistresses of the universe face long work hours, which can make it tough to see the kids. Sylvia Anne Hewlett, founder of the nonprofit Center for Talent Innovation, reports that 45 percent of “managerial workers” in large corporations have “extreme jobs,” putting in an average of 73 hours a week. Work/family theorists often blame this grueling workweek on what University of California law professor Joan Williams calls a “macho” workplace ethos that forces men into “the straightjacket of conventional masculinity.” The long week, she argues, represents “systemic discrimination” against women, who still find themselves expected to be in charge of the children.We are not of the opinion that women should not be in the work force. Nor do we hold to the view that women should exclusively raise children and men should bring home the bacon. We do, however, have the view that nurturing and raising children is the most important responsibility of all entrusted to us by God. He has created us so that husbands instinctively want to provide shelter, food, protection, and freedom from want and wives instinctively focus upon nurture of children. The man's instinctual bias drives him to work harder and with greater ambition than before having children. The wife's instinctual bias lessens the importance of her career, orientating her to other, higher work--the care and nurture of her children.
That analysis may make sense in a gender studies class, but anyone running a business knows the real reason for today’s voracious workplace: a global economy, indifferent to sexual identity, that has intensified competition in just about every industry. Globalization has made continental and international travel a necessary part of business, which tends to displease mothers of young children. And having clients and colleagues in scattered time zones often means a never-ending workday. Consider a 2005 Fast Company profile of Irene Tse, at the time 34 and working 80 hours a week as head of the government-bond-trading desk at Goldman Sachs. She typically got up two or three times a night to check on global market activity. Eventually, she said, “your body clock just wakes up when London opens.”
These are generalizations, and the reality varies significantly across individuals--but in terms of a statistical distribution, they are generally true. No amount of social re-engineering is going to change that. No amount of feminist ideology or propaganda will alter the generalization's aptness.
The NZ Stock Exchange can spend a lot of time and effort attempting to create its own version of the Brave New World amongst listed companies. We expect it will not be successful. We would be glad to see that this was the case. Underneath is a far more precious and important reality: women generally will put the care and nurture of their children ahead of their careers. And that's a very, very good thing.