Emotional Health

The Future is Female

It’s been a long hard year in gender wars. The #MeToo movement, TimesUp, and the groundswell of women entering politics underscore that times are changing. Or are they? With every step forward, there is always pushback. In fact, much of the anger and unrest coming from white men has been attributed to the fact that they feel their dominance in the social hierarchy slipping.

In the considerable number of movies and books about a dystopian future, only a few deal with the gender issue. In one of the most popular TV series, The Handmaid’s Tale, women are relegated to the role of childbearing slaves for men who are totally dominant.

In present day, the signs are pointing in a different direction. While there is no difference between the general intelligence of men and women, more women now attend and graduate from college. Women dominate in fields that require both skill and emotional intelligence, like medicine. And women, of course, live longer than men, a trend that shows no signs of diminishing.

Over the course of human history, as we progressed from hunter-gatherers to farmers and then builders, tradesmen, and manufacturers of goods, the roles of men and women have remained fairly stable. Women were tied to home through necessity-they were frequently pregnant, nursing, or raising children, and often all three. The economies of Western countries have changed significantly over the past 100 years, and the skills that are more unique to men, dependent on strength and aggression, are in less demand. Meanwhile, smaller families, aided by birth control, have freed women to use their skills in the workplace.

Looking forward, as machines and computers take over more and more tasks, the human workforce is becoming more and more reliant on skills that are more natural to women: emotional intelligence, communication, and social skills. Growth areas in jobs are found in health care, service, and hospitality industries. While computer and engineering skills will remain important, and boys still score higher on tests of math and other abilities that predict success in these fields, there is ample evidence that much of the difference can be explained by a “confidence gap.” As more and more attention is paid to fostering girls’ ambitions in these areas, the gap is expected to shrink.

At the same time, the need for physical and military strength has diminished. Brute force is condemned and often illegal, and war is seen as potentially apocalyptic. Some of the worldwide mania for competitive sports is probably due to the fact that this remains one of the few venues where men can test themselves against each other. The yelling, and shouting, not to mention the violence that sometimes breaks out at soccer matches and other events underscores the not-so-latent aggression of the fans.

Women’s skills will be important in the world we face. Increasing population, diminishing resources, and global tensions will best be negotiable by sensitive diplomacy. The legacy of World Wars I and II, and all of the subsequent wars hopefully taught us that hostility and aggression has many more consequences than benefits. Great Britain once went out and conquered large parts of the globe, mightily empowering and enriching her citizens. In the modern world, only strong-arm dictators endorse this strategy, and we are right to be afraid of the possible consequences for all.

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