The Man-Recession?

Two charts courtesy of Carpe Diem show the largely male nature of the recession to date.



I found this particularly interesting, partly because it’s obvious, but also as part of the ongoing male-female debate in the workplace.

The argument is also somewhat specious other than for the debate over immigration, outsourcing, and free trade: that men are increasingly pushed into higher-risk jobs at lower wages.

Here are some of the comments:

  1. “The ‘men earn more myth’ has been destroyed by more studies than I can count. When wages are adjusted to reflect voluntary withdrawal from the workforce, women make as much or more than men.” – This is true.
  2. “Women have put themselves in positions of opportunity and Blue Collar guys are competing with third world labor. Look in the want adds for States like CA, TX, AR. And see how many jobs guys do that requires Bi-Lingual Applicants.” – This is true. It is better-stated that women do not take high-risk or physical jobs. Women have in general lower risk tolerance. This also accounts for some of the lifespan differences between men and women. The adrenaline/hypertension and central body fat bias against men accounts for the rest, I believe.
  3. “The male/ female wage disparity is non existent when you adjust for years experience in the workforce and therefore stage in one’s career. Women on average withdraw for more years to have and raise children and therefore on average have less work experience. If employers could really get away with hiring women for less per unit of output, why would any firm hire men? Any firm that hired women would instantly have a competitive advantage. We would see something like in Malaysia where the minimum wage is higher for men and the result is factories dominated by women workers. We don’t see that here.” – This is true. I know people who have tried intentionally gender-biasing divisions of companies in favor of women: in warehouse order-picking labor, quality improved but the labor cost did not.
  4. “In reality, it completely has to do with the types of industries that have been effected by the recession. The two ares hit the hardest have been manufacturing and construction, both of which are dominated by something like 80% men. The two areas that have still been growing are education and healthcare, which are dominated by women. Women on average have just been luckier this time around with regards to the types of industries that are declining.” – Again, this is true.

Most of the jobs being lost right now are in construction and manufacturing, which are male-dominated professions. However, it should be noted (as someone does on the site) that unemployment figures include those noticed of future unemployment but still receiving compensation. The only question I have is why this is so uncommonly mentioned in the media, while the falsehoods are so prevalent. Of course I know the answer, but that doesn’t make it any less irritating.

My experience in life is the following:

  1. There is no material productive difference between men and women.
  2. Women are less likely to be loyal to groups than men, and men are more likely to be loyal (a function of perceived risk tolerance) and show greater transportability in their relationships. Men create more friction during relationship development, but those relationships are more concrete once developed.
  3. Women are superior at interpersonal, detailed, and temporal tasks than men. Men are superior at abstract, inter-temporal tasks than women. This is due partly to native talents: commonly memory and empathy are better developed in exceptional women, while temporal-spatial reasoning and abstraction are commonly better developed in exceptional men. Whether it’s testosterone or estrogen that affects the nature of our memories is not something we’re certain about, although it appears to be testosterone that makes us spatially-biased instead of empathetically-biased. One thing is certain: in testing, men and women show similar abilities but dissimilar preferences.
  4. Because of these traits, men and women, though equally productive (within tiers), tend to excel in whatever their skill or preference dictates. Which is natural. Otherwise, short guys like me would be better basketball players … and we aren’t.
  5. When women opt to abandon child-rearing, there is no difference in performance between men and women outside of these biases. Of course, the conclusion that men should opt for child-rearing is cute but ridiculous.

I see nothing in the data that counters these observations. And frankly, it pisses me off quite a bit when people try to imply the opposite. It’s just some kind of “-ism” going on there: biased or reverse-biased.

To counter one comment that states that women complain more than men do, I can absolutely state that this isn’t true in any of the companies I have run. It’s just that men and women complain differently about different things, and it’s entirely probable that men’s complaints are more destructive. It is possible, though I am not sure about this, that women at the lower end of the spectrum transport complaints more easily, but, again, I have not noticed that to be true. Men and women complain pretty equally and tolerate fairly equally. I am sure this varies from industry to industry but I haven’t seen any variation in the industries I’ve been in.

I can’t tell you what I wouldn’t give to be as empathic as most women are. I don’t care if they take three days to figure out what their intuition tells them so they can state it rationally. I am entirely jealous of their ability during an interview to make accurate judgments about people. I can tell you after an hour almost exactly how someone would think, but I have no idea how they would feel. Feeling is a better indicator of “fit” in a workplace, because it is how others will judge an individual, and in our business, and most others, working together is half of everything.

Conversely, I am frequently told that people would really like to be able to see the world as I do. (I say that they would not. Be happy that there are people like me to talk to, but don’t wish you could be one – it’s actually really hard for must of us.) We all think the grass is greener somewhere other than where we sit.

I wish I could counsel men and women against one thing we learn in school: to answer quickly. Women should take the time to ponder the meanings of their empathic intuitions, and men should ponder their inter-temporal modeling, before answering. This is one of those cultural traits we have made into a tremendous training problem in society. A good Catholic school teaches the opposite in my experience. They teach people the error of mental hubris, which is the central teaching of the Greeks.

It is by working together with our individual excellences that we make life most wonderful, not by trying to be the same as one another. Equality – the very idea of it – is the root of all human conflict. Despite our differences, we should seek to decrease the material differences by which we enjoy our short, precious, and mostly ignorant lives.

I am not yet convinced that there is a lot of value in cultural diversity (at least in terms of social order), because cultural properties tend to be economic in nature, and economic performance can be constantly improved toward a universal for all humans within a range of abilities (i.e. there is an optimum for all humans). But I am entirely convinced of the value of individual diversity; the world is a complex place, despite it’s simple rules, and, in order to work together, we need all the computation going on at all the possible frequencies that we can get. And it is in this diversity of computation that we are all valuable to each other – not in our sameness, and certainly not in our intellectual comfort, which favors, in all of us, the statically comprehensible and therefore destructive over the destructive and constantly changing – that forces us to consistently learn, and therefore improve the material quality of our lives and the universe by transforming it, in all its kaleidic complexity, to suit our purposes.

It’s beautiful.



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