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Mark Craemer No Comments

For far too long women have been unfairly treated in the workplace. Whether it is lower pay or fewer advancement opportunities, senior leadership positions or corporate board seats, women have been held back from achieving their full potential. This is not only bad for women, but also for organizations that miss contributions from half the population.

Zero-sum thinkers will view the world as binary: either you win and I lose, or I win and you lose. A mutually beneficial solution is not even considered, and this is often the problem when we discuss gender equity.

In a recent announcement, philanthropist Melinda French Gates says she plans to spend $1 billion over the next two years to support women and families, and that she is committed to advocating for women and girls.

“For too long, a lack of money has forced organizations fighting for women’s rights into a defensive posture while the enemies of progress play offense,” said French Gates. “I want to help even the match.”

This is incredibly good news and long overdue in supporting the advancement of women around the world.

But many men are struggling to reach their full potential, and this is also important.

According to Hanna Rosin, author of The End of Men, for the first time in American history, in 2019 the balance of the workforce tipped toward women. In 1972, women earned just 42% of bachelor’s degrees and by 1982 women were as likely as men to graduate from college. During the next 20 years, women’s enrollment rose quickly while men’s did not. And by 2019 the gap reversed: women earned 59% of the bachelor’s degrees, while men earned just 49%.

Women are on the rise and that’s a very good thing. At the same time, men are losing ground and that needs to change.

Granted the diminishing number of manufacturing jobs has certainly contributed to this lack of opportunity for many men. The number of service jobs have outnumbered manufacturing jobs for years. According to Statista, as of 2021, nearly 80% of US jobs are now in some type of service.

Richard V. Reeves, author of the book Of Boys and Men, writes that we are now facing a labor shortage in two of the largest and most important service sectors of the economy—health and education—and we are trying to solve this crisis with only half the workforce.


Reeves recommends that in the same way women are seeking to make further progress into STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, we should find ways to encourage and assist men into opportunities in HEAL (health, education, administration and literacy) fields.

STEM careers currently account for 9% of all jobs in the US while HEAL careers account for 15%. Those in HEAL careers include nurses, lab technicians, dental hygienists, teachers, librarians, social workers, and childcare workers, are currently dominated by women. In theory, these jobs could become more attractive to men. Higher pay would certainly be important, but that’s not everything.

Making these careers more appealing and accessible to men would benefit both them and the people they serve. Reeves suggests that male teachers might provide role models for boys. Male nurses might make men more likely to take responsibility for their physical health. Male psychotherapists may make it easier for men to seek help and follow through with tending to their mental and emotional wellbeing.

This is not a zero-sum game. Women don’t have to lose their jobs at the expense of men getting theirs. It’s more about changing the stereotype that men are computer programmers, engineers, and CEOs, and women are nurses, teachers, and social workers.  

30 by 30

Reeves suggests we should set a 30 by 30 Goal: 30% female representation in STEM jobs and 30% male representation in HEAL jobs by 2030. This would certainly improve the lives of both men and women.

Doing this would take a concerted effort to shift how we currently think about the roles men and women play in the workplace. It would require the media, government officials, teachers, administrators, parents and communities to honor and support the work of every individual based on their skills and abilities rather than their gender.

Let’s stop thinking in terms of zero-sum when it comes to gender equity. Provide opportunity and support so that everyone can contribute to the best of their abilities, and we can improve our organizations and the overall economy.

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