Back in the 1960s, one of R&B superstar James Brown's biggest hits was a song titled "It's a Man's World." If he were alive today, he would be singing a different tune -- probably the old Calypso song "Man Smart, Woman Smarter."
A recent article on Yahoo! points out what many of us already suspect: While the U.S. employment rate is hovering around 9 percent of the total population, a significant majority of those unemployed are male.
Over the past couple of decades, the U.S. job market has turned increasingly pink-collar. In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say that a "perfect storm" of developments is leading to an all-out war on traditional male employment.
Fifty years ago, U.S. industry was dominated by manufacturing, agriculture and service jobs requiring physical strength -- such as loading trucks or ships. Because men in general have greater physical strength than women, those jobs tended to be dominated by men. Add to that the social mores of the time, which made men the "head of household," and you see a workforce circa 1960 that was overwhelmingly male (except, as recent TV shows remind us, for such traditionally female vocations as secretary, airline flight attendant, and Playboy bunny).
There were always exceptions, of course. During World War II, when many -- if not most -- American male workers were in uniform, "Rosie the Riveter" took to the factory and didn't do such a bad job. But when Johnny came marching home again after the war, Rosie voluntarily handed over her rivet gun, left the factory with no severance pay, went back home and raised the Baby Boom generation. (She didn't realize then, of course, how they would turn out; had she known, she probably would have kept her hands on that rivet gun.)
Today, most American jobs no longer require physical strength, federal and state laws prohibit sex discrimination in employment, and the social mores that prevented women from competing with men disappeared long ago. Manufacturing jobs have over time been replaced by service-industry jobs that require mental flexibility, multitasking skills and other qualities where women can compete effectively with men, if not surpass them. (I'm personally of the opinion that only women can multitask; men have to take things one at a time.) These jobs also frequently require social, interpersonal and other "soft" skills at which women have traditionally excelled.
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