By Frank Mulligan
Gender confusion seems to be the topic of the day right now, with a recent report that cites 30% of young women identifying their personality as part-male, part-female.
This has important implications for the workplace, especially for those who have yet to recognize the sea change in attitudes.
According to the survey, which was conducted with 800 female one-child policy students from universities around Shanghai, about twice as many as a previous survey, 10 years ago, see themselves as part-female, part-male in their attitudes.
These androgynous attitudes appear to derive from the intense competition that the current generation has to go through.
Careers & Jobs
Much of this originates in the workplace, or at least is caused by the competition to get a foot on the career ladder. The competition is experienced from the day the one-child policy kids enter kindergarden, but the final goal is a steady job. Schools cannot be criticized because the greatest pressure comes from the parents themselves, and their intense need for their child to succeed. This success is measured in ways that the parents define, not the child.
The report cites the girl’s feeling that they need to be more masculine in today’s society. By this they mean strong-willed, independent, determined, having leadership ability, risk taking and/or assertive. The Iron Rice Bowl that their parents enjoyed ended some time ago and they see themselves as needing to be independently successful. After graduation they only have themselves to blame.
To my mind, the fact that they are truly alone as only children exacerbates the loss of the Iron Rice Bowl, and the fact that there has been a long standing preference for boys seems to make it even worse. One-child policy kids carry the expectation of six people on their shoulders. This is a heavy burden for any generation, but it seems to be especially difficult for women.
However, the flip side of this is that many managers in China find that female employees can offer more than their male counterparts. The rationale I often hear for this is that women find it harder to succeed generally so they can be more aggressive and business savvy. They have the necessary empathy to ask what needs to be done and how it should be done, as opposed to just taking the work and doing it their way. They have been hardened by the fires of discrimination but it seems from this survey that they have also been toughened up by the system itself.
Many years ago I met and interacted with an older, tougher generation who felt that women and men were truly equal in all respects. Someone told them this was true and they accepted it unquestioningly. Unfortunately, in many cases this meant that they could out-smoke, out-spit and out-swear men, not that they focused on achievement or assertiveness. It wasn’t a pretty sight.
So while the figures in the survey may not bode well, there is a great improvement on what was seen before. The headline issue of the report is designed to catch your attention but it is also worth noting that the current generation of young women still hold to their primary goal; having children and a stable family.
Anyway, androgeny is just a fad. Ask anyone from the 1970’s.
Frank Mulligan, Talent Software