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Where have all the men gone…?

December 15, 2013

I was about an hour into my shift yesterday volunteering with a local environmental organization that was selling organic Christmas trees when I realized that of the 25 volunteers assisting, only three of us were men. Middle-aged men actually. The rest were all young women who were under thirty. Almost all of them were university students. 

A quick google search reveals that almost 90% of volunteers these days are women. (Women have always been the majority of volunteers, but the number has risen from 60 to 90%.)

At a meeting I was at earlier in the week looking at addiction services in the province, I had the revelation half-way through that I was the only guy there.  

70% of all new under-grads entering university are now female. In liberal arts programs it is more than 80%.

There are now more women employed in North America than men.

In Nova Scotia about 90% of non-profits, and government workers are now comprised of women. In the non-profit and government job interviews I have gone to since moving to Halifax, I have only encountered one male interviewer.

I hadn’t been entirely sure why that was, until it dawned on me when I was at a United Way meeting on Friday (there was me and other man at this meeting).

In an information age, in an increasingly process-oriented age, women are generally better with verbal exchanges, and they are generally better with process.

Sure, this is a generalization – but the more I thought about it, the more it began to make sense.

So much of the new emerging culture are about verbal skills, record keeping, writing skills, and articulating process.

Young women are often better at these skills than boys are early on – at least my daughter and her female cohorts were – and so they progressed more quickly through school than their male peers do. They are more apt to follow rules, like positive feedback and performance reviews, and so are much more apt to follow classroom instructions (which only increases the rewards). Boys care less about such things and can fall behind their female cohorts. (Add to this that 90% of primary teachers are now women and the problem is further componded.)

Living here in Halifax, between Dalhousie and Saint Mary’s, it often seems that as I talk to young university men, they seem somewhat lost as to how to interact in the new cultural milieu. Some seem to want to revert to baser male attitudes – who want to put women in their place. They retreat into male-only fraternities, or male-dominated career choices. But the majority, it seems to me, just don’t know what to do – or how to see themselves in a culture/economy that is rapidly becoming female oriented.

Yes, women still make less money then men, on average. Women are still barred from the upper-eshelons of corporate and political power structures. But to focus on that is only to look at the surface of the ocean. There is a sea-change happening below the surface and it is only a matter of time before the surface reflects more accurately what has been going on beneath over the past decade. It is not unresonable to predict that women’s incomes will start to surpass men within a decade.

The pendulum is swinging – and women are going to be finally getting what’s theirs.

But it’s going to come with a high price. What happens to men who feel – rightly or wrongly – that they are being excluded from being productive cogs in the economy? 

What happens to leagues of young men who are uneducated, unemployed?

What historically happens to societies where there are too many young men sitting around with little to do, little to care about (economically speaking), excluded from a new economy that rewards skills women have in spades, and men have in less quantities?

Such men tend to become dangerous men. Reactionary men. Violent men.

Increasingly, social, political, and gender observers – both men and women – are raising the alarm of what might happen if we continue to ignore the fact that men are participating less and less in the new economy.

We should never go back to the days when women “knew their place”, kept themselves to secretarial roles, could only be domestic housewives, and such nonsense.

And it will be natural in the short-term to over-compensate for past wrongs that existed for centuries. But that will be a dangerous and explosive compensation.

We need to quickly find a solution to this emerging social reality. 

Before we reach some dangerous tipping point that will have real violent consequences. 


Men have never been the majority of volunteers, nor have they been overly involved in solving community issues, but their numbers have never been this low.


They are tuning out.  

One Comment leave one →
  1. robert yates permalink
    December 17, 2013 6:02 pm

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