Women and the Mancession

What Women Really Think
May 13 2009 12:14 PM

Women and the Mancession

"The World of Womenomics has arrived," announce Claire Shipman and Katy Kay in a breathless piece over at the Huffington Post . Shipman and Kay insist that as the recession tips the gender composition of the workforce in favor of women, companies will be forced to accommodate womanly demands. What follows is some extremely promiscuous usage of the first-person plural:

"Could it be that it's okay-finally-to state the obvious? We're not men. We not only don't work the same way-we don't want the same things or relish the climb up the corporate ladder with such testosterone-driven zeal."

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Really? Must an article on gender and the recession immediately go all Mars/Venus on the subject? Since the start of the credit crisis we've seen this kind of pseudo-feminist drivel all over the place. The crash itself was supposedly "testosterone-driven." Women, on the other hand, "might have been able to temper the excesses that led to the current financial crisis." Women could have prevented the whole thing, apparently, by playing prudent schoolmarm to their cowboy colleagues. It's not a particularly inspired vision of the future of women in business.

I don't question the descriptive aspects of most of these pieces; women may well be more willing to trade salary for time, as Shipman and Kay claim, and they may also be more risk-averse in the boardroom. But assuming that such claims accurately track the state of the world, are we really so thrilled that they do? One reason recent job losses skew so heavily male is that women are concentrated in less volatile sectors, such as government, education, and health care. A general pattern of risk avoidance among half the population doesn't seem worth celebrating.

Kerry Howley's work has appeared in the Paris Review, Bookforum, and the New York Times Magazine. She is currently finishing a book about consensual violence, ecstatic experience, and the body.