Where Have All The Young Men Gone?

I have just spent the past couple of days listening to the male corporate leaders of two different companies (in different sectors) telling me how they can really only recruit women. They say that young female candidates are more educated, more mature, and unquestionably better than men. That it would be affirmative action in reverse to recruit more men.

These men run some of the most gender balanced business units I have ever had the pleasure of working with. But their concern is not with keeping up the numbers of women in their workforces. Rather it is with how to maintain some semblance of gender balance when the vast majority of their current recruits are women. Surprisingly, one was running operations in supposedly macho Iberia (Spain and Portugal), the other in China.

The stories differ slightly on the cultural backgrounds that have caused this. In Portugal, some 70% of university graduates are now female, creating a skew in graduate recruiting. A whopping 80% of graduating doctors are female too, turning the medical profession into a female sector not necessarily reflected in the big pharmaceutical or medical devices company that try and serve them.

In China, the executive told me that the one-child policy in China had led to an accentuation of the preference for sons. These young boys have become princes, obese objects of the concentrated attention of entire families. That as a result they are often spoiled and difficult to employ. That girls were raised entirely differently, and were far more responsible and hard working...

For the gender consultant I am, used to trying to build awareness among business leaders why they may want more women in their businesses, this is mind-bending stuff. It is also entirely predictable, and likely to spread given the educational statistics around the world.

I'm impressed that these leaders are so ahead of the curve on gender balancing. Their peers may want to listen, and to prepare. For my part, I will start a division of my business focused on advising companies on how to attract, retain and develop... men.

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