Monday, February 13, 2012

You've come a long way, baby (but not very)

Kids were discussing Schumpeter's "Womenomics", the key question being whether women have to adopt male traits in order to successfully compete in today's workplace, or can they rely on their own 'feminine' traits without having to grow a pair of ba**s in order to get ahead at work?

In localizing the question, the kids had to look at successful women in S'pore and decide if they were successful because they were essentially 'one of the guys', or if they were successful and could still look and behave like women in their workplaces.

I admit it was a very shallow pool of candidates to scrutinize as case studies, but eventually we concluded that it was still essentially a man's world out there. Man-traits still rule the corporate world in S'pore. From our ridiculously small sample of successful women, we noted common traits such as hyper-competitiveness, bull-headedness, and a high propensity for risk-taking; all of which Schumpeter identifies as characteristics of men in the workplace. To be fair, S'pore men aren't really known to be risk-taking either, so there you are!

We also examined S'porean attitudes towards women in leadership roles. The most telling case study was in comparing two prominent candidates in the recent General Elections: Nicole and TPL. Why they are the basis of a good case study is because they stood directly opposite each other in the elections. Voting for one meant the ouster of the other...

And now I deviate from class discussion to extrapolate implications on my own:

Disregarding the actual outcome of the election -- which was subject to its own quirks -- in terms of the popular vote, it can almost be undisputed who was the preferred candidate. But if you look at how they presented themselves in public, one was clearly more masculine in comparison to the other. It seems to the electorate that between the two, the more Alpha-male one (the one who emphatically told us what to do) easily gathered our support, while we excoriated the other for being such a woman: in behaviour, demeanor, and personal taste.

To test our gender bias, swap the candidates and their parties. See what I mean? It wouldn't matter which party either stood for. If "Bluto" stood with the incumbents, we would still have given her our resounding support. If "Olive" stood for oppo, she would still have been flayed alive, thus prompting instant replacement with someone exuding more testosterone. Oppo is very sensitive to what's popular.

By this thought experiment, our popular choice appears not to be as politically driven as it is prejudiced by gender. Schumpeter would not be surprised.

And by now a whole bunch of people is going to tell me how in so many ways my conclusion is wrong. 3... 2... 1... Go!

Edit 01:
One thing I'm definitely wrong about is assuming that Schumpeter was the author of the article. The name "Schumpeter" refers to a column in The Economist written by anonymous contributors. So, author, unstated.

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