On Thursday at work, I had an opportunity to catch up with some colleagues I haven't seen for a while. We are all members of special development programme with our company, and while we all started together only 9 months ago, most of us have moved onto other parts of the business and rarely see each other. There were give of us there; three English, one Greek and one French. We are generally considered to be 'highly successful individuals' in the world of business, which is why we are on the scheme. Not sure I would agree in my own case, but regardless of this, being in this position means we are often asked to be mentors or supporters to people who have not been so successful or who need guidance, in and out of our business.
We were all moaning over a missed opportunity which we were all rejected for, because of one thing we had in common. We were white and we were men. And we were angry that we could not be chosen for this mentorship opportunity because of this.
It sounds odd initially, doesn't it? Because the usual argument is that white men have a world of privilege in front of them. But I disagree with this and it would appear to me the trend is going in the opposite direction. Opportunities for the young working class man are dwindling, rapidly, and there is almost no support out there for them.
The argument from my female friends is that the tops of companies are dominated by men, usually white, and therefore white men have the "greasy pole" to help them rise to the top. This will be true to those people who are from public schools and Oxbridge Universities, who tend to look after their own. The elitism of this Government's cabinet which is dominated by an Old Etonian and Bullingdon club elite demonstrates this problem. But men from working class families don't get into this circle; these elite care as little about these men as they do about women or ethnic minorities. If anything, women get an advantage because the elite are wanting to be seen to be more "women friendly" and will favour weaker female candidates over men (the coalition's cabinet shuffle in 2014 was a good example).
Let's have a look at the facts. IN 2014, among 18-year-olds, 34% of women were allocated university places, compared with 26% of men, the widest ever gap. Overall, the gender gap equates to 32,000 missing men compared to the last two decades where there was no gap. In terms of prisons, men consist of 95% of inmates, and out of the British national prison population, 11% are black and 6% are Asian. For black Britons this is significantly higher than the 2.8% of the general population they represent. IN terms of pay, hourly earnings figures from the ONS reveal that in 2014, women working for more than 30 hours a week were actually paid 1.1% more than men in the 22 to 29 age bracket and, for the first time were also paid more in the 30 to 39 age bracket. So while the gender pay gap remains in general, in terms of the young it has not only closed, but also reversed. This trend was also seen in 2011. If this continues as is, women will not only close the gap but be earning more by 2020.
As a man, this is terrifying to me. Not only are men falling, significantly, behind women in terms of education, they are almost twenty times more likely to end up in prison. For young black men, those statistics are frightening. In terms of pay, this is great news right? Well, yes and no. Yes, it is great to see the gap closing and women being receiving equal pay for equal work. But in the overall trend of male decline, we are not going to reach parity of pay, we are going to have men falling behind in every measurement.
Some might say this is pay back for years of male dominance, that it is time for 'women to rule'. Maybe it is, but I don't think that is a healthy way of thinking or living in a society. The decline of young men is going to impact women as badly as it does men. Men have a tendency to try and reclaim that power through other forms, with the popularity of pick-up artists such as Julian Blanc demonstrating the lengths disaffected young men will go to in an attempt to regain this power they have lost. This is a reaction to the increased feminisation of our society, where 'being a man' is viewed as a bad thing and that female dominance is the way of the future. We now have young men who do not know how to be 'a man', to be a male in a modern society. The rules of being a gentleman, of being polite and standing up for yourself and others in society are being diluted.
So what is to be done? First, young men need outlets, education and mentorship to ensure they become part of an equal, modern society that rewards hard work regardless of gender. That means white men need the same support mechanisms in companies that have women networks, support mechanisms for black, disabled people or lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual networks.
By excluding and ignoring young men, we are damaging our society as a whole. We should be moving towards a more equal society and not obsessed with the past. It is about time we move past gender and begin to look at people for who they are. Until women are willing to do this as equally as men should, there will always be an imbalance which damages our society.