Don Rogers: Bring on the matriarchy
During a breakfast meeting at Spindleshanks recruiting candidates for the 2020 North Lake Tahoe-Truckee Leadership Program, I counted.
Thirty people, only five of us men.
I think this is the future: Women rising over the next 50 years to dominate leadership across society. At long last.
Of course, this observation is only anecdotal. The trend lines and statistics are not nearly so clear as my assertion. The prevailing breeze has not shifted decisively, at least not yet. The vane creaks this way, then that, spins, stops, quivers. But something’s in the air.
Trends in college education since the 1980s strike me as a leading indicator, that first telltale breath of change. More women than men are going to college, graduating from college and consequently have more access to what you can learn from college. There are budding advantages here in critical thinking, wisdom and the kind of creativity a churning, burning world demands.
A college education suggests benefits in the workplace, including more opportunity for supervision, skilled positions, starting tomorrow’s businesses.
This should speed along closing the pay equity gap, though there remain strong headwinds: motherhood; lower compensation in the “high touch” careers women tend to pursue, compared to “high tech” and “high danger” jobs where they’ve made less ground; the millennias of tradition that held women from full citizenship until a finger snap ago.
The university environment aptly demonstrates where we are today. More women are going to and graduating from college than men, sure. But men still dominate the tenured faculties at America’s universities, at nearly two-thirds the total.
In my business, news media, editors and executives such as publishers still skew heavily male — far, far more male than the greater numbers of women than men enrolled in journalism and similar programs in college suggest should be the case.
Yes, this is discouraging and not only in terms of moral fairness. As a species we won’t reach our best holding half of us back from their potential. And oh yeah, we know women’s minds have at least the capacity of men’s.
I counted a couple of months ago in a conference room at the Reno Museum of Art during a lead team meeting of our parent company, Swift Communications. Six men and six women. That wasn’t always so.
Women begin showing up on the Nevada County Board of Supervisors in the 1980s, and have served in a steady sprinkling ever since, sometimes filling three of the five available seats at a time. The county’s chief executive today is female, as is our first female sheriff, duly elected. Both firsts.
The county where I came from in Colorado, once ranchland conservative and male dominated, elected an all-women county board before I left. A woman won the popular vote for president in 2016, though the Electoral College forestalled this eventuality for now.
More counting, in another indicator I consider leading: Today, more women than men read novels, which I believe to be the highest art form. The novel at peak coalesces the best storytelling, philosophy and language, as well as logical and emotional and spiritual expression. Here is the most penetrating exploration of humanity and our greatest questions in a way no symphony, no painting, no ballet or film can express. Here is the very bastion of polymaths. OK, yes, I did drink the Kool-Aid here, the whole jug. Me, imagine, still an ardent fan of Louis L’amour westerns.
Women read more nonfiction than men, too. But fewer women are published than men, fewer of their bylines make it in news media reports, and they get less ink than men.
All that and more is true concerning women still having the lesser share. But the truth is their numbers and power are growing, almost everywhere. The pace feels slow, but it is happening and it is going to continue. A puff, a gust, eventually a prevailing fresh breeze. I know it’s coming. It’s practically here.
This is more obvious in places like the Squaw Valley Writers Conference, where the quality of the work decides who gets in, and who gets in tends to be women. I mention this because the writers are the thought leaders of society. Plato, Homer, Confucius, the anonymous ones who wrote the Bible. More recently, Marx, Freud, Tolstoy, Morrison, Atwood.
Thought at least broadly inspires action, and the most effective action seems to begin in local communities, at the grassroots. So here, at Spindleshanks, sucking down coffee, I was excited. The Leadership Program, which began in 2004, and others like it across the country are a part of the groundswell.
Thing is, this isn’t a women’s group. It’s a community leadership development program that’s hardly exclusive. It just so happens that many — most in the graduate lineups in recent years I’ve seen — are women. Women are showing more interest, getting more involved, and more of them are setting themselves up for community leadership.
What I saw at Spindleshanks that morning only added to what I already thought I’ve been seeing.
Someday, the women shall lead us. I’m counting on it.
Don Rogers is the publisher of the Sierra Sun and The Union, based in Grass Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4299.
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