There is an identity evolution going on around the world. Economic necessity has spurred women to be more self-sufficient and confident both at work and at home. This reality has put a dent in male dominance. However, the result is not the "End of Men" as many writers would have you believe. As the definition of "what it means to be a woman" changes, so does the definition of "what it means to be a man."
The problem is the lack of support for this evolution.
The truth is that many women are proving to be good at traditionally "male" tasks, such as running businesses, fixing gadgets and even drinking. Men are also proving to be good at traditionally female tasks, such as listening, caretaking, doing household tasks well and managing family relationships.
Women are not becoming less feminine; they are learning to speak up, take charge and more easily make decisions while still possessing more "feminine" qualities at varying degrees. Men are not becoming wimps; they have been given the freedom to express their "softer" emotions, find joy in less "manly" tasks, and choose careers based on meaning and fulfillment instead of taking a path based solely on money.
We are all evolving. It's the labels and judgments we place on each other that are not evolving.
I don't think there is a role-reversal going on. I think there is a blending of roles and possibly the wonderful disintegration of roles that limit who we are as we try to succeed and be happy on this planet.
Whenever I write about the new relationship dynamics where women are breadwinners and men offer more emotional support than financial assistance, I get a slew of emails telling me I am naïve. Women tell me few men tolerate female dominance in any fashion. Men scream that women marry for the alimony.
I question whether we are doomed to play out this scenario -- we have free will. I believe the more educated and experienced we are, the more we can change this story.
How do you judge what is right for women and men? Do you define masculine and feminine in conventional or contemporary terms? Are you open to a new conversation?
The leadership conversations don't help either. There is talk that our postindustrial, knowledge-based economy is more congenial to women with their strengths in social intelligence and collaboration. These are learned behaviors that many men display as well. We should focus more on defining the strengths of leaders in today's global marketplace instead of focusing on gender. I believe this focus will open doors for both women and men.
The idea that men and boys are at risk because of the rise of women only harms our social evolution. We need women to keep evolving. Poverty rates for women compared to men and the numbers of women in leadership roles are still dismal. We need to keep celebrating the rise of women in business, politics and family life around the world.
And we need to publicly acknowledge, respect and honor men who don't push to be a hard-driving professional or CEO if they don't want to and follow their passion instead, who seek an emotional bond with those close to them, who don't let their egos and sex life get bruised if their partners make more money than they do, who honor skills of listening and empathy as well as focus and accomplishment.
It is possible that the "child-rearing brain" creates a conflict with what I suggest. It is also possible that we, as humans with self-awareness and free will, have the ability to choose how we judge others and react to their choices.
The evolution is happening anyway. Will you support it or resist it? What will you tell your children? It's up to us to accelerate or delay the identity evolution of men and women.
Marcia Reynolds, PsyD is a leadership trainer and executive coach who writes for smart, strong goal-driven women. Her book, Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction, is full of exercises and real stories designed to help you face your challenges and realize your potential in this crazy, busy world.