I think you'll find my response instructive, not just about career changing, but about why I deeply believe that "It's still a man's world" is an utter canard.
Here is my response to her:
Of course, any generalizations across an entire sex will have many exceptions. That disclaimer made, here is what I have observed over the 3,800 career coaching clients I've worked with over the past 25 years:
Many men today are scared. They feel it's women's era. For example, the unemployment rate is 25% higher for men than for women, and the media and colleges disproportionately present men as inferior to women. Those are just a couple of reasons why fewer men than women try to change careers. They feel they're lucky to have what they have, even if it doesn't feel great.
Here's an even more prevalent reason why fewer men than women try to change careers. Despite societal changes in expected gender roles, many men still feel--perhaps encouraged or manipulated by their wife--to remain the primary or sole breadwinner. So they believe that the risk of making a radical career change, especially to follow their (unlikely to be remunerative) passion, is too risky to their family's financial security. So they stay put. They usually rationalize, "I'll follow my passion when the kids go off to college, when I retire, etc."
But in our economy, which is so fragile and unlikely to turn around for the foreseeable future, and with talk about cutting Social Security for future recipients, many of these men may never afford to retire.
Except for the top few percent of earners (rich executives, doctors, etc) most men will have to work on that non-passion-inducing job until they drop, which is 5.2 years sooner than women--There are 4+ widows for every widower. For so many men within the middle and working class, Death of a Salesman, isn't a play, it's reality.
Marci then asked for more on male career changers. Here was my response:
1. Most men feel they must make their career change FAST. As mentioned, they feel the need to bring home the money. His wife may contribute little or no income but expects that paycheck to keep coming, unreduced. (Remember, women do 85% of the consumer spending.) If a man's attempt to make a career change forces him to cut back on how hard or how long he's working on his current job, he may fear that risks his losing his job or of a promotion and the additional money he feels pressure to get. Such men feel they can't afford to leave their job until they have another source of good income. So they work hard at making the career change for a month or two. But if, after a month or two, there aren't signs that their career change efforts will pay off, scared of the loss of income, they usually give up.
2. More men than women look down on networking. They view "networkers" as people who are trying to substitute a smile for substance, people who do favors for others only so they can get something bigger in return. Such men feel they're more worthy if they put their time into working and into developing their skills rather than in networking. That's one reason why, for example, more men listen to a self-help book on their iPod as they jog rather than, as more women do, jogging with a friend or networking target. My doggie Einstein and I walk around a three-mile lake every day. I notice that when men are in pairs walking/jogging, they're more likely than women to be talking about work. The women much more often talk about friends, clothes, vacation, etc.
On average, men spend less time networking than do women unless absolutely necessary, for example, when trying to change careers. Unfortunately, by then, it's usually too late: For a career changer's networking to pay off, those networking relationships usually need to be deepened over months if not years. That's another reason why male career changers have such a hard time of it.
3. There are tremendous barriers to men setting up men's networking groups. Perhaps the biggest impediment is that they'd be attacked as sexist and pressured, with media support, to shut down. But for reasons beyond the scope of this email, women are not only allowed to set up women's networking groups so without reprisal, they're encouraged to.
4. As I wrote, far fewer men than women allow themselves to even consider a "dream" career that would be low-paying, for example, writer, actor, musician, artist, etc. Following their dream is too unlikely to allow them to keep bringing home that big-enough paycheck consistently. So most men suppress their dreams until retirement, a retirement that is unlikely to ever come. What often happens is they die, leaving enough money to their wife that the wife can, if she hasn't already, pursue her low-pay dream of being a writer, artist, singer, etc.
Why do so few men assert what legitimately should be a right, equal to women, to pursue their low-income-producing dream? My hypothesis is that society's main mind-molders, the colleges and the media, have done such a good job of portraying men as inferior to women, that many men have come to feel inferior and that to justify their existence, men feel they must BE a paycheck, a beast of burden. So they stay on a job, any job. How many women, compared with men, would stay on a job as a pest remover, plumber, roofer, ice fisherman, or even a traveling salesperson who must fly around the country to God-forsaken places to try to sell some widget, or even move their family to places like Montgomery Alabama to get a promotion?
Truly, the most important difference between men and women career changers is that fewer men contemplate it and fewer still feel they can afford to take the often years it takes to make a radical career change. After their 20s, most guys tend to just keep their nose to the grindstone so they can support their family. Career changing usually inhibits their ability to do that.
Marci's response to that email encouraged me to write this explanation for why it's so difficult for men's groups to form. More important, I then go on to explain why it is, nor has been for a long time, "a man's world."
Many opponents of men's groups who nonetheless applaud women's groups, sweep away their double-standard with a cheeky, "All other groups are men's groups."
Marci, that has long been untrue. Nor is their assertion, "It's a man's world" as self-evident as feminists would have us believe.
For example, if it were a man's world, men would have the full range of career options: from stay-at-home non-income earner to actor/writer/artist to CEO. But while women have all those options, a man who chooses the former two is widely viewed as lazy. It would be socially unacceptable. So most men don't even allow themselves to consider such options. Women feel greater freedom to do so. Men are made to feel they must BE the paycheck. If it were a man's world, a man would have freedom to make important choices about their careers. They don't. Women do.
Other examples of how it's far from a man's world:
- Only men are allowed to serve in direct combat in the military, and 99% of the deaths in the
Iraqand wars have been men. Perhaps that's surprising in light of the media's unrelenting attempt to hide that fact with such phrases as "the men and women who are serving in Afghanistan Iraqand ." Afghanistan
- giving women preferences in Small Business Administration female-set-aside loans,
- women but not men allowed to have caucuses in corporations and government to facilitate women's advancement
- having many social-service programs just for women, almost none for men
- having "targets," virtual quotas, for women hired and promoted to al levels, but not for men
- having female-set-aside scholarships but not for men, even though there are many more female college students.
- women's networking and other organizations are encouraged while men's organizations are attacked as sexist with media-trumpeted demands they be disbanded.
- If a man impregnates a woman, even if she falsely claimed to be on birth control, he's stuck with 18 years of financial and temporal responsibility. Only she has the choice to abort.
- 93% of workplace deaths occur to men.
- And in a most painful example, when women have a deficit, for example, they're "underrepresented" in science, massive nationwide redress is undertaken, even though a recent two-decade study reported recently in the New York Times found that women in academic science fare as well or better than men. But if men have the deficit, even the ultimate deficit, they die 5.2 years younger, all we see are more pink ribbons or other women's health initiatives. There are seven federal agencies on women's health, none for men. 39 states have offices of Women's Health, none for men. Even more unfair, a PubMed review, indicates, as mentioned, that over the past 60 years(!), 95+% of gender-specific medical research has focused on women's health issues. Women claim this is because men don't take care of themselves as well: "If only they'd see the doctor." Well, would those women say that to minorities, who also "don't see the doctor" and smoke and drink at much higher rates than men?
- and perhaps most important to the next generation, a school system that has replaced boy-friendly competition with girl-centric collaboration, boy-friendly adventure stories, with soporific-to-boys tales of girl relationships, and history textbooks disproportionately extolling women from Sacajawea and Pocahontas to Simone DeBouvier and Sally Ride while sparing no pages to pound home the evils of white men from Hannibal to Hitler, Joe McCarthy to Timothy McVeigh, and perhaps worst of all, an insistence on ever more seatwork, which when active boys can't endure, are put on a Ritalin leash at a ratio of eight boys for every one girl.
I'm glad you said that my previous emails give you a lot to think about. I hope this one does too, Marci.