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The Ripple Effect of What We Teach Men

By Sallie Krawcheck

“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” — Vladimir Lenin

“Historians in 2050 will be writing their entire PhD thesis on specific days of 2020. ‘I specialize in American history of Oct 1, 2020, crossing over a bit into Oct 2, 2020.’” — tweet from Vikas Reddy

“Omg.” — Me while compulsively scrolling all week, mouth agape

If this were a movie, nobody would believe it. Not only what is happening, but how fast events in the news feel like they are moving.

So, one more quote:

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” — Ferris Bueller

In that spirit, let’s pause for a moment and look at where we have found ourselves.

Yes, in a pandemic. And a recession. With our country divided, in so many ways and on so many levels.

I worry for my children. Because of all of that. But I also worry at a deeper level.

Any number of these What the Elle newsletters have addressed the expectations that our society imposes on our girls and women: Be perfect mothers. Be great at work. Make it look effortless. Nobody likes an angry woman, so hold that in. Ask for the raise (“You go, girl”), but don’t be too aggressive (“Nobody likes an aggressive woman, either. Jeez, they’re almost as bad as an angry woman.”)

On and on and on.

But guess who also has it really tough, in terms of our societal expectations?

Men.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of this big truth during my scrolling: how men are expected to be strong, and stoic, and certain, and brave, and risk tolerant, and manly.

I mean, how did we get to the point that wearing a mask — to keep oneself and others healthy and safe in the midst of a once-in-a-century pandemic — has become a sign of weakness to some people? How has the cost of being seen as strong and manly gotten so high that some people risk their own and others’ lives to maintain that self-image?

How did masculinity become so fragile for some people?

I know, I know, it’s not a news flash. This expectation of men didn’t just happen, and its cost can be high: How many wars have been fought because a male leader’s ego (ie, his perceived masculinity) felt threatened? How many company-ruining business decisions have been made because people didn’t want to back off a poorly chosen path because they might appear weak?

Of course, the pandemic was an out-of-the-blue shock. Nobody’s fault. One of those things.

Which, frankly, has been handled better in those countries run by women. Where perhaps … not for sure, but perhaps … they haven’t felt the pressure of these heightened expectations that some of their male counterparts may have.

At the same time, all of us have paid the price of this pressure, and then some: Women have been harder hit by this downturn in the US. Just last week, drowned out by all of the drama, we learned that:

  • 865,000 women dropped out of the workforce, four times more than the 216,000 men who did. (!)

  • The unemployment rate for women stands at 7.7%, 11% for Black and Latinx women, and 16.3% for women with disabilities, while it is 6.5% for white men.

This while:

And an article on Bloomberg.com noted that this recession may wipe out decades of economic progress for women.

Let’s read that again, to make sure it sinks in: This recession may wipe out decades of economic progress for women.

I am searching for an upbeat, solution-oriented ending, but the truth is I worry for my son. I worry for my daughter. I worry that we have let it get this far.

Probably not surprisingly, I keep coming back to our mission at Ellevest of getting more money into the hands of women, to positively tilt the balance of power.

And, of course, vote. Invest. Speak out. Teach our children better, no matter their gender.


Sallie Krawcheck Signature


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Sallie Krawcheck

Sallie Krawcheck is the Co-Founder & CEO of Ellevest. Her life’s mission is to help women to reach their financial and professional goals.