By Karina Meckel, Tuesday, January 25, 2011, at 9:00 am.
This is the first in a series of five. See Euro RSCG Worldwide PR’s latest white paper, “Male in U.S.A.,” for more analysis about the state of men in America today.
What is going on with men in the workplace? We’re already seeing one of the biggest shifts in the gender pendulum in recent times, and it has to do with how men are redefining their traditional role as provider—perhaps not by choice.
Said an article in Forbes in 2009, “In total, 78% of the jobs lost in this recession have been lost by men, according to BLS statistics.” The Atlantic called it a “mancession.” As with the recession, we might be headed out of the worst of the economic news for the male gender, but there are still a lot of men around the country without work.
True to their hunting-and-gathering nature, though, today’s men are not throwing in the towel on occupational pursuits just yet. In fact, our society is entering an age of recession-induced entrepreneurship, or what I like to think of as the era of the mentrepreneur.
You need look no further than the tech world for evidence of hard-core mentrepreneurship. If you gaze around Silicon Valley, you’ll see a field that is still largely dominated by men, with startups that feel reminiscent of the go-go dot-com days of the late ’90s. If you’ve got some smarts, a fiscal angel perched on your shoulders and a compelling business model, the tech world is a wide-open playing field, especially for men. Think Zuckerberg (Time’s Person of the Year), Brin and Page, Stone, Crowley. All guys. All took the nontraditional route and are now rich beyond their wildest dreams. Had they chosen to work for “the man,” they would never have become the men they are today.
And speaking of men right now, check out Esquire’s list of “new jobs,” some of which might feel just right for mentrepreneurial types: absinthe maker, mobile business entrepreneur (that’s food trucks, a currently hot trend I forecast back in 2000) and ethical hacker. How about travel writer/food critic? I mean, can you really see Tony Bourdain working for someone else at this point?
For the hands-on type, there’s a renewed interest in all things hand-tooled, authentic and American-made. If the hardest-hit men can come up with new things to make, it could be a lucrative fix to the harsh reality of joblessness. I’m reminded of a story in New York last year that told the tale of the two founders of ax-makers Best Made Company, based in New York City and traded in such chic stores as Jack Spade. Sure, they don’t make the axes themselves, but the chic-yet-practical items are handmade to their specs by a 100-year-old company in Maine. And maybe it’s time for a male version of Etsy to come to life, as men begin to putter and toil in homemade workspaces and redefine what work means in general. (P.S. Women find men who make stuff irresistibly sexy. Think Aidan in “Sex and the City,” with his furniture-building skills. Women love a man who works with his hands. It’s just so, well, manly.)
And think of all the male bonding possibilities at play in this small-business picture. Maybe men can take a breather from corporate clock punching, connect with each other through new business opportunities and support one another in their mentrepreneurial endeavors. And maybe over a Giants game and a couple of microbrews, new ideas will be hatched and formed that will stimulate our flaccid economy.
No matter what, men everywhere will be checking in with themselves and seeing what really makes them tick, even if such self-reflection is forced on them by a former employer. Mentrepreneurship is high on my radar of trends to watch. In this era of reinvention all around us, I’m looking forward to seeing what men will create, fire-start or rain-make in 2011.
Photo Credit: Creative Commons/ Valerie Everett