RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And there are those who say the Great Recession, while taking a serious toll on men in the workforce, has actually given women more opportunity. After decades of men dominating most of the work world, there is growing evidence that the changing economy is beginning to favor women.

Writer Hanna Rosin has documented this in her new book, "The End of Men: And the Rise of Women." She joined us to talk about it.

Good morning.

HANNA ROSIN: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: The notion of "The End of Men," of course, at the heart of this is an economic story. Give us some statistics that have to do with most particularly the labor market.

ROSIN: So, the latest job number shows that men are at their lowest labor force participation rate since 1948. And the manufacturing economy has lost almost six million jobs, and just about the same number of jobs were added in the health care industry and the service economy, which are largely dominated by women. You can see right there that that creates a different kind of economy.

If our assumption is that the men are the breadwinners - or in other words, if that's been our assumption for some tens, maybe thousands of years - that men carry the family, when that dynamic shifts, you can see that relationships shift with it. So we have to redefine what we mean by head of the household - what we need even by, you know, manly virtues, and what women do, and what men do, and how marriage works, and who raises the children. All these things start to change along with it.

MONTAGNE: Let's focus on one core aspect of what you're talking about here. And that is many jobs that were dominated by men that involved oftentimes, you know, physicality...

ROSIN: Right.

MONTAGNE: ...you know, brawn, have disappeared and probably for good in this country.

ROSIN: Yes.

MONTAGNE: And women then having to fill in the space in terms of bringing home the bacon.

ROSIN: So we'll start with that initial fact. It's sad. I mean, it's a tragedy. And I think we're in a transition moment where men have to, you know, rethink what they want to do and we as a society have to figure out what to do with that fact; that a lot of men who were able to live a very respectable middle-class and even upper-middle-class existence doing essentially brawn jobs can no longer do that. And so what do you do with that fact? I mean, you're not going to have every man become a nurse, you know, or every man become a profession that we consider feminized because I think men are uncomfortable with that idea. So, you know, some of reporting this book made me feel really protectionist, like, why can't we have those factories back in America? I mean, that's definitely one instinct I have.

And I think that the million-dollar question for economists is why women have heard the call of the changing economy? Why it is that they've been more flexible than men have been? That's like an essential quality I try and define in the book which right now women have in greater degree than men.

MONTAGNE: So despite the fact that at this moment in time women still generally make less on the dollar than men do - I think it's still 78 cents to the dollar - and despite the fact that whole swaths of the economy are still closed to women nearly, like corner offices, CEOs, Silicon Valley, tech jobs, highly very male-dominated, what are you seeing here? You think you're seeing the future?

ROSIN: Yes, I think I'm seeing the future. It's only been, you know, 40 years that this has been happening. So I think it would be crazy to expect that the entire world flips upside down right away. But you do bring up the obvious issues. What happens at the top? It's obvious to me that people are still in this transition moment, somewhat uncomfortable with female power. And so one thing I do in the book is explain that, describe that what this transition looks like, and talk to women who work in Silicon Valley, who work on Wall Street, in places where this transition is not complete and see what their reality is like and how you move to the next level. So that's what I think the future is going to look like.

MONTAGNE: Do you imagine say, in 10 years or 15 years, half a generation that say Goldman Sachs would be run or dominated by women, or that Wall Street firms - generally speaking - say, would be half women and they would really be calling the shots?

ROSIN: I actually think finance is going to be the last one to go. They're going to hold on the hardest. I think finance is just very macho. I mean, that's just, you know, word on the street that's what people tell me. You know, finance is the one that holds on the most tightly to its frat culture, basically. But I definitely imagine that for lots of other industries. I mean, if you look at someone like Marissa Mayer, who gets a CEO job at Yahoo when she is visibly pregnant and gets to say she doesn't want to take all that much maternity leave -whatever we think about that - it's wonderful that that model exists and that women can be that person because, you know, they're figuring it out - we're figuring it out.

MONTAGNE: Hanna Rosin is a senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is called, "The End of Men: And the Rise of Women."

Thanks very much for joining us.

ROSIN: Thank you so much.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.