I’m a man, and a fairly traditional one. I own a drill and can do some home improvement projects, though I get angry at myself when I can’t complete a job. Whiskey is my go to drink. I’d rather have my Orioles win the World Series than have me win the lottery.
My gender is why I consider Sebastian Gorka’s comment about how “alpha males are back” and running U.S. national security so deeply problematic. It’s not just that he’s wrong about gender diversity and organizational performance (he is) or that the sort of macho, shoot from the hip national security he espouses has proven disastrous for the United States (it has).
My problem is that public displays of this sort of fake machismo will make the world a much harder place for men — myself included — in the years and decades to come. Women are on the rise, and have been for a long time. The trend lines are obvious. If women come to believe that us men won’t share the sandbox, that advancement is a zero-sum game, it will become a zero-sum game. And men could lose.
Sebastian Gorka may want to pound his chest. But he’s the real threat to men.
Women are ascending to powerful positions, and project to continue to do so. As of 2014, fully 55 percent of people enrolled at four year colleges and universities were women. Women are already more likely to have a college degree than are men. While the wage gap between men and women persists, it is shrinking steadily. The number of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies has grown (albeit slowly). There are 20 female U.S. Senators, up 120 percent from 2000.
We’re a long ways from equality — that number of Fortune 500 CEOs, while growing, is still just 4.6 percent — but any demographer can tell you where the trendlines are going.
This dynamic is personal for me. I work in the national security, which has consistently been a male-dominated field. Yet I’ve already had more female bosses than male bosses in my career. (Full disclosure, that includes my current boss). That’s not a bad thing — I have learned a lot from these bosses — but the idea that I could move ahead by thumping my chest, only listening to men, and trying to be an alpha is laughable. My female bosses would have sent me packing had I acted that way. Which I would have deserved.
The question — as it has been for years — is, “will ascending women have a relatively smooth entry to the top ranks, valued by both their employers and employees on the merits? Or will they have to scrape and claw, believing that men will never “let” them have a seat at the table unless forced? The answer will be something in the middle, of course. Literally billions of professional interactions can’t be boiled down to a simple binary choice. But it will be best for men – not to mention the economy, morale, overall happiness, etc. – to make the ascendency as close to smooth as we can make it.
Which brings me back to Mr. Gorka’s comments, as well as the overwhelmingly “alpha male” approach the Trump administration is taking writ large. These sorts of inflammatory comments are inviting a fight between the genders, an attempt to force women back to fighting up the food chain.
From a purely self-interested standpoint, Mr. Gorka needs to cut it out. If men lose a fight we started, women may be in no mood to let us back to the table. And Mr. Gorka and his ilk will be responsible our loss.
Neal Urwitz is Director of External Relations at the Center for a New American Security.
The views of contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.