The dominance of men over women in society has been going on for a long time. I have suggested that our primary communications media have influenced this gender-based power shift, proposing that electric communications in networks are redistributing some power back to women. While the written and print forms of communication favoured men, oral societies were often matriarchal. It may be that electric communications will favour women, promoting what have traditionally been seen as feminine leadership traits. The deep past of our oral societies may help guide us into the future.
I also concluded that innovation requires diversity. Innovation is not so much about having ideas as it is about making connections. But we cannot connect the dots if we are only paying attention to half of them (namely, men). Innovation is a network activity and creating structural holes through gender bias only weakens the network because innovation is not brilliant flashes of individual insight but rather collective learning.
The historian Mary Beard recently translated Homer’s The Odyssey and showed what is likely the first example of mysogeny in a written work.
“I noticed a scene in Odysseus’s home palace at Ithaca. Odysseus is far away, still trying to get back from the Trojan War. His young son, who’s a bit green actually, is at home with his mum — the savvy Penelope.
One day, Penelope comes downstairs and she hears a bard singing very sad songs about how difficult it is for people like Odysseus, her husband, to get home. And she says to the bard, quite understandably, ‘Oh bard, play something a bit more cheerful.’ And this young, wet-behind-the-ears teenager Telemachus comes over to her and says, ‘Oh mother, shut up. Speech is man’s business.’
That is the first time in Western culture that a rather green, definitely not very sophisticated, young bloke has told a savvy older woman to shut up. And I think every woman in the world will recognise that Penelope moment. To be a man is to speak in public. ” — CBC Sunday 2018-01-28
Other people are seeing signs of change in shifting gender power relationships. Perhaps it is why the ‘me too’ movement has grown so quickly, with communication between women unconstrained by the gatekeepers of the printed word. Business is starting to perceive this shift as well.
“A new generation of women is increasingly stepping into entrepreneurship and innovation. Yet as they do so, we are seeing a wave of businesses with women-centered innovation at the core — meaning, products and services that are designed to reflect women’s pain points and direct needs.
This may seem like a minor point — but keep in mind that this simple assertion disrupts thousands of years of social conditioning to ‘code’ for the masculine. Almost all of the products and services women purchase are created, designed, built, and sold to women by male-led companies.” —Refinery29 2017-12-20
I see these changes as good for society. I recently watched the film Suffragette to get a glimpse of a time only one hundred years ago when women were seen as the official enemy of the UK government. This of course is even stranger considering their Queen had died only a few years earlier. As one reviewer posted, “What’s more inspiring than a film about half the population, fighting back against the corrupt system, which oppresses it?” I hope this shift continues and rebalances our society. I also know that this shift will likely take time. But it seems that some men are starting to listen. Diversity in our thinking, ideas, cultures, gender, and everything else is the key to our survival and future growth.
Allow me to close with another glimpse from our past and show what happens to societies that lack large-scale diversity. In the near future, will companies, countries, and societies with a gender power balance outpace patriarchal ones?
“You start out with two genetically well-intermixed peoples. Tasmania’s actually connected to mainland Australia so it’s just a peninsula. Then about 10,000 years ago, the environment changes, it gets warmer and the Bass Strait floods, so this cuts off Tasmania from the rest of Australia, and it’s at that point that they begin to have this technological downturn. You can show that this is the kind of thing you’d expect if societies are like brains in the sense that they store information as a group and that when someone learns, they’re learning from the most successful member, and that information is being passed from different communities, and the larger the population, the more different minds you have working on the problem.
If your number of minds working on the problem gets small enough, you can actually begin to lose information. There’s a steady state level of information that depends on the size of your population and the interconnectedness. It also depends on the innovativeness of your individuals, but that has a relatively small effect compared to the effect of being well interconnected and having a large population.” –How Culture Drove Human Evolution