Routledge, a major British academic publisher, recently sent an offer for a “free white paper” to me and, I presume, to many others. I seldom bother reading these mini research papers and policy statements. But this one caught my eye because the publisher seemed so certain its academic audience would want it. The title: “Women, Naturally Better Leaders for the Twenty-First Century.” There is no question mark, there. The title is a bald and confident assertion intended to be taken as fact.
Of course, the assertion is supported by a number of charts and a narrative. After all, what academic paper would be complete without some pretty charts and a story of oppression and how it can be overcome? The upshot: men build mechanisms because they are all about competition and structure; women build “agile” organizations because they are all about cooperation and “emotional intelligence.” In our “global” economy, the movement of people, ideas, and things makes agility and cooperation essential, and far more important than any of that old-fashioned, warlike competition or those nasty old structures that will not let us move, change, and express ourselves. So, when we finally accept that women are better leaders and when we finally see to it that they get their just representation on corporate boards, in politics, and elsewhere throughout society, we all will be better off—happier, more secure, and more prosperous.
The author, one Greg Young, heads “Leadershape Global,” which has partnered with Routledge to promote “transpersonal leadership.” Mr. Young appears to be serious, at least in the sense of seeking to be taken seriously. Worse, his story is one we all are supposed to take seriously to heart and on which we are expected to base future decisions in hiring, promotion, and obedience. The paper is not written just for academics, of course. It aims to change corporate boardrooms around the world. Alone it clearly will accomplish no such feat. But it is part of an increasingly dominant, intolerant view that represents the next stage of diversity politics in its drive to transform societies into politically correct tyrannies serving pseudoscientific fantasies regarding the nature and sources of human happiness.
Let us merely mention, before moving on, what would happen to anyone who published a white paper with the title “Men, Naturally Better Leaders for the Twenty-First Century.” I do not mean that such a person would be locked up…yet. But we well know that this line of argument, as Mr. Young tells us, already is considered a part of the “institutionalized sexism” that is holding back women and society. Indeed, the whole idea of women as having different, softer, more cooperative and emotional skill sets once was the basis of arguments for their dominance in child-rearing and helping professions. Heaven help the academic who makes that argument today. His reputation, and probably his job, would be forfeit.
It would be wrong to refer to this double standard as indicating hypocrisy, however. Mr. Young and a vast number of academics, at least, currently believe that science is on their side. The jargon about organizational flexibility is so embedded in public discourse that it passes for gospel truth today, all but dictating the “research” outcomes of many papers like this one.
In one sense this paper and more importantly the “science” it bowdlerizes are of little practical consequence. The paper shares much with the “men are inferior” argumentation that has for decades been coming out of women’s studies departments. If you have not read Catherine MacKinnon or Julia Kristeva on the intrinsic inferiority and brutality of men, frankly you should count your lucky stars. But the “biological” argument against men has many proponents these days. Generally, such argumentation is used merely to support the ideology of “diversity,” thereby justifying various forms of discrimination in hiring and promotion. Initially undertaken in the name of compensation for past injustices, sex- and also race-based quotas eventually required new justifications as former policies and legal structures were replaced and receded in time. Claims of “institutionalized sexism (racism)” had to be supplemented by claims that sexual and racial “diversity” would improve economic, academic, and other performance by bringing to bear differing experiences and points of view.
In business the desired marginalization of “privileged” groups (principally but not solely white males) has yet to fully take hold. But especially where women are concerned the story is different in a number of professions, particularly related to government, nonprofit, and academic institutions. Most obviously on university campuses we have witnessed the feminization of entire departments and schools. After the extremely aggressive application of “diversity” rules in hiring of the last several decades and with the escalating retirements of men from the baby boomer generation, even relatively mainstream schools and departments—law and the social sciences as well as gender studies—are approaching female dominance on many campuses.
The development of majority female schools and departments might cause rhetorical problems for the victimology industry. It might be difficult for a group holding most positions of power to claim it is oppressed. Enter “transpersonal leadership” and the rediscovery of “emotional intelligence.” If women and potentially other groups can be “scientifically” shown to be “better leaders,” then there is no upper limit to their representation in leadership positions. If men are simply not good leaders—if they are actually destructive leaders—then they should be pushed aside for the good of all. Then the old sexist pseudo-meritocracy of male dominance can be replaced by a new sex-based but true meritocracy in which women will cooperate and lead (but, of course, never dominate).
To draw the obvious conclusions from such arguments is to risk sounding like some sort of conspiracy theorist or, perhaps worse, merely silly. And I would not want to be taken as being in deadly earnest about the potential of Mr. Young and our friends at Routledge and their plans for “transpersonal leadership” to change the world. But anyone left on a university campus who is not an extreme leftist (there are a few, though only a very few) has witnessed the sharp turn toward self-indulgent silliness and, worse, its potential to ruin the careers of people who refuse to play along. Most of the arguments currently holding sway on most campuses are worthy of derision and contempt. But they are put forward as if they were intellectually serious and they are having results that are deadly serious for students, faculty, administrators, and, over time, our nation as a whole. Remember the near-riots at Yale which resulted in the resignation of two apparently sane adults: the crime for which the adults were run out of town was questioning crybully outrage at various Halloween costumes. The “narrative” of oppression and microaggression is as serious and dangerous as it is silly. The same goes for the various forms of man-shaming now prevalent on even formerly sane campuses. None of us should be surprised that some of the uglier forms of resentment-fueled prejudice are coming to the fore as radicals with tenure seek to solidify their power, or that these contemptible arguments win the day, not on their own merits but as window dressing for the will to power.
Bruce P. Frohnen is Professor of Law at the Ohio Northern University Pettit College of Law.