Women long for Alpha Males. Well, file that under “duh.” Alpha males, those possessing higher amounts of social dominance, power, charisma, and attractiveness, than the women around them, are irresistible. They come in many different varieties: Bill Clinton, Barack Obama (by virtue of celebrities and famous people openly worshiping him as a Living God), and Charlie Sheen (before his meltdown made him merely mentally ill, not a tame-able bad boy). One of the quickest ways to Alpha male status is of course, violence. Violent men are fairly irresistible to most women, as Theodore Dalrymple documented in “Life at the Bottom.”
One of the unforeseen but logical outcomes of women’s out of control, un-moderated desire for Alpha males, is the lack of female advancement. Oh sure, we have women like Hilary Clinton, Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman, Sarah Palin, and Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi. Clinton merely continues the age-old tradition of trading on a powerful husband or father’s name. That’s great if you are a Kennedy, or a Clinton, or a Bush, or now an Obama. Not so great if you are a nobody. But the other women, mostly succeeded on their own (with one critical advantage). Their advantage: a beta male husband.
The Financial Times Lucy Kellaway noted:
… successful career women are all getting stuck in the “marzipan layer” just below the boardroom. According to the author, Sylvia Hewlett of Columbia University, this is because too few men are willing to pull women up on to the top of the cake. Men, she argues, are worried about being seen to support a woman too openly because they fear they might be suspected of having an affair with her.
This strikes me as a pretty feeble reason for the lack of women CEOs. Prof Hewlett is right to say that men hold women back, but is wrong to think the holding back happens at work. In fact, it happens at home. The biggest reason that alpha women don’t become CEOs is that they have made the common, yet fatal, error of marrying an alpha man.
My evidence for this is based on long observation of the women I know. Some of them did brilliantly for a bit, but then their careers stalled. The problem was not that they had had too many children (successful women seem to have lots of them) but that their alpha husbands insisted on putting their own careers first.
Until last week this was just a vague prejudice. But on Wednesday I sat down with the FT’s list of the 50 top business women and Googled each one, searching for information about their home lives. Annoyingly, some of them have succeeded in keeping their private lives private, but with the rest I found my theory spectacularly well borne out. Nearly all have children, but I could not find a single one with an alpha male husband.
The only whiff of an alpha mate came from the household of Andrea Jung, CEO of Avon, whose husband was the CEO of Bloomingdale’s. I use the past tense not because he lost the job, but because he lost his wife – the marriage didn’t last.
As far as I could tell, all the others have husbands who have been prepared to sacrifice their careers in order to aid the glorious ascent of their wives.
Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi and the world’s most powerful businesswoman, is married to a man who quit his job and became a consultant to fit in with his wife and children. Ditto with Irene Rosenfeld at Kraft, whose husband decided to be self-employed 20 years ago to help her. Ditto with Ursula Burns at Xerox.
There are three pretty obvious reasons an alpha husband is a problem for the aspiring female CEO. First is logistics. If you want to be really successful you need to be mobile. You need to have a husband like Gregg Ahrendts, who wound up his construction business so Angela could move to London to be CEO of Burberry. You also need to have someone who is prepared to see the children occasionally. And above all you need a bit of encouragement. If you have spent all day competing with men at work, you don’t want to go on competing at home. You want someone like Lloyd Bean, Ursula Burns’s husband, who worked at Xerox long before she joined, but who claimed delight when his wife whizzed past him in the fast lane. Or like the husband of the Indian banking supremo Chanda Kochhar. She says he is “genuinely happy about my progress”.
The lesson for a future female corporate queen is to give more thought to her choice of spouse. She should go for someone who is mentally her match, but who is happy to play a supporting role. In other words, Mr Right should be a male Kate Middleton.
Alas, there is a problem here in both demand and supply. High-flying women are programmed to go for high-flying men. Most men aren’t attracted to women who are more successful than they are. And until those things change, there is not going to be more than the odd sprinkling of women emerging from the sticky yellow marzipan into the glorious royal icing on top. [emphasis added]
There you have it. Ms Kellaway nails it. Women are not going to advance. Not in significant numbers. It is notable that the women she cites, are mostly older women from before the wave of unrestricted female hypergamy.
To climb the corporate ladder, a woman needs a supportive spouse. One as Kellaway notes is willing to sacrifice, be mobile, be emotionally supportive at home, and be willing to take a lesser role. Almost no rational man will do this, because women find these things unsexy and grounds in and of themselves for an affair or divorce or both. Men are simple creatures, they will be whatever women reward. Women talk a great game (about things they don’t mean) but when it comes to reality, and choices, the end is obvious.
Being a Kitchen Bitch is a fast-track for divorce (after being cheated upon). Being sexy, which means making most women in your orbit want to sleep with you, if you are a male, is vital to keeping attraction and thus love, and faithfulness, in a marriage. This is the cost of sexy.
Sexy men are well, sexy, but they are not supportive or reliable. They won’t move when their partner’s career takes off. They won’t take second place. They certainly won’t take of the kids, and be emotionally supportive. The whole point of being sexy is being of higher status, and power, than their female partner. That’s why they are sexy in the first place.
Modern women ages 20-40 have a fantasy that a man will be uber-sexy, and also supportive. When they find out he’s not, they choose sexy and choose not to advance. Women will choose the hot sexy guy over the career every time. And they do. It is not motherhood, or men being unwilling to work with women. [Though the penalties for being bossed by a woman -- a man is unsexy and thus basically a eunuch or a neuter are very serious, particularly to younger men on the look-out for a romantic partner who might turn into a wife.] It is women’s desire for a sexy man at the expense of everything else.
Everything has its price. Including Sexy Men. As more and more men discover the nature of female hypergamy, and the desire of women in the modern era for sexy men at all costs, the male support for measures (certain to fail at any rate) promoting female advancement in the corporate boardroom and other places is sure to collapse. Under two heavy weights.
The first is that women themselves are responsible for lack of female advancement. They choose sexy men who must be higher than themselves, and then wonder why their men won’t pick up and move when they get a transfer and promotion. Why their men won’t do the dishes, look after the kids, or provide even an ounce of emotional support. Because the men are sexy, that’s all they do.
The second of course is the knowledge that for every female that advances to their own level of power and importance, let alone above it, there is one more women who finds the ordinary man sexually invisible to repulsive. I.E. the price of female advancement is the making of more Beta Males. The textbook definition of which is a man with the same or lower social status as his female peers. Delayed marriage and longer single duration for men means this is not a trivial issue. Particularly early on. Men would do better, by far, if women were restricted to being secretaries and the like in the professional workplace, because they gain nothing by female advancement (they are single) and lose everything by it (they become either repulsive or sexually invisible to their female peers). Not that this will ever happen, but single men are likely to dig in their heels, tremendously, at any further female advancement. Married men, particularly those that married later in life, are likely to equate their wives moving ahead of them in power and status as a guarantee of an affair and/or divorce. Only those with post-menopausal wives (no one will want them anyway) would benefit.
Sexy has its cost, and women are starting to find that out.