Most of the top management and political positions are held by males. Males dominate in corporate leadership and are estimated to comprise seventy percent of the corporate leadership of the S&P 500 companies. White males constitute 30 percent of the population, and they comprise 62 percent of the public office holders in the US. Therefore, our most influential leaders are male, and thus their role models are very relevant to what they do as such. Even women leaders may have to adapt, at times, to a male role model.
For simplification, let us consider the two basic male role models: the warrior and the provider/caregiver. The first role appears to dominate as reflected in the values held. In the study of values, males tend to bear more instrumental, assertive behavior, nearer to what we would expect of a warrior. The second role seems to be less represented in his values. It is nearer to the female values of universalism and expressiveness.
The role model men unconsciously or consciously follow shapes our kind of economy and politics. For example, one of the most important recent changes of our economic system, globalization, was realized with little care for the home producers being priced out of the market. The losers from globalization are the workers in wealthy nations, such as the US. Considering only the trade situation with China, 3.7 million US jobs were lost between 2001and 2018. Furthermore, compared with other OECD countries, the US has a modest set of labor market adjustment programs. Our warrior leaders of the international companies did not work within their organizations nor with the local governments to improve the labor situation. They made war against global rivals but also against the workers in their own country.
Look at the climate crisis: a group of male cowboys continued to promote and lie about the impact of fossil fuels. We knew as early as 1977, by the admission of Exxon’s own scientists, that carbon dioxide emissions could cause climate warming.1 What if we had begun to moderate emissions back then? We would not be in the mess we are in today. And they also minimized the health impacts. Each year, there are between 7 and 8 million premature deaths from fossil fuel air pollution. This is an excellent example of moral disengagement. The problem is that the other capitalist leaders and consumers went along with the warrior oil men.
And as we have discovered that the most severe climate impacts will occur in developing and low sea level nations, we are on our way to a hot, second-rate climate. The post COP26 estimate is for a 2.70C increase, significantly greater than the 1.50C target. Does this resemble the attitude of a caring provider?
Many acts of violence can be associated with the warrior model. The US mass gun shootings are the ones that come to mind. They are usually committed by a lone male, who almost necessarily devalues the victims like a warrior. He believes he has the right to be the shooter and kill the unworthy. The indiscriminate motivation, excluding robbery and domestic violence, heightens the importance of the right to be a warrior.
Violence, particularly against women, is more significant and frequent than mass shootings. During the year 2020, there were 3,573 female murder victims in the US, compared to 116 in Italy; normalizing for the population, the US female murder victims are five times the Italian ones. We cannot prove that the warrior role model is among the causal factors, but it certainly does not help. For men, the situation is worse, where the normalized rate for male murder victims in the US is sixteen times higher than the Italian one. By the way, Italian rates are about 60 percent lower than the EU average.
According to me, the amplifier of the male role of the warrior is the media. That the media is violent is not new, and that exposing children to violence is damaging and reproducing the violence, is also known. The warrior role is present not only in the films and drama involving war, but in science fiction, mystery stories, and endless violent crime television series. One could argue that this acting out of the warrior in the media reduces the tension and actual violent crimes, but the large number of violent crimes in the US does not seem to support this thesis. Even 1 in 4 women are victims of intimate partner violence, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
On social media, the warrior role and violence are concerning. The issue was raised when Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook continued to promote the use of Instagram, despite its own in-house research indicating it contributes to damaging the mental health of teen girls, an issue that the company plays down in public. “We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” said one slide from 2019, summarizing research about teen girls who experience the issues. This increases anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. We cannot count on the most influential leaders in social media to be very caring.
Certainly, the warrior is most at home in war preparation and expenses. The US budget for defense is more than that of the following sixth-highest spending countries. And it has been consistently large over the years. It was $690 billion dollars in 1990 and totaled $705 billion dollars for the fiscal year 2021, in constant 2019 prices, which is equal to 3.67 percent of 2020 GDP. It is not too surprising that with such a large budget, some actual wars occur. And looking back, it is astonishing how much we believed our warrior leaders on rather flimsy evidence. Remember the domino theory of the Vietnam War or the biological threat of Iraq? A warrior type of mentality on the part of our leaders may have facilitated the acceptance of these events, which we subsequently describe as both political and military errors.
Naturally, we need the warrior if we were really attacked. However, the attacks are rare, while the role use is frequent. Fear is used as the primary justification and promotion of the warrior role. This was the motivation for the possible threat of chemical and biological war by Iraq, (how Iraq was to deliver the non-existent weapons to US soil was never entirely clarified). Fear helps explain the continual increase of the US military budget, and historically fear of attack was essential in the Cold War period. As a kid, I was amazed to see the underground bomb shelter built by my grandmother’s neighbor. Today the subject of fear and reliance on the warrior role are differentiated. It can be used in various situations: against terrorists, our different neighbors, socialism, immigrants and individual countries such as China. What is essential is the congruity in the use of the warrior role with the actual situation.
The warrior model has been essential historically but may be diminishing in strength in some areas. For example, there have been numerous calls for a more inclusive capitalism. One example is stakeholder capitalism, in contrast to the traditional shareholder capitalism concentrated on the shareholder and his profits. In stakeholder capitalism, cooperation serves the interests of all stakeholders, including customers, suppliers, employees, shareholders, and the local communities where the firm is present. This is seen as essential to the long-term success of the business and an ethical choice. Take, for example, Larry Fink; the president of BlackRock, managing $8 trillion dollars in assets. Since 2018, in his annual letter to CEOs he has repeatedly supported sustainable value for all of the stakeholders. Companies that become certified B corporations certainly have all the stakeholders in consideration. In Europe, we have the situation where employees sit among the board of directors of many German companies. The EU is currently in the process of reforming corporate governance to shift corporate management from pursuing short-term profits to a regime that respects stakeholders, especially the environment and society.
A report by the Japanese firm Mitsui illustrates the situation.
Capitalism is often broadly divided into (i) the Anglo-Saxon type, which is characterized by shareholder primacy and centers on the United States and the United Kingdom, and (ii) the type that includes the concept of stakeholder capitalism, which is found in Japan or on the continent of Europe. In the 2000s, as globalization accelerated, the Anglo-Saxon type became ascendant, and trend convergence of capitalism into the Anglo-Saxon type was seen; however, recently this trend has been reversing. That is, the United States is attempting to shift from the Anglo-Saxon type, and meanwhile, the EU is attempting to reinforce the characteristics of stakeholder capitalism that the continental European-type capitalism has followed.2
Naturally, the male provider role is not equivalent to the female one. However, the male provider role is nearer to the female’s caring role and more distant to the other male role of warrior.
According to a Pew Research report on women leadership in the corporate world, many say that women are better at “creating a safe and respectful workplace, valuing people from different backgrounds, considering the social impact of business decisions, mentoring young employees, providing fair pay and good benefits.” Instead, males were seen as superior in negotiating profitable deals. Concerning political leadership, Pew reported that women have a relative advantage over men in several aspects: “being compassionate and empathetic, serving as a role model for children, working out compromises, being honest and ethical, maintaining a tone of civility and respect and standing up for what they believe in.” Males were superior in “willingness to take risks.”3
Regarding the prominent role of Europe in fighting climate warming, one cannot help but notice the presence and influence of key female leaders such as: Angel Merkel, German Chancellor; Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank; Ursula Von der Leyen, President of the European Commission; and Annalena Baerbock, Head of the German Green Party.
In conclusion, we males need to act more in alignment with the values of a caring provider. All of us should promote more women into leadership positions; they seem to be doing a good job. And please, do not slip into the warrior mode of thinking that ‘we are inherently built that way.’
1 Hall, S., 2015, on October 26, Exxon Knew about Climate Change almost 40 years ago, October 26, Scientific American.
2 Shimada, T., 2021, Evolving Debate on Stakeholder Capitalism – Developments in Europe and America Attracting Attention, Mitsui & Co. Global Strategic Studies Institute Monthly Report, February 2021.
3 Horowitz, J. M., Igielnik, R., Parker, K., 2018, Women and Leadership 2018: Wide gender and party gaps in views about the state of female leadership and the obstacles women face, September 20, 2018, Pew Research Center.