Do we really wonder why the suicide rate is so much higher for men than it is for women when our society now accepts casual misandry as the norm? The head of network rail, Mark Carne, has said he plans to fast-track women recruits and double female representation in his organisation to 30 per cent, laying the cultural failure of the organisation of the hands of the industry’s “macho” culture, which is, of course, all the fault of men and a poor gender balance.
Once again, the message goes out to men that anything male-dominated in society is fundamentally wrong. It’s a familiar pattern: construction; IT; STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects; now railways. Male dominated. Wrong. Industries men built – and in the case of railways often died in doing so – now turn on them.
Now it should be said that the job of a chief executive is ruthlessly to root out cultural failures in their organisation. However, he is guilty of the same crude sexist pigeon-holing that would get you sacked instantly if you tried it in reverse. Are all men swaggering and macho? Are all women gentle, good at attention to detail and customer service? Are the one in six of his employees who are currently female to be absolved for the company’s failures, and just the men found guilty?
Imagine, also, if the boss of a female-dominated profession had said something like this: “Our organisation’s failures can be laid at the hands of its girly culture. There are simply too many women. I am going to fast-track the appointment of men.” The reason you never hear these sorts of remarks is not just because it’s plain wrong and insulting to make them but because you wouldn’t survive five minutes if you did. His views are also fundamentally demeaning to women, who are not to be primarily judged on their own merits but to fill a supposedly magical 30 per cent quota.
A more competent and less boorish chief would have said something like this: “Our culture is flawed and we need to address this. We need to pay more attention to customer service and empathy, and our recruiting and training policy will in future reflect this.”
Now, it is very likely that such an emphasis would lead to a greater number of women being appointed, because the skills he deems necessary are on average found more in women than in men, and that’s absolutely fine. However, to traduce men they way he did should be socially unacceptable. The great tragedy for our society is that it is not, and we all pay the price as little by little men get the message and withdraw from society – and even, as Kathy Gyngell wrote here so movingly this week, from life itself.
Since Mr Carne believes so passionately that his organisation employs too many men, perhaps he would like to make a personal example by getting rid of one job – his own. He should go, and go now.