Only by Going Nowhere
Pico Iyer | Political Polarization Comes At A Price | Factoids
Quote of the Moment
It’s only by taking myself away from clutter and distraction that I can begin to hear something out of earshot and recall that listening is much more invigorating than giving voice to all the thoughts and prejudices that anyway keep me company twenty-four hours a day. And it’s only by going nowhere — by sitting still or letting my mind relax — that I find that the thoughts that come to me unbidden are far fresher and more imaginative than the ones I consciously seek out.
| Pico Iyer
Political Polarization Comes at a Price
The Gen Z Gender Ideological Gap
John Burn-Murdoch made big waves this week about the growing divide between male and female Gen Zers. In a nutshell, ‘Gen Z is two generations, not one.' He goes on:
In the US, women aged 18 to 30 are now 30 percentage points more liberal than their male contemporaries. That gap took just six years to open up.
Similar divisions are evident in Germany and the UK. Young men are aligning with right-wing, anti-feminism parties.
The same sort of split is happening across the world:
Outside the west, there are even more stark divisions. In South Korea there is now a yawning chasm between young men and women, and it’s a similar situation in China. In Africa, Tunisia shows the same pattern. Notably, in every country this dramatic split is either exclusive to the younger generation or far more pronounced there than among men and women in their thirties and upwards.
And the price to be paid? [Emphasis mine.]
Korea’s is an extreme situation, but it serves as a warning to other countries of what can happen when young men and women part ways. Its society is riven in two. Its marriage rate has plummeted, and birth rate has fallen precipitously, dropping to 0.78 births per woman in 2022, the lowest of any country in the world.
His hypothesis is this
The #MeToo movement was the key trigger, giving rise to fiercely feminist values among young women who felt empowered to speak out against long-running injustices.
John Burn-Murdock cites a Twitter thread by Rosie Shorrocks that points out to a number of corroborating studies
I also came across a detailed post by Alice Evans, and I was especially interested in another argument about the link between economic resentment and the growth of the ideological split between young men and women:
A wealth of research suggests that economic stagnation fuels sexist resentment, xenophobia, far-right voting, and zero sum mentalities. But is it just about economics?
Gefjon Off, Nicholas Charron and Amy Alexander examine ‘modern sexism’ across the European Union. Younger men are most likely to say,
“Advancing women's and girls' rights has gone too far because it threatens men's and boys' opportunities”.
Resentment is strongest among men who think that state institutions in their region are unfair, and live in regions with rising unemployment and acute job competition.
Off, Charron and Alexander’s analysis indicates that when men struggle to get ahead, are unable to achieve status, and think public institutions are unfair, they’re more likely to resent women’s gains. Brits born into areas with high unemployment are similarly more likely to say ‘“Husband should earn, wife stay at home”.
Economic frustration is also associated with support for the far-right - as shown by Rodríguez-Pose, Terrero-Dávila and Lee. Right-wing vote share is strongest in European places with high immigration and economic decline.
Xenophobia and sexist resentment both reflect men’s unmet desire for status. A fundamental feature of patriarchy is that men want to have high status. When men feel like they’re falling behind, unable to gain pre-eminence, forever ghosted by women on dating apps, they may react aggressively and endorse hostile sexism. This is a global trend, which I summarised here.
This during an era when birth rates are falling precipitously across the West, and developed countries elsewhere, like South Korea, Singapore, and China. This ideological divide among Gen Z is likely a major factor.
What About Political Polarization in Business?
Political polarization is not only dividing genders.
The share of Democrats who see Republicans as immoral has grown from 35 percent to 63 percent while 72 percent of Republicans say the same about Democrats, up from 47 percent. In 1960, about 4 percent of Americans said they would be displeased if their child married someone from the other party. By 2020, that had grown to nearly four in 10. Indeed, only about 4 percent of all marriages today are between a Republican and a Democrat. | Pew Research Center
Poses interesting questions regarding mixed teams in the business context. When so many believe that members of their opposition are immoral, how does that impact cultural coherence at work?
One measurable impact: executive departures due to senior leadership polarization, according to Vyacheslav Fos, Elisabeth Kempf, Margarita Tsoutsoura in The Political Polarization of Corporate America :
Executive teams in U.S. firms are becoming increasingly partisan. We establish this new fact using political affiliations from voter registration records for top executives of S&P 1500 firms between 2008 and 2020. The new fact is explained by both an increasing share of Republican executives and increased assortative matching by executives on political affiliation. Executives who are misaligned with the political majority of their team are more likely to leave the firm, especially in recent years, and their company's stock price responds negatively to the announcement of their departure. Combined, our findings indicate that the increasing political polarization of corporate America may not be in the financial interest of shareholders.
If we can’t close this ideological gaps in our society, businesses may sort themselves into C Suites polarized by right- versus left-wing leadership.
Or perhaps the more ideological left-wing women will affiliate with left-wing companies, and vice versa.
I bet both of these things are happening.
More Fighting Over RTO
The five-day club appears to be shrinking. The number of companies requiring full-time attendance dropped to 38% at the end of 2023 from 49% at the start of the year. | Scoop
A factoid buried in an article about companies reversing on remote work and calling people back to 40 hours in the office.1
Meanwhile… Only 16% prefer a traditional office work schedule.
44% of those polled feel that hybrid arrangements are more productive than any other schedule. Managers in particular find they hybrid work model most productive. just 16% prefer a traditional office work schedule | HP
But, in the midst of widespread layoffs…
So, it’s dangerous to be fully remote. That led Sam Naficy of Prodoscore to comment:
How can leaders justify letting go of an employee solely based on where they work? The evidence supporting remote work productivity is mounting, and business leaders should be looking objectively at how their remote workers are contributing to their bottom line. Using internal data on employee productivity (instead of gut intuition) can help companies identify key collaborators and employees that are going above and beyond behind the scenes. Ultimately, data-driven decision making is better for people and better for business.
Transportation is the biggest source of greenhouse gases in the United States, and trucks, buses and vans account for 29 percent of vehicle emissions. | Cal;start
In the census of 2021, 74,000 people [in the U.K.] identified as pagan—up by 17,000 since 2011. | The Economist
Note that I have changed the format for Factoids, starting with this issue of the newsletter. Now, the core factoid will be presented as a block quote and italicized, and my comments (if any) will be non-italicized. This is the opposite of how I have been doing Factoids in recent months. I may reformat earlier Factoids as time permits.