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Are White Males Getting Shortchanged?

By Marty Nemko

We are constantly urged to make greater efforts to improve the lot of women and African-Americans. Yet it seems fairer at this point in American history to make greater efforts to improve the lot of white males.

I can hear you laughing. After all, most CEOs and political leaders are white males. But when you leave that top 0.1%, things look different.

I have career counseled almost 2,000 people, and unless they're stars, my white male clients have a tougher time getting hired than do women and minorities.

We accept as gospel the widely-reported statistic that women earn 77 cents on the dollar. Fact is, according to research by Dr. Warren Farrell, when all variables are controlled for: for example, actual hours worked, experience, work hazards, commute distance, and performance evaluations, for the same work, women earn more than men.

Yet white males continue to see more and more efforts to help everyone except white males:

Employers often practice reverse discrimination, if only because they fear the EEOC will count noses. And when there's a downsizing, employers resist firing women and minorities, knowing that many of them would file a wrongful termination suit.

If minorities or women receive less pay or are so-called underrepresented in a particular profession, for example, in the boardroom, women's groups insist it's mainly because of sexism, that white males have essentially erected a glass ceiling through which they allow pitifully few women to seep. Privately, however, most of my female clients (I've worked with 1,400!), most of whom are well-educated and middle class, say they are unwilling to put in the long hours it takes to rise to the top. They want a moderate worklife with plenty of time for spouse, children, and/or avocations. Many more of my male clients are willing to work the long hours it takes to rise to the top.

The media gives millions of dollars of free exposure to the sexism argument, for example, unquestioningly promulgating the misleading "women earn 77 cents on the dollar" statistic yet gives virtually no exposure to opposing views.

And if men are underrepresented, for example, as they are in colleges--colleges are now 59% women, 41% men--you barely hear a peep about it in the media.

Professional baseball, football, and basketball are dominated by minorities. Ever hear the media decry the underrepresentation of white males?

Most seriously, men die six years younger than women, yet there's no call for more spending on men's health. Where are all those advocates who scream when women and minorities get the short end of the stick? They're still calling for more medical studies on women even though the days are long gone when most medical research was done on men. Every day, it seems there's another fundraiser for breast cancer" buy a Loew's movie ticket, a dollar goes to breast cancer. Buy a bra, a dollar goes to breast cancer. Buy a US postage stamp, money goes to breast cancer! When was the last time you heard of a fundraiser for heart attack, the main cause of early death among men? The Oakland A's, a team watched mainly by men, have a breast cancer day. They don't have a prostate cancer day or heart attack day. Meanwhile, there are more than four widows for every widower.

The rule seems to be: discriminate--as long as the ones being discriminated against are white males.

Defenders of discrimination against white males argue that it is needed to level the playing field, for example, to compensate for the legacy of slavery. But do two wrongs make a right? Should the oppressed become the oppressor? Activists said yes. We need reverse discrimination temporarily. Well, it’s already been 40 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and activists demand reverse racism more fervently than ever.

The real question is why have African-Americans not achieved socioeconomic parity? If it is, as the activists claim, because of the legacy of slavery and lingering racism, then why is there not one country of the world’s 200—whether majority black or majority non-black, previously colonized or not—in which blacks have even an average standard of living, while other groups such as the Jews, who have been persecuted for thousands of years—from the Roman times through the Inquisition, through the pogroms, through the Holocaust, and with anti-Semitism remaining even today--on average, do well. Asians have suffered discrimination in the US, even placed in internment camps, yet, on average, do well. Arab- and Muslim-Americans have been and are subject to prejudice, yet have done better than have African Americans. I believe we must engage in a more thoughtful examination of the reasons why African-Americans continue to struggle before imposing the terrible pain of reverse discrimination on white males. In my office, many, many of my white male clients--competent, well-adjusted people--have cried (and occasionally yelled) in frustration at their inability to get a decent job while less qualified minorities and women leapfrog them.

To impose reverse discrimination on white males seems particularly unfair because, as a group, they’ve hardly been a scourge on society. Yes, males, of all races, make the wars. But they’ve also died in the wars protecting us. White males have also been largely responsible for some of humankind’s greatest achievements: from refrigeration to television, Amazon to Xerox, Plato to Beethoven to Spielberg. White male scientists brought about most of the medical advances that have extended our life expectancy from 50 in 1900 to 78 today. In addition to those exceptional people, most white males, like many other people, work hard to make our lives work: they build our houses, our cars, maintain our telephone poles, etc., etc., etc.

So, next time you hear a plea to support women and blacks, you might save just a little kindness for the not-so-terrible, no-longer so privileged white male.

I would like to write an article or book on white males who have experienced discrimination in the workplace or in trying to land a job. If you are a white male who has experienced such discrimination, I'd love to hear from you. If you need to be anonymous, I will promise to honor that anonymity. E-mail me at or phone me at 510-655-2777.

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