How ironic that writing about men and especially alpha Russian men is the natural International Women’s Day topic for one Elahe Izadi, who is taking over the honorary batton from Kathy Lally.

While Western feminists whine about mansplaining, many Russian women are doing more productive things.


How on Earth could this be when Russia has a thousand times fewer Women’s Studies departments than the US?

On that note, I got a rather interesting correspondence in response to an analogous post last year in which I pointed out Russia’s (and Eastern’s Europe’s, including Poland’s) relatively high percentages of female CEOs.

Does this also make a good argument in favor of gender quotas? Russia, Poland, Georgia, Baltics, Armenia, and most other countries who did really well on that list never really had anything like the modern feminist movement, but some things that they did have in common are gender quotas together with an aggressive information campaign aimed at getting women more involved in traditionally male areas or work. AFAIK these policies existed in the former Soviet Bloc in both informal and formal levels (for example 30% minimum representation quotas in all Soviets up to the Supreme Soviet). And they had these quotas long before France or Sweden thought of them.

This study shows to me one thing – that the results of these policies stick, they don’t disappear immediately when the quotas are removed, even if the financial and political systems suffer a serious shakeup and reshuffle. One of the common arguments against quotas of any kind is that they are ineffective – they create an illusion of equality, underneath which the actual inequality not only persists but exacerbates, since the party that is benefiting from the quota system starts to take it for granted and no longer has a reason to work as hard to compete with others for its share of the pie. As a consequence, there is a fear that should the quotas be withdrawn, its share of the pie may not only rapidly drop to its pre-quota levels, but even further than that, since the underlying inequality worsened. But this statistic offers at least some reassurance that it is not the case. It’s been 25 years since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the accompanying quota system, the Russian political and economic landscape was pretty radically re-configured and changed many hands since then, yet apparently the Russian women at least in business are still more affluent than their peers in their West, strongly suggesting that the Communist policies in this regard were effective. Perhaps the Commies were just ahead of their time, what do you think?

Of course, this has potential implications not only for gender quotas but all kinds of quota systems – ethnic quotas, race quotas, etc.

Quotas/”affirmative action” are not of course the most popular policy proposal around these parts, but its hard to think of an alternate cultural or deep historic explanation. Russia, Poland, etc. are Slavic, but the Caucasus and Baltic peoples are not. The Ex-Soviet bloc and China have the communitarian family as their traditional family… But Poland is egalitarian nuclear, while both Thailand and Indonesia – 5th and 6th, respectively – are anomic. The Hajnal line obviously plays no role here.

Economic structure? Russian companies tend to be big and bureacratic, and a considerable percentage are state-owned, which all in all favor women more, but the likes of Estonia are full of small private firms.

The two lowest countries, just as last year, are Japan and Germany. Both have big manufacturing industries and relatively patriarchal attitudes in which working mothers are stigmatized. But that also describes Italy, but Italy is 10th on the list of countries by percentage of CEOs. It’s an interesting puzzle.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Michael D says

    There are a lot of reasons for this, but one of them is that finance and accounting have traditionally been womens roles (I speak mostly from my Polish experience, but think it applies elsewhere),

    In western markets, money leads. Those who control it can invest and are free to make decisions.
    In communist markets, product lead. Decisions were top down, not money driven. If you got the right political connection, knew the right people, you could build that factory, buy those imported machines. With permission, bank borrowing was easy. Finance and money transfer was relegated to a paper transaction that was automatically recorded as the inverse of the product transfer.

    Finance and money was the follower of what the men did, not the enabler. It was a safe area to allow women to operate.

    The result was a bunch of female CFOs just at the time when organising real capital inflows became crucial, and only the CFOs could talk the talk.

  2. I clicked on the Here Be Dragons link. There are a lot more women’s studies departments per capita in South Korea than in Japan or Taiwan. Peter Frost has written that the South Korean understanding of Koreanness has moved over the decades from the ethnic model towards the multi-culti one. They’re importing large numbers of low-skilled foreigners. This is sad but interesting. Japan has resisted harmful lefty influence in spite of being literally occupied for all these decades. But South Korea has not. I wonder why.

    In the West the areas with greater amounts of human capital, of altruism, are more vulnerable to the rot. But in the Far East the Japanese are clearly the most altruistic, the highest-functioning people. Yet it’s the South Koreans who caught the lefty virus first.

  3. I prefer Roissy’s ‘femoting’.

  4. I once went out on a date with a Russian woman whose personals ad had her on a giant tractor, with the headline “strong and beautiful, like tractor.” It wasn’t ironic, and captured something of the female national character. People are a lot more self reliant and resourceful over there, and there are a lot of women making do as single mothers with basically no safety net.

  5. In the Soviet Union, gender quotas only applied to symbolic and/or meaningless bodies like Supreme Soviet and never to anything truly important, like Politburo, or government ministers, or factory directors (Soviet equivalent of the CEO, I guess.)

    The Bolsheviks started pushing gender equity from the early 1920s, but the Soviet version of Feminism was very different from the later Western one. It was never anti-men. Under Socialism, the sexes were supposed to work together in creating a better society.

    In practice, it looked like this. A woman breaking through into an all male field? It was promoted and much celebrated (e.g. the factory director in this Oscar-winning movie.) But if there were few or no women in some other areas? Then no big deal was made. It was accepted that men and women had different interests. There was some discussion of gender imbalance but in most case it concerned the over-representation of women in fields like teaching and medicine.

    Last but not least, you have to remember that for the most of the 20th century, Russia experienced acute lack of men. Russian women had to step up to the challenge.

  6. Japanese people, altruistic? (O.O;)

    Even (most) Japanese people would disagree with that statement, assuming that they could internalize the typical Westerner’s understanding of the word, “altruistic.” “Cool and aloof” would be a much more apt description of the typical Japanese attitude viewed from a Western perspective.

    It is really difficult to imagine how backward everything in Japan is unless you can speak the Japanese language fluently and have lived with Japanese people in Japan for many years. Rest assured that the feeling is mutual, though.

  7. Being good at large-scale warfare, which the Japanese are, requires altruism. People have to be able to sacrifice themselves for the greater good, for enormous entities like armies and countries.

    Making high-quality products requires altruism. In a large organization you can’t supervise everyone all the time. If employees don’t want to try hard for their own internal reasons, you’re going to end up with crappy products.

    I’m sure that Japanese altruism is different from Western altruism. These two must have evolved independently, the way that wings evolved independently in birds and bats. So they’re going to be a little different. But they’re there to do similar things, so they’re also recognizably similar.

  8. It’s a puzzle because the question being asked is the wrong, modernist, social engineering question. Why worry about the number of women ‘business leaders’? Instead, one should be concerned if a particular woman was perhaps unfairly denied employment. If people are generally being fair and moral, and the aggregate end state is few women ‘business leaders’, then so be it.

  9. Anonymous says

    In Russia, Poland, and the Baltics, the men drink way too much and it damages their work ethic. That’s why there are so many female executives in business in these countries. It’s not so much a lack of bias against women in these countries compared to the US (and I doubt there’s any real problem with bias in any case), it’s just that the men of these countries don’t have their act together.

  10. The last part was my first guess, remember Soviet women were also forced to step into combat roles during WW2 as pilots, snipers, etc.

  11. Pseudonymic Handle says

    Maybe they are wife/daughters of influential politicians and bureaucrats who are not allowed to run businesses.

  12. Maintaining a veneer of emotional reserve is not the opposite of altruism. It’s also a public personna that gets shed under certain social rules. Given the signal that another set of rules is in force, the Japanese reserve falls away. Understanding the signals and contexts for social rules is a big part of Japanese etiquette.

    “Selfish” is one of the biggest condemnations of a person’s character among the Japanese.

  13. Having women in the workforce was a matter of national survival during the decades of chronic manpower shortages in the Soviet Union. Too many of their men were killed during the Russian Civil War and again during WWII to worry about the gender composition of the workforce. They needed to cultivate all the talent they could.

  14. Nah. History is full of examples of societies where men get scarce. Perhaps they are killed in a war, or go off to settle new lands, or just die out from excess drinking. This has all kinds of effects on the societies in question but never results in an outbreak of Feminism.

    Incidentally, Soviet women were not forced into combat roles but many volunteered. Most often as medics.

  15. I have lived in Japan as a child and as an adult (and am currently living here), so you don’t need to pontificate on Japanese mores for my sake.

    What you have called “selfish” is 我が儘 wagamama in Japanese, which literally means something closer to “just the way one is; one’s own way, according to one’s own (volition/wish/intention/ideal), as one (wishes/desires),” from 我が waga “my; one’s own” plus 儘 mama “the state in which something is, (leaving a thing) as (it) is; (at the) mercy (of a conqueror, etc.), as (one wishes), (in) accordance (with).” The literal meaning of the word is close to “as one (really) wishes” (or, alternatively, “without any pretense, as one (really) is, in one’s natural state or manner,” though this would be an unusual interpretation) and is not really the same as “selfish” (i.e. for one’s own benefit) as opposed to “altruistic.”

    Another pair of words is 身勝手 migatte, from 身 mi “(one’s) body, (one)self” plus 勝手 katte, and 自分勝手 jibunkatte (also jibungatte), from 自分 jibun “oneself, one’s own (part)” (from Chinese 自 “self; from” + 分 “part, share; minute”) plus 勝手 katte. 勝手 katte < 勝ち kachi “winning, victory; being stronger (than another)” plus 手 te “a hand, an arm; a means, a manoeuvre, a measure, a move (in a board game, etc.), a strategy; a trick, a trap, a way of deceiving or entrapping someone or an attempt to do so” (this is the te in karate; the kara means either “empty” or some peculiarly Japanese concept of “China-Korea, that land or country over there, places that are not Japan”) originally referred to the hand used to draw a bowstring, i.e. “the stronger hand” (normally, a person’s right hand). Secondary meanings include “a kitchen; (knowing) the ins and outs (of a job, etc.), the ropes, one’s way about (another person’s home, etc.); one’s livelihood, one’s (standard of) living, making ends meet; convenience (of use, etc.), advantage, a (convenient) situation; (as) one wishes, (as) one pleases, one’s own way, independent(ly), free(ly).” This 勝手 katte is used in many colloquial phrases, such as 勝手にしろ katte ni shiro, which literally should mean “do (it) as you would like, do (it) your own way, do (it) freely, do (it) independently,” but actually means something like “Suit yourself!,” “Fuck off!,” or “Go to hell!” depending on context.

    In essence, all these Japanese words refer to “not according to the orders, guidance, or advice of one’s superior(s)” (i.e. somewhere on a scale between insubordination and insolence or haughtiness) or “not in the same way as everyone else (or at least the majority)” (i.e. nonconforming, independent, free, idiosyncratic, eccentric). They really have nothing to do with “selfishness” as opposed to “altruism.”

  16. It hasn’t led to such an outbreak in Russia either, has it?

  17. unpc downunder says

    An important topic for International Women’s Day should be whether or not immigration is good for native women in western countries, particularly with increasing numbers of working class white women in Europe voting for nationalist parties.

  18. That’s my point. The outbreak of Feminism in Russia was orthogonal to its demography. If anything, the relative lack of men made the Russian version Feminism milder compared to its later Western counterpart.