I believe I may have single-handedly answered three of the most vexing questions facing the economy. These include the seemingly imponderable issue of why there are few women in certain parts of the workforce, the hitherto unanswerable question of how to attract more recruits into the hard sciences and, most importantly, the nagging matter of how to get men to pull their weight around the house. Not only have I answered these questions, I can now reveal that I have done so with a simple, one-word answer: Tools. Or, to add a little nuance, a two-word answer: Big tools.
When I say I came up with this solution "single-handedly", I am not, of course, referring to my own hands, which are far too busy writing magazine and newspaper columns to do anything constructive such as solving real-world problems. I am referring to the hands of my brother-in-law, Richard, who recently used them to drag an atomic-powered ironing board into his living room.
This ironing board, which is about the size of a Toyota Prius, but technologically far more advanced, features a 1000-litre water reservoir attached to a giant, steam-generating turbine which leads, through special asbestos-coated piping, to an iron with two black buttons on it - one for left-handed operators, and one for right-handers.
Tap on one of the buttons and the turbine roars into action, blowing up 50,000 megajoules of hot air for ironing delicates. But hold down the button for a few seconds and the turbine reverses itself, sucking in 700 cubic meters of steam per second from the iron, thereby pressing both sides of tough fabrics such as jeans in a single pass. It may be the other way around: I have yet to receive my licence to operate the thing, so I cannot say for sure whether it sucks or blows for jeans. The point is, as Richard told me in awed tones, "it blows, and it sucks".
The moment I saw the atomic ironing board, I did what every red-blooded male would do: I ransacked my sister's house, collecting every piece of washed or unwashed laundry I could find, and ironed each piece in a single pass. For a few glorious minutes last weekend - alas, the contraption was just too quick - I was in guy heaven.
If word had got out into the neighbourhood that Richard had bought himself a kick-ass ironing board, men would have been lined up around the block, waiting for their chance to use it.
They would have rummaged through St Vinnie's donation bins looking for crumpled clothes to iron. They would have broken into cars up and down the street to strip off the seat and steering wheel covers and iron them. Then they would have stripped naked and ironed the very clothes they were wearing.
The point is, guys like tools, a point not lost on social scientists and economists, who have looked into the question of why more men than women enter certain professions, such as engineering, chemistry and computer programming.
In one study, an economist at the University of Kansas, Joshua Rosenbloom, used personality tests to figure out why some jobs were disproportionately taken by men, even once other factors such as family pressure, sex discrimination and educational background were taken into account. The tests found that those who entered professions such as IT and science did so, in part, because they liked to manipulate tools or machines. Disproportionately, the testing found, such tool fanatics were guys.
Now, obviously, it is a gross generalisation to say that all guys like tools and that this therefore explains why more men than women go into certain tool-oriented jobs. Not all guys like tools. Guys born before 1897 have mostly lost interest in them by now, and clearly the claim that "all guys like tools" needs to be heavily qualified. The phrase "living or not long dead" may be useful in this regard.
Still, the theory does provide a useful insight that employers and householders may use when trying to recruit people into certain professions. Highlighting the hydraulic crush mechanism of a garbage truck and advertising how many milliseconds it would take to rip a human arm out of its socket would greatly enhance recruitment into the waste management industry, for instance.
Likewise, buying a dishwashing machine that can only be operated via HTTP protocols over a draft 802.11n WiFi connection to the washer's UPNP server would be a good way for women to ensure they never again have to stack the thing.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to finish tidying the house. The feather duster broke down this morning, and I'm having a hell of a time rip-starting it again.
© Fairfax Business Media
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