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The Best Man for the Job (is a Woman)

In Estonia, the best man for the job is a woman.

If you want to hire someone who'll show up on time, take pride in his work, solve problems before they arise, then don't hire him. Hire her.

The average young Estonian man has the grooming habits of a zombie. He appears mornings in the office having slept in his clothes. What was once a Caesar haircut has hardened to a protective crust. Dandruff carpets the shoulders of the dark suit he's never bothered to dry clean. His once-black shoes are gray and caked with debris from last night's party to celebrate the invention of the Zippo lighter.

Fashion-wise, he eschews a tie. Perhaps he sees himself as more the bank robber than the bank employee. Or perhaps he plans to join a British pop band. More likely, since he won't change clothes for the next 72 hours, he must be suitably attired for all activity. Milk the cow in the morning; go to work; go clubbing. He's a bit overdressed for the cow and a bit underdressed for the office, but neither party voices concern.

The average young man doesn't rate high in the savoir faire department, either. In job interviews he has the gall to ask about money before talking about the job itself. He begins with questions about what kind of laptop or ergonomic chair he'll get. "And my company car won't be Korean-made, will it? What's the mobile phone allowance? And can I have the chrome-plated model with the built-in laser pointer?"

He is manly to a fault. Like an American teenager, he likes to smoke and drink and "invest" in a car stereo worth more than his car. He loves to drive and can prove he's an excellent driver: "I can make it from Tallinn to Tartu in under an hour." He can also open a beer bottle with any object at hand. "Wanna see?"

Women are lesser creatures, and he would not be dissatisfied if Estonian women adopted the ways of the east and walked ten paces behind their men. Being lucky enough to live in a time of shrinking population, society allows him two or more families. And if family cramps his style, simply spreading his seed is accepted, too. Birth control is a woman's issue. He's just doing his job.

All the above considered, if you're in the hiring mode, who will you take? The woman, of course. She shows up on time for her interview, makes intelligent observations about your business, and doesn't put her feet on your desk even once. Her suit is appropriate and clean, and she rides the bus to work. Says she's never considered a car stereo. She'd rather spend the money on her kids.

Of course not all Estonian men are such Neanderthals. My friend Jaanus has the manners of a Florentine Cardinal and dresses like an old world count. Most importantly, his behavior goes beyond mere studied manners: he shows deep, genuine consideration for others. This doesn't mean only stopping for pedestrians in crosswalks and holding the door for ladies—it manifests itself in small gestures too numerous to count. But Jaanus isn't the norm. He's a true gentleman, of which there are too few in any society.

It's the raggedy-assed multitudes we must improve. They're the ones we employ. The cogs in the ever-hungry European Machine. But as a society, we can't count on having women around forever to do our work for us. Women have babies, and many move out of the workforce to take on more important roles in the world. It's unfair to ask them to do the work of men, too.

For now, in Estonia, the best man for the job is a woman. Men take note. This is your wakeup call.

By Vello Vikerkaar