iii) Gender Differences That Need To Be Understood

. Even at the risk of stereotyping, there are gender differences that need to be understood. They are based on male and female brains being hardwired for different functions and priorities. Man is wired for hunting while woman is wired for caring. Thus, the instinctual mode of communicating and decision-making processes are the most obvious differences between men and women, ie

The 5 most frequently asked questions by men about the way women communicate:

"... 1. Why do women talk so much?

2. Why do women always want to talk about problems?

3. Why do women exaggerate?

4. Why do women never seem to get to the point?

5. Why do women want to know all the little details?..."

Alan Pease et al, 2002

. Research, as explained by Robert Winton, (2003) has shown the differences in men and women are linked with part of the brain called corpus callosum. This is a neural connection that links the 2 brain hemispheres (left and right). Generally, it tends to be proportionately larger in women than men. It has been suggested that as women have more neural connections, their brains communicate more quickly and easily between their different regions. This could explain how women are able to handle a number of tasks simultaneously when compared with men who are more focused on an individual task. Furthermore, it may help explain the emotional differences between men and women, as emotional processing is largely located in the right hemisphere, and that the power to express our feelings through language is in the left hemisphere. Thus for men with fewer connections, it may be harder to talk about emotions; while for women with extra connections, it is not so challenging

. Some sociological research has identified the impact of being a member of a minority group. In order to feel that you are not different, you need to have at least 15 percent of a group similar to you at any level of the organisation. If you comprise less than that you will feel, and the group will treat you, as different. As a result, women in many male-dominated professions are still seen as, and feel different.

"...so you are judged differently, you judge yourself differently, you expect that you will be treated differently..."

Laura Tyson as quoted by Geoff Kitney, 2005

On the other hand, if the level of representation is between 15 and 35 %, there is a need for continuing education and constant focus on the under-representation. Once the level of representation exceeds 35%, the difficulties encountered by the minority are significantly reduced as the organisational norms have started to change.

. The cognitive gender differences are real:

"...countless behaviourial studies have shown that men are significantly better at spatial ability tasks like geometry, map-reading and finding their way through mazes. They are seen to have an innate talent for imagining and manipulating space in their minds which tends to play itself during arguments over map-reading in the car, or even contests over who can reverse-park with the most ease......women (who tend to do better in other skills such as visual memory)..."

Robert Winston, 2002

. Evolutionary psychologists claim that the basis for the gender differences is due to the ancient divisions of labour, ie males focused on the hunting and females on caring and gathering food. This has led to some people to claim

"...It is not the function of the brain that makes us conform to stereotype......but socialisation..."

Cordelia Fine as quoted by Fiona Smith, 2011

On the other hand, there are some biological factors that can have an impact, ie unlike man's sperm, which is replenished, women are born with all their eggs. As they age, fertility declines. The likelihood of successful pregnancy and childbirth starts to drop from age 30 and plummets after 40. This window of opportunity coincides with critical career building years for many women. Egg freezing offers an opportunity for women to focus on their careers and delay motherhood

The biggest stereotype is that women lead as mothers and men lead as warriors. Yet some research (Fiona Smith, 2011) contradicts this. Furthermore, other gender-based abilities, such as women's multi-tasking and men's spatial awareness, are not necessarily ingrained traits but can be developed.


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