TAFEP Hero 2023 June
human resources online

Differences between men and women are vastly exaggerated

Adam Grant, organisational psychologist at Wharton, creater of the WorkLife podcast, and author of Option B, sheds light on hard facts that prove while women and men excel in their own ways, both genders are more alike than credited for.

If you’ve read the memo by a Silicon Valley engineer about diversity, you probably had a strong emotional reaction.

It’s always precarious to make claims about how one half of the population differs from the other half—especially on something as complicated as technical skills and interests. But I think it’s a travesty when discussions about data devolve into name-calling and threats. As a social scientist, I prefer to look at the evidence.

The gold standard is a meta-analysis: a study of studies, correcting for biases in particular samples and measures. Here’s what meta-analyses tell us about gender differences:

1. When it comes to abilities, attitudes, and actions, sex differences are few and small.

Across 128 domains of the mind and behaviour, “78% of gender differences are small or close to zero.” A recent addition to that list is leadership, where men feel more confident but women are rated as more competent.

There are only a handful of areas with large sex differences: men are physically stronger and more physically aggressive, masturbate more, and are more positive on casual sex. So you can make a case for having more men than women… if you’re fielding a sports team or collecting semen.

2. In the US, boys aren’t better at math than girls.

Across nearly 4,000 studies, the average gender gap in math achievement is not statistically different from zero. The two sexes have very similar variances, with men showing slightly more variability. And there are just as many cases where girls outperform boys in math as vice-versa:



We know that interests are highly malleable. Female students become significantly more interested in science careers after having a teacher who discusses the problem of underrepresentation. And at Harvey Mudd College, computer science majors were around 10% women a decade ago. Today they’re 55%.

It’s time to stop making mountains out of molehills. If men are from Mars, it looks like women are too.

This column was first published on the author’s article feed.

Photo / 123RF

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