Many people expected that we’d have a female president in the United States, as many countries across the world have had for decades. Western countries, African nations and Asian countries all broke the glass ceiling years ago. Great Britain was ruled by a woman (Queen Elizabeth I) in the 16th century, and still has a female monarch even today. One of their most powerful prime ministers, Margaret Thatcher, was female, as well.
Here in the United States, it is the 21st century but we are still struggling about how to manage our citizens’ health. Perhaps there is a connection here. This is an issue that has been solved by almost every prosperous nation (and many others besides.) As the wealthiest country in the world, it is outrageous that many of our people do not have access to adequate health care. We have a higher infant mortality rate than any of the other 27 wealthy countries, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If mothers were in charge of our health care system, does anyone think this would be happening?
Women are different from men. As a sophomore at Stanford University in the early 1970s, I took a course titled the “Psychology of Sex Differences” with Sandra Bem, who along with her husband, Darryl Bem, was one of the leaders in gender research at the time. This was at the height of the Women’s Liberation movement and the entire course was devoted to studies that purported to show that there were no innate psychological differences between the sexes whatsoever and that all measurable differences were explainable by culture and environment. Given the same circumstances, in other words, women and men can perform exactly the same; psychologically and cognitively our innate potential is exactly equal and alike.
We’ve come a long way and today research has shown over and over there are in fact many innate differences and women have come to accept that this is a very good thing, indeed. Women’s competencies complement men’s in many areas and sometimes exceed them. Studies show that gender diverse groups are better at problem solving, and other studies have supported the idea that co-education is a definite advantage for boys (although not always for girls, interestingly).
While my experience at Stanford probably indicates social science research (or at least the selection and interpretation of studies that are widely quoted) is more easily biased by the prevailing winds than physics, many recent studies are backed up by brain imaging and other sophisticated “hard science” tools that have been developed since the dark ages when I was a student. The emotional and psychological differences between men and women have real physiological correlates in the brain, and as shown in studies such as the one measuring testosterone levels in traders, endocrine systems, as well as others. Personally, I wouldn’t want my world ruled by testosterone alone.
Even in talking to others, men have been shown to be “competitive” rather than communicative—some men talk to you as if their goal is to “win” the conversation they are having with you. We have all had the experience of arguing with men who cannot let go of their need to be right, sometimes much to their disadvantage.