The workplace should be segregated. Maybe.

Increasingly it makes sense to me that the workforce is segregated by gender.

There are, in fact, jobs where mostly women belong, and there are jobs where mostly men belong, and that's fine. It's outdated to think there are no differences between men and women. And once we accept there are differences, we need to study them instead of downplay them.

One of the most difficult parts of coming of age today is that there are no clear paths in the new topography of work. The terms quarterlife crisis and emerging adulthood have come to us as a result of the new scramble to figure out where to go in adult life. In order to create safe, compassionate, growth-oriented paths through adult life, we need to understand where women and men fit best.

I have taken a lot of shots at this topic before. Most notably, I've pointed out that women want to be with kids more than men do. That explains Pew’s findings that most women want part-time jobs rather than full-time jobs after they have kids, but men do not.

But what about gender differences before there are kids? Where do men belong? Where do women belong? Here are three places women do not generally fit:

1. Highly competitive sales jobs are not for most women.

Most women are not happy when they are competing, rather than collaborating with their co-workers, whereas men love competition, according to a study from the University of Chicago. And research from the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that even in the case of men who are poor competitors or women who are strong competitors, the gender-based preferences for competition persist.

Women who achieve high levels of success played sports as kids and experienced huge satisfaction with winning. However women are less likely than men to choose competitive environments due to millions of years of evolution encouraging women to mitigate risks to protect themselves for their children. (Tons of studies support this, but my current favorite is from Anne Campbell, psychologist at Durham University in England.)

So who is a good fit for a career in sales? Richard Goldman, COO of Birkman International, a company that helps businesses make intelligent hires by using the Birkman Method for personality assessments, explains that collaborative, team-player types simply do not make good salespeople. When it comes to sales, though, the people who are the best fit for the high-level jobs are those who have an eat-what-you-kill mentality.

2. Men are better at very high-level math, science and engineering.

A 2008 survey of US universities by the National Science Foundation revealed that less than 30% of PhDs in the physical sciences were awarded to women. Higher up the ranks, women make up only about 10% of full professorships in physics-related disciplines. Yet a study from psychologists Stephen Ceci and Wendy Williams of Cornell University found no evidence of gender bias during the interview and hiring process for science positions.

Now that we have a few decades of data coming from girls who were encouraged to do math, we can say, with a decent amount of certainty, that the average girl is as good at math as the average boy. But in the world of hotshot math, women are outclassed.

One fundamental difference between the male and female brain is gray matter. And University of California at Irvine released solid data to explain why men are good at math.

“Evolution has created two different types of brains designed for equally intelligent behavior,” said Richard Haier, professor of psychology who led the study.

“In general, men have approximately 6.5 times the amount of gray matter related to general intelligence than women, and women have nearly 10 times the amount of white matter related to intelligence than men. Gray matter represents information processing centers in the brain, and white matter represents the networking of—or connections between—these processing centers.”

This chart, from Gene Expression, shows the difference in brain makeup.

Also, now that we have a slew of data about Asperger's syndrome, we can say that the people who are incredibly terrible with language (white matter) or incredibly gifted with mathematical thinking (gray matter) are usually boys. Boys, rather than girls, populate the two extreme ends of the bell curve.

So it should not be surprising or controversial that studies repeatedly find that there are large gender differences among extremely gifted math students. More boys are gifted.

Now the world starts making sense. This is why there are more men in math and science positions in universities. This is why the hot-shot companies in Silicon Valley are full of male engineers and not women. And this is why we need to stop complaining that science departments are boys clubs. It's not just the department—high end scientific thinking is a boys club.

3. Men are best suited for the insanely fast-paced startup arena.

More than 95% of venture capital goes to male-run startups. (To be clear, we are talking here about companies that plan to grow to more than $100 million in sales over five years and these companies court investors to achieve that.)

These startups are largely male, and the reason is that women are not interested in the crazy life that startup founders live. Women prefer lifestyle-focused companies where they can have better control over the intersection of their work life and personal life.

I laid out the argument in a post on TechCrunch, but, as you can imagine, it comes down to kids. Women want to spend more time with kids, and they have less desire to give up everything for their company. It would be great if you could do both, but when it comes to startups, you can't.

If you poll women who are CEOs of venture-backed startups as well as mothers, you will find that most women have either lost their marriage or their sanity while trying to run a startup and a family. Of course, no woman (besides me) will say this publicly because it will kill her career as an entrepreneur. One woman, (who has been lauded on TechCrunch for her startup), told me confidentially that she is getting a divorce and her husband thinks her drive is pathological. Which, frankly, is probably true, because much has been written about how most successful entrepreneurs are almost-but-not-quite crazy.

And Sara Lacy has explained the process whereby the boys-club startup founders perpetuate the boys club: if you get through it once, you can keep going, and helping other people to live out the crazy, family-unfriendly pipe-dreams of startup founders.

Many of you will want to tell me stories of the exceptions. I know. I'm one of them. I've driven myself and my ex-husband completely insane with my startup dramas, and I keep doing them. Each time I tell myself I will stay small. I will do a lifestyle business, and then I don't. I think too big and I take in outside funding.

But going into a field where you are the gender minority is very difficult. For one thing, people judge you more harshly, and you are more quickly to be deemed a failure. And it feels uncomfortable. Sure, it's fun to be the only woman in the room because you get a lot of attention, but on balance, Live Science reports that women are uncomfortable in a male-dominated setting.

One of the worst adages of feminism was “you can be anything.” Because you can't. You can't be an iconoclast if you're not. And most of us are not. It's a lonely life. Why encourage it? Look at the paths that have a more sure footing. Look at the lives they create. If you like that life, give it a try.

When we look to create new paths for new careers, look at what real lives look like along the way. If you are 20 and you want to be the rare woman getting a PhD in math, ask yourself, are you really that different from all other people? And if you are 30 and you want to get funding for your startup, ask yourself if you truly are crazy enough to give up sanity for a company. Most of us look for more stable, surefooted ways to go through life. That's rational behavior.

 

Posted in Diversity, Finding a career
203 comments on “The workplace should be segregated. Maybe.
  1. Chris M. says:

    And one more thing — what makes a productive, innovative work environment is having people with all types of brains and interests and talents working together. Since when segregating people with similar skills made a good recipe for success?

  2. B says:

    re: why does Chris want so badly to prove Penelope right?

    Could have something to do with the tendency of people who feel powerless to latch on to those they perceive as powerful… ie Tea Party supporters who don’t have health insurance, Glenn Beck fans, Nazis… it all comes from the same instinct: “Why try to solve my problems when I could just believe I’m connected to someone bigger than myself?”

  3. Jennifer says:

    Assuming this hypothesis is true, where are the list of jobs that women are naturally better at?

  4. Maureen says:

    Penelope, this post really speaks to me and I think you’re really on to something.

    My experience as a woman in a man’s environment is limited as I’m only 26, but for the past 9 years, I’ve been in the Military. I went to a service academy, majored in Marine Environmental Science and am currently serving on Active Duty. So, although my experience is limited in years, I consider it rich in quality.

    My first tour was onboard a ship with a crew of 72. I was one of 4 women onboard.

    On the ship, I realized, if the fundamental differences in the way women and men process information were recognized, studied and capitalized upon, we would vastly improve productivity in the workplace. Diversity isn’t about differences in gender or color – real diversity is in the way people think, what shapes their world view. A woman that is “one of the boys” brings little diverse thought to the “old boys club.”

    Telling women to act like men to make it to the top of the man pyramid to blaze a path/make a statement for other women to do the same thing is just martyring generations of women that may be better fulfilled or achieve more elsewhere. Instead of feeling the pressure to be anything because we can, why not be what will bring us peace and fulfillment – what we are best suited for? It’s not a limit – it’s called maximizing your potential and using your gifts where they are appreciated/needed.

    Penelope, you have truly found a good niche for yourself. From someone who is still trying to carve mine out, thanks for your posts.

  5. Kelly says:

    Ha ha. The formula works for Penelope again: 1) think of the most outrageous statement that will anger and insult the most people possible, 2) look up some links to support it, and 3) make sure sex is included somewhere. What doesn’t work anymore? Despite its undeniable entertainment value I can no longer read the blog of someone who promotes hurtful and ignorant stereotypes for her own gain.

  6. Anna says:

    Men are *statistically* better in high end maths and sciences, and women are not as good *statistically* in high stress sales jobs.
    *Why* would that have to lead to segregation in the workplace?

    I’m female, I’ve got asperger, and I usually fail in networking with females. I suck in understanding between the lines, and it should be no surprise I have chosen careers that are in mostly male environment. IT, servers etc. When someone says something, I understand what they say, not what’s between the lines, not what’s left unsaid. Guess what? Women do that type of hidden communication much more than men.

    What many of my male colleagues have said is that having at least one or two females in the team does miracles. Without that odd girl, the guys have similar social BS as women have, or so they say. I’m bad to comment on that, as I don’t mind when I’m “forgotten”, like once when a colleague started telling to other colleagues about his trip to a paid woman… after five minutes he remembered that I’m a girl.

    I don’t thrive in women only groups, whether it’s work or social life. I’ve lived in shared houses for years, in different groups, with people from different places. The two worst housemate combinations I’ve ever had? Women only. With horror stories I still, after years, fail to forgive. If I’d ever go back to shared housing, I’d definitely go to a mixed house, or with guys only.

    I think (or so a lot of people tell me to be the case) *statistically* a significant amount of women finds working wiht or living with other women to be less BS and stressing than being in a mixed group. That still doesn’t make that all women prefer that. I’m way less stressed in mixed or guys only groups. I don’t have to pretend to like or care about shoe shopping or gossip or cupcakes or romances or breeding or chick movies.

    I’m glad I’ve never had to go to a gender segregated school. Even the idea of it makes me sick.

  7. Shir. says:

    Whatever we are authentically called out to do personally, is I believe what is most important for an individual in their lifetime. Regardless of what others think is good for us or what’s expected of us or others’ notions of right or wrong, it helps if one consistently turns inward for their answers, even as one weighs others’ advise/opinions. Thanks for the interesting post, Penelope. It was great reading. It is always helpful to be aware of different points of view (through the comments section as well) based on research or personal experience.

  8. X says:

    You are getting old. And living in Cowtown is not helping you either.

  9. me says:

    Obviously you wrote this article for the traffic but you could have thrown your gender a bone and at least pretended you gave a shit about women’s careers; you could have written it with an upward slant toward lifting women up instead of writing about all the things women can’t do. (Where’s the list of 15 best careers suited for the female brain? Where was that in your SEO terms or tag line?) Which, as I’m sure you know because you’re not a total douchebag, is bullshit science anyway. As a previous commenter stated, that study is freely available in its entirety on the internet and has been roundly discredited and never replicated. Science not replicated is not science and someone supposedly as smart as you should know that and know better than to post it as factual and write an article around it. Seriously? Seriously? Seriously. You’re just as bad as any of these criminally anecdotal commenters old Chris here is crucifying in the thread for telling their stories of companies full of female math and science PhD’s.

  10. awiz8 says:

    Wonderful! I can just see all those single mothers saying, “I don’t want to work full time at any job I’m qualified for and earn a full time salary. I just want to work at “woman’s” job part time and live below the poverty line with my kids.”

  11. CE says:

    Thought provoking – the commentary even more than the post.

    On the one hand, I agree that people should learn to seek out what they are gifted at, in order to succeed in both the workplace and life. It would be pointless, for instance, for me to attempt to be the next Olympic Ice Skater – no amount of training would fix my bad ankles and poor coordination!

    And I also believe that the perception that women are not good at certain skills has its basis in some facts, though perhaps not in the same way this post assumes.

    And I do believe that both biology and culture draw women who are mothers to sacrifice themselves in order to do what is best for their children (after all, how would the species survive without that instinct?), and that means that often after a woman has kids she will sacrifice her career, if she has a husband who can bring home enough for her to spend more time focusing on the children.

    On the other hand, many of the points made in prior commentary are of utmost importance when considering such an inflammatory topic:

    1) Sociology does not equal biology, and sometimes the lines cross too closely for us to know what is what.
    There certainly are differences in the way men and women process information – biology has provided plenty of evidence for that. However, maybe that just means we need to teach it differently.

    For example, I was never able to learn math from my father, who is gifted at it, but when I had a talented female teacher, the light “clicked” – and in my first bachelor’s, which was for teaching English (a very “feminine” field), I took Calculus for fun. I found the women explained the math in a totally different way, and it made sense – and I aced all my higher level maths, even Probability and Statistics for Engineers, which I had to take when I got a second degree in Computer Science.

    My layman’s theory here is that while every person has different learning styles, perhaps the differences are stronger between the sexes. That means I am just as capable of higher level learning as my brother – as long as I figure out “how” I learn.

    2) Sexism DOES exist in the workplace, and the academic, technical, and hard science arenas are some of the places where it is still most rampant.

    I’ve experienced it from men who honestly didn’t think they were sexist – but kept wanting to push me to help desk and documentation instead of programming and databases, because “that’s where my talents were”. It took encouragement from some women mentors and male professors for me to stay in the field, especially knowing that I have chosen a field where I will forever be one of very few women. I have had to fight for respect and acceptance – and I earned it based on ability alone. But the men in my field are automatically respected – it’s just “assumed” they know what they are talking about.

    3) It is dangerous – I would say even rather irresponsible – to throw around stereotypes (even if there is some foundation for them) that have the potential of holding someone back from their full potential. If women are less aggressive and confident in the workplace than men (this is a generalization that most could agree with, though as always there are exceptions.) then when a talented woman encounters an article such as this she may be discouraged, thinking perhaps her grandpa was right all along, and God did make us different, and maybe she really should be a kindergarton teacher or stay home with her babies and do laundry.

    And that is dangerous, because it means we lose potential minds simply because they are fearful of pushing into the hard, cold, world of “men’s” jobs.

    4) Just because many woman want to stay home with their kids, doesn’t mean all do. Women who don’t have children don’t have the need to sacrifice their careers, and they can push to the top of any ladder if they want to. Women who do have children want what is best for them. And in some cases, what is best for children is to work hard in a lucrative career. And sometimes what is best is to stay home and do laundry. Everyone’s family looks a little different.

    And woman who sacrifice their careers in the short term may fully plan on returning in the long run. And while it can be hard to “catch up” in the scientific and technical fields, it’s certainly possible. Many women whose kids are grown have made the choice to return to school so they can launch or revive their career. It’s not “either / or” and “having it all” doesn’t mean having it all at the same time.

    So in short:
    True – there are differences, and they matter. BUT – caution in propagating stereotypes is wise, because they may be inaccurate and they may hold back someone with potential.

  12. Jodi PCO says:

    I am waiting to hear you say you are running on a ticket for President.
    Honestly, you scare me. I would like to see you alone and facing the world with your children living out of a car. Minimal education and feeding those two kids and having to pay half of your take home pay to some less than adequate day care that warehouses kids. Children coming home with bruises bites and lice.
    A single mom, and not by choice, I raised 5 children by myself. 2 were ours, 3 were his. He dumped all of us as he had dreams. We, as a family, were dead weight to his imaginings. He left, and any hope of a normal family went out the door along with him.
    My point.. Someone had to be the grown up and take responsibility for the young people. Keeping a roof over our head food on the table shoes and clothes on the bodies.
    I worked 60 hours a week and went to school to finish my MSW. That hope of finishing school fell through the cracks when he walked out. He had his degree and a good lawyer. Our cars, house, money, and no cares.
    Women are the ones who take responsibility for the family. Look at the statistic s only 4% of men raise children in a single parent home.
    Women 96%.
    A child is a sure way to poverty. And if you live on welfare, you are damned. If your child is ill and out of school, and you have to take time off to take care of them. You’re a bad employee. If you can’t feed the children the way the state thinks you should, you’re an abusive parent.
    For him, a family was a 10 second commitment and now for me, a life time.
    He always said I took something serious that was poked at me in fun.

  13. Amy Moore says:

    I find this whole post extremely insulting to women in general and the conclusions misguided and ill-founded. Especially as a female PhD in the Sciences (from Stanford) and a woman who has always been better at math than most of my male peers and as a mother of a female child with Asperger’s. So many points you made are wrong and completely unfounded! Why on earth would you make blanket statements about what women can or cannot do?

  14. Noel Rozny says:

    Ok. So where is the part of this post that discusses where women do fit in? Or hopefully that’s coming tomorrow?

  15. A Mensa Member says:

    Penelope,

    You are obviously very “brave” to address a “true stereotype” about women (as an entire GENDER) based on a couple of scientific studies.

    Since you are so “brave,” I challenge you to write a similar post about race, referencing scientific studies on the correlation of race to intelligence as noted in the book “The Bell Curve” by Harvard Psychologist Richard J. Herrnstein.

    Let’s see how brave you are about that.

  16. Liz says:

    I’m getting a real “ick” from this blog lately, starting with the 30-year-old women post, and moving up from there. Correlation does not equal causation appears to have tripped you up, Penelope, and you are presenting political positions and social expectations as “truths.” As a result, you have gone from subverting the power structure – a big factor in your appeal – to justifying everything about the way things are. It’s not fun to read, and your comments are just poorly thought through.

  17. Brad says:

    Didn’t anybody watch PT’s cartoon? She’s just following her well-established formula. A post saying that the workplace should NOT be segregated would only appear on a sucky blog.

  18. S.J.J says:

    Penelopem you are a little misguided today. I think you need to do a little more research on why there are so few women in science and math.

  19. emily says:

    The established ways companies split up roles along gender lines (“men skills” and “women skills”) is really just about paying some people (women) less to produce more overall. Why take care of your own phone calls and appointment scheduling (administrative assistants), your own employee issues (hr staff) or collaborative efforts (lower paid team members) when you can just hire a woman to do that work for you and at a bargain at that! As a result, the general pace of the organization increases and men make more money while doing less than they ever had to before.

  20. Avat.R Koo says:

    Penelope, articles like this aren’t helpful to Millenials. Millenials are less concerned with gender norms, and this blog post sounds so…old-fashioned.

    What WOULD be an interesting post: if you’re a minority in any career (e.g a woman in a notoriously male and misogynistic field…or, a man in a traditionally female field), how do you build a fulfilling career? How do you stay true to your own unique vision?

    Millenials want to be unique. This article says, “you can’t be unique if you happen to born of a certain gender.”

    Not cool.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Oh Penelope,

    In short, shame on you. So many women in highly competitive working environments would agree with me here… and so many men as well! Your stats do not all directly relate or support your concept, nor are they invaluable compared to other stats that are produced that can easily combat what you are saying..such as this one here published by USA Today and the White house here http://content.usatoday.com/communities/theoval/post/2011/03/obama-report-women-lag-in-pay-gain-in-education/1.
    It’s women and people like you who allow the social hierarchy where men abuse women to remain. Because of you things remain this way despite the fact that there are more women in the world than men and ALSO more women in the world with degrees in higher education then men…which means that JUST LIKE men, women can do WHATEVER THEY WANT TO DO WITH THEIR OWN LIVES….and should ignore people like you who will prefer to keep them down and tell them otherwise….You should be seen and not heard…since you know you’re a woman and all :P. Shame on you…shame shame…I hope you learn an invaluable lesson from all this…and I hope it’s the one you NEED to learn.

  22. KB says:

    If sex disparities at the tail end of the math spectrum are so important to the level of self segregation that should be occurring in some fields, why has there been an increasing female presence in most of these occupations over the past three or four decades as barriers to women’s achievement have been more recognized and addressed in the public arena? Social trends are changing much faster than biology could keep up with. In addition, while there may be differences at the high tails, but the overlap between men and women in achievement of all sorts is much greater than that. The differences within men and within women are much greater than those between.

  23. Catherine says:

    I wish I’d never read this post. I’m currently trying to decide between scientific and business fields and this lends absolutely no insight into my dilemma. Please consider the possibility that the status quo is changing as women become more educated and more involved in math and science. I expected more than just a rehashing of tired, age-old stereotypes from this blog. I’d expect that a self-proclaimed exception-to-the-rule would be able to articulate the frustration that women face a little more than just saying “you’re not in the boys club because you don’t belong Here” that I hear from so many women who manage to make it in, rather than support. The sexism in boys’ clubs is real, regardless of those at the highest end of the bell curve (which isn’t even applicable in most science and engineering jobs).

    • emily says:

      @Catherine – Figuring out how to change a tradition approach to problem solving in any field is a valuable career skill. What might have once been called sexism (and my comment above shows I’m dated myself) could really be just a resistance to change. It’s our job not to be swayed into thinking that the anger that comes from that type of aversion to change is about us.

    • Rich says:

      Catherine,
      If you like science and engineering, pursue it. A degree in one of these fields offers much more flexibility in your career than a business degree. There are many science and engineering graduates who are managers, directors, VP’s, etc. as well as those working as engineers and scientists. However, you won’t find many people with a business degree working as a scientist or engineer. A degree in a science or engineering field will give you the flexibility to do whatever you want.

  24. Leslie says:

    Even though people are genetically programmed for certain tasks does not mean that they can’t learn to do others. For example, women are naturally more verbal than men and more adept with language but there are many outstanding male writers.

  25. A Mensa Member says:

    Oh God, you guys (no pun intended). She is just a mediocre (at best) blogger trying to drum up controversy to get more attention and readers on her blog. There isn’t even a need for argument about this drivel. Everyone with half a brain knows this is an attention-getting mechanism by a silly blogger weakly supported by biased, faulty science. She is ridiculous.

  26. Jane says:

    Penelope,

    first, congrats on steering the pot of controversy yet again! The issue of gender segregation is muddled in emotions, it’ll take decades before we as a society will be able to discuss the science of it, such as the quantity and quality of white and gray brain matter, and the fairly obvious fact that women’s heads tend to be smaller, yet work for longer.

    Second, going to the heart of the matter. The next Newton and Einstein (or the first ones, for that matter) were not and will not be exactly ordinary or average men – or women. The CEOs, high-flying entrepreneurs, highest-pressure sales people are by no means average people, regardless of whether they are men or women.

    Now, not every Math PhD aspires to be the next Decart, and high-pressure entrepreneurship is only high-pressure because other people in the community behave in a certain high-pressure way.

    Women do not score as well as men in the very top of science and engineering because the scoring systems have been devised and tuned by men for men. The same is true for most competitive activities (with a possible exception of ballet dancing – there the scoring systems were devised by men for women).

    The current system of work relationships has evolved in a world that did not include any women. That does not mean it’s the only way for the world to be, or that it’s the best way. But the only way it’s going to evolve sooner rather than later is if the women – the weird ones, who thrive on competition and pressure and possess the almost-pathological drive – keep pressing on. And then maybe lots of men will be grateful that it’s OK to not always eat what they killed.

  27. Beth Mann says:

    Oh, Penelope. I greatly admire your pieces – honest, bold, personal, informative.

    But this strikes of the same old limiting stereotypes I’ve heard for years. And you do more damage than good by perpetuating them.

    So many commenters said it better than me. So I’ll use their words to convey my thoughts:

    “Most of the neurological “science” about sex differences is very, very sketchy. Not surprisingly, it tends to justify and support social norms.”

    “Congratulations on singlehandedly providing men with information to discriminate against us.”

    “But it is dangerous to reduce diversity by enforcing gender norms based on biological research.

    Why? Because it’s at that point where the research is no longer rooted in biology, but in social psychology. You are now talking the language of expectations, socialisation and norms.”

    This was a dangerous and limiting piece and I expect more from you. You should be able to see through the ruse of these “tests.” You should also recognize how much we’re working AGAINST the conditioning of generation upon generation – how can we possibly know what areas in which we excel as women when we’re in a new and uncharted territory, still finding ourselves and feeling confident enough to even KNOW our interests?

    Lastly, humankind is just too diverse to make these kind of vast assumptions. I have several male friends who want nothing more than to go home to their kids – more so than their wives (it’s possible – I swear.)

    I know many women who ashamedly tell me how they’ve NEVER wanted kids. I know men who are so creative, they can’t balance a check book – their minds just don’t work that way. I know MANY women who are fast and hard number crunchers. I live with a female geologist who is the forewoman for her team. And the list goes on and on….too much variety for this kind of generalizing.

    And what does it get us anyway? Let’s say all of these tests were 100% gospel accurate. Then what? Should I base my career choice on it? This article discourages, not guides, me.

    I mean, of course, SOME women feel uncomfortable in male dominated work settings…who the hell wouldn’t? That doesn’t mean you don’t adjust or find your voice eventually. In addition, perhaps women are more willing to ADMIT they feel uncomfortable. Discomfort should stop us?

    Eck. These arguments have tired me out for years. Bottom line: I don’t think they serve anyone. They’re polarizing and limiting and stale. I’m very different than you and I’m a woman. In turn, I could be more like a man in certain regards. And the beat goes on.

    Any sentence that starts with “Men are” or “Women are” instantly shuts me down. And for good reason. It’s usually always sexism hidden under so-called “facts.” It never makes me feel any good.

  28. GoOctopus Job Search says:

    If we just focus on the physical differences between male and female, (as your brain chart), we’ll definitely come to a conclusion: women should accept the gap because of the body. But, what if we take a look at the different influences on mental and education when we are boys and girls? These kind of influences strengthen the gender gap, and have a solid impact on human evolution.

    • It's like a stick in my eye. says:

      Do I really have a “gap of the body”? How scary. Is it showing? Do I look fat in it?

  29. Aliza Paige says:

    My idea is simple.. women are more like men than other things or organisms in the world.

  30. Mara says:

    Hi. So. I’ve only been reading this blog for a couple of weeks, and although it was clearly written by and for people not very similar to myself, I always found it interesting and insightful.

    Then I read this post and felt sick.

    I’ve only read half the comments here, but I’m so relieved to see that there are other people who found it problematic. It’s enough to restore my faith in humanity, if not this blog.

  31. figleaf says:

    Not to sound like a “boys can’t do text comprehension” or anything but if there are such vast differences between men’s and women’s white and gray matter then why is the average woman as capable of math as the average man?

    Since that doesn’t make any sense it must mean either that maybe 99% of men generally waste 5.5x of their 6.5x advantage in math-a-licious gray matter over women or… maybe something else is going on.

    Based on the graceless quality and tone of the “congratulations” a friend of mine just got from her department head* after receiving the highest NSF score anyone in her hard-sciences department has gotten in a decade I think it might be something else.

    The something else, incidentally, might be the conviction men have (doesn’t matter if it’s socialized or “genetic”) that if they don’t do better than women they’ll never get sex.

    You can’t discount the effectiveness of that conviction, incidentally, or the grown-man-panic drive it can generate when a man’s afraid he’s going to be shown up by a woman.

    Meanwhile women’s worries about never getting sex run along pretty different lines (again whether it’s socialized or genetic is kind of irrelevant.)

    No one’s asked me so far, but if someone did I’d say the difference in “…or I’ll never get sex” accounts for far more of the differences in outcomes in science, in sales, and in startups than gray matter or “girls suck at math.”

    figleaf

    *A far better rating, incidentally, than he’s ever likely to see.

  32. Becky says:

    Here is an article that overlaps with this discussion.

    http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/03/girls-and-science/

  33. Leo says:

    Why does it matter what ‘most’ men or women are good at? Why would a person study your generalizations to figure out what to do with their lives when they could simply base their decisions on what THEY THEMSELVES ARE GOOD AT – irrespective of social norms?

    One of the odd things that I simply can’t understand about our society (and you seem to buy into it more than most writers) is the need to abstract and analyze trends in the population not to understand anything about humanity, but rather to decide what an individual should do. I think young people should go out there and do what they want to do for a living, taking into account all forseeable consequences (e.g. whether or not a job is compatable with child-rearing) and weighing those without the prejudices of the rest of the workforce.

  34. Los Angeles Honda says:

    Honestly, I disagree with many points here. I am a woman who does not want kids and have no interest in kids whatsoever and I’m almost 33. Never played sports but I am VERY competitive and I also have a pretty big ego. I love winning and I love being the best and I like beating men at anything and everything. I actually find it offensive that people naturally assume all women don’t like to compete and don’t want kids. This is way too much stereotyping in this post…

  35. CostumeLady says:

    No person, male or female should be excluded from trying to work in any field because “statistically” someone of another gender might be better at it. Success is not just about aptitude, it’s also about drive and passion and doing what you love – and that depends on the individual.
    Gender may have something to do with those too but the whole point of equality in the workplace is to prevent exclusion. Trying to force people into “rational” boxes that exclude others is ridiculous. Individuals should have the right to make their own decisions and if those decisions are based on statistics then it’s a choice too. but sometimes you just fall into something that you love. I’m a female, and I work in a startup technology company where I’m old enough to be the mother of many of the people I work with – and I’m having the time of my life! Where would I be if the rigid, rational system you are positing was enforced?
    If you are going to propose a system, try thinking about something that will benefit the individual – not force us into an artificial construct based on statistics.
    S.

    • Lu says:

      “No person, male or female should be excluded from trying to work in any field because “statistically” someone of another gender might be better at it.”

      Exactly.

  36. Angela DuBois says:

    It probably helps if you’re a first-born too. The point of the Women’s movement was to open doors for the women who ARE the exceptions. And enough of us are exceptions to make that push for equality worthwhile. The problem in the past has been that connection-making and competition HAVEN’T been seen as equally valuable.
    If I can’t do the job, that’s one thing. To exclude me from the job a priori simply based on gender is unfair and relegates me to a job that I may not be suited for. Don’t suggest that two generations down we’re going to have to do this all over again.

  37. Paul says:

    Penelope,
    My opinion is none of this is gender based, it is all sociology based. Replace gender with race, is it race based? do you come to the same conclusion? I think the biggest problem I have is with the Title and the opening sentence.

  38. Annie@stronghealthyfit says:

    I like this post, and I agree that people need to accept that there are differences in natural tendencies and abilities of men and women. That doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be equal opportunities. I consider myself a feminist, but I also believe in innate gender qualities.

  39. Maggie da Geek says:

    Wow, I couldn’t disagree more.

    I am a talented computer programmer and I am getting my masters in Applied Mathematics. I am good at what I do and although I have decided a PhD is not for me — I easily could get one.

    And you think I picked the wrong career — because I am female! I strongly disagree.

  40. jwhite says:

    I don’t find this to be offensive, but I do think it is silly to limit oneself based on gender. If you want to be a mathematician, then go for it, and don’t bother with the question of ‘will I fit in’. If you let other people’s opinions define what you want to be, you will not get very far. Do what you want and forget the rest.

    That being said, there are other factors related to gender that might limit one’s choices, eg. physical strength, dexterity. But if you can work with them or work around them–that is ‘adapt’–then gender should not limit your choices. Here is an analogous example: I’m a legally blind research scientist and computer programmer. I wanted to be an astronaut. With good eyesight I might have made it, but you need to be a pilot first. Obviously, this is a limitation I cant’ overcome. But I can certainly do my current job without major limitations. Gender is not something that should limit your choices.

    Also, this post perpetuates a problem that has been observed in childhood education, that of 5th grade girls in general being just as capable or more capable in math than 5th grade boys, whereas by 10th grade the reverse is true. This is not innate; its a matter of teaching. You’ve commented on this yourself, so why perpetuate a fallacy?

    Lastly, molding the workplace to accommodate one gender or the other is really unacceptable these days. The workplace has to accommodate both genders.

    Joe

  41. Dale says:

    Way to start trouble Penny. Contrarian premises do elicit intense dialogue. But I’m afraid that based on my observations, it’s more a case of nurture than nature. In the West Indies where I’m originally from, females outstrip males in the STEM fields. Women are expected to have it all and to do it all, an interesting double standard, but generally they do live up to it – unless their social circumstances were too diminished to allow them to work/study their way out of them.
    The double standard is there and accepted. No one expects a woman to be barefooted and pregnant, but everyone understands that pregnant and in a high stress, highly technical job often occurs.

  42. thescrummistress says:

    I suppose you were hoping to get a reaction. What a load of crap. I suppose one person dropping out of your audience does not really matter you but I just wanted you to know that I enjoyed reading what you had to say for several months. I have absolutely no interest in anything further you have to say. I have unsubscribed and will no longer be supporting brazen careerist. This was insulting not just to men and women but to humanity.

  43. Robert says:

    It drives me crazy that as a culture we aspire to be “gender neutral” in the workplace, but yet from birth we assign children gender specific clothing (pink or blue), toys (trucks for boys, dolls for girls), room decorations, etc. We assign a gender specific focus to children from birth, but later in life we say “you’re free to be anything you want to be.” I can understand why as a nation Americans confuse the world…we regularly blur the line between reality and aspiration, then we never pick a side.

  44. Jennifer Mercede says:

    Penelope,
    I appreciate your candor, however, in this statement you have conflated women with mothers:

    “…women want to be with kids more than men do. That explains Pew’s findings that most women want part-time jobs rather than full-time jobs after they have kids…”

    Pew’s results that speak to this are based on a cohort of *mothers*.

    This is a perfect example of social values clouding complex issues.
    Imagine how this functions in the judgement of employers, employees, and coworkers, male and female alike?

    Please devote more time to research on this topic and speak cautiously, because people are living the consequences of these ideas everyday. I personally don’t agree with you in the broader sense of your argument, but beyond my personal opinion, I feel there is a need for stronger control of terminology here.

    Things like gender (as opposed to sex) are extremely subjective in a society as large as ours, and there are great consequences to people who are fighting a tide a gender norms, because their dreams, or paychecks depend on it.

    In additions, even though “woman” and “mother” are both engendered terms (although mother has a biological component), they are very different things in our culture.

    It does a tremendous disservice to women to lump women and mothers together and present it as a study population.

  45. Jennifer Mercede says:

    After reading through some of the more argumentative dialogue in the comments, I’d like to make another point regarding the appropriateness of anecdotal information versus data generated by controlled studies.

    What is in question here is a female’s innate biological mathematical ability, and whether or not she is barking up the wrong hamburger trying to, break into the math sciences, be a paramedic, or sell toner, instead of sticking to a little part time job at the market.

    The only one of these arenas I even feel should be dignified with a response is the one most people here seem concerned with – Math.

    Obtaining a PhD, and then going on to secure a tenured position at a major research university is not a good indicator of someone’s biological ability to do math. While they may not be independent variables, there are so many – I can’t emphasize this enough – many many social variables that lead to the outcome of Math PhD > Awesome Job, as to make neither one a good proxy of the other. People have named a few that I can personally attest to.

    * How well you were nurtured towards the goal in primary schools, secondary schools, JCs or undergraduate universities
    * The funding you receive from your advisor
    * The funding you receive from the department as a whole is a measure of their investment in you, the more invested they are, they more likely they are to continue investing.
    * The funding given to competitive students in your cohort
    (and this is the killer, because other faculty members will vehemently pull for their students and the department ranks you against these people)
    * Whether you need to work outside of school, or
    (if funded through a TAship) How your undergraduates assess you.

    It follows that these things matter:
    * How aggressively your advisor supports you
    * Attitudes of the men in the department towards women AND
    * Attitudes of other women in the department towards women!
    * Attitudes of the entire the faculty towards you despite how great your advisor thinks you are. Sometimes coming from another theoretical camp can land people in hot water, so it helps to be savvy, have other grad students helping you, or have family with a PhD.

    Getting that job also means:
    How much you publish *during* grad school (which has everything to do with how much time you have)
    How much extramural organizations want to give you money or accolade.

    Are you one of the lucky people getting a stipend, with zero responsibilities except looking good (by going to conferences, getting introduced around, doing your research, and publishing)? This leads to how well networked you are in your field, and how many people are, in turn, willing to let you use data, cite you, give you co-authorship, and include you in their research.

    In addition, working in non-empirical sciences, like math, which rely on theoretical ideas, means you can’t generate your own data with hard work and self-determination, and then analyze and write-up said data. You need the strong support of others in your field.

    Finally, believe it or not even the small things like, not going to department pizza parties and living in cheaper but farther neighborhoods can give the impression that you aren’t on campus enough or that you are too overwhelmed to keep up.

    Anecdotes have there place. It only takes one anecdote to suggest that the interpretation of so-called data might have another explanation or lurking variables and require a longer better look through a well designed lit review, and carefully designed studies. Where this topic is concerned, the people that matter have been saying just those things.

    I can understand how Ms. Trunk came to her interpretation, but I can’t support it, and neither do most social scientists.

  46. Its like a stick in my eye. says:

    This statement may at first sound plausible to someone who isn’t already thinking critically about this but WOW:

    “However women are less likely than men to choose competitive environments due to millions of years of evolution encouraging women to mitigate risks to protect themselves for their children. (Tons of studies support this, but my current favorite is from Anne Campbell, psychologist at Durham University in England.)”

    There are so many things wrong with this statement I scarcely know where to start.

    Lets take:
    “… women are less likely than men to choose competitive environment…”

    Trunk hasn’t convinced me that women choose less competitive environments. The studies she cites show me that competitive environments lack women. It’s also not stated whether women are not competing with men, other women, or both. Hmmm.

    But let’s take that as the premise: women don’t like competition.

    Somehow, ‘competition’ becomes …what? Hunting? Hunting large animals? This is perceived as competition because of the evolutionary anthropologist tendency to equate man-provided meat with evolutionary fitness. So women aren’t competitive because they don’t hunt giant things (which has not been shown one way or the other in the archaeological record) – and this is where it really gets good – “…due to millions of years of evolution [even better] encouraging …”

    I can be relied on to get snarky when someone doesn’t understand evolution or natural selection, but wants to use it in support of their ideas. Especially when those ideas tell me that women aren’t wired to compete, they are great listeners, and they love love love Sex in the City.

    I will start with that ol’ devil evolution.

    Evolution does not encourage. Evolution acts on the individual, not a society, it’s passed through genes. Natural selection is probably what Trunk means, but again, this means that some genetic trait makes you more fit (even if it is a mutation) and the environment (whatever it happens to be at that time) favors you particular genetics. There is no goal of evolution: it cares not what you do.

    The measure of fitness is the number of live fertile offspring you bare. According to Ev-psych peoples, in men, this is constrained by your ability to knock-up women. Different male strategies include child investment (caring for few kids well) or having loads of babies with many women and hoping lots of them live to carry on the tradition.

    Females are [evolutionarily] constrained by food. There are lots of reasons to make a distinction between food – and large meat packages presumably provided by males. Isotopic studies and osteological ones show (depending on the culture) sometimes men had better access to meat than women. This might mean that they are getting peckish out on hunting trips and bring home what’s left, or it might mean that men and women prepare and eat food in different spatial locations. In these situations, there is no reason to think that women are waiting on that gazelle they were promised. Supporting this, researchers have found instances where hunter-gatherer scheduling revolves around what women were bringing to the table, rather than the men. Women fed themselves and their children, and men’s contribution you can be sure varied by place, time period, individual, season, the status of the prey population and the particular day. Ev-psych people will also tell you that building good baby brains depends on an a good omega3:6:9 ratio. So the gazelle is important, but so are fish.

    The best way to see the difference between what Trunk suggests and what anthropologists suggest is this: each society has different strategies, and although evolutionary thinking attempts to explain why these are chosen or successful, no one group (or individual) need choose the same strategy.

    Biological anthropologists have been at the question of why menopausal women live long in societies when they are no longer contributing to the fitness of males. This field is lousy with lots of really smart people not able to put a simple answer on it. The answer some say, has to do with the usefulness of women without children as child care personnel. Others say that you would then expect to see a greater survivorship of the grandchildren, which is not always the case. You could also argue that men were not the only ones determining the survival of women. But I am straying from the main point of irritation – “evolution”.

    The bottom line is that according to Trunk, individual women who didn’t compete, had more children than those that did compete and were able to feed those children better than one’s that did, so that their children went on to have children, but that these children were not competitive either because it was genetically passed down from mother to child – apparently only on the X gene, because then the male children would be up the river – or maybe she’s saying they were. These women were also more attractive males who competed, because they didn’t like their hunting skills being upstaged or some such thing – and that when they had children with these super competitive high-fiving hunter guys, the hot hunter genes were only passed on to the males.

    If you read Campbell, it has more to do with “guilt receptors” than straight up alleles, but what she is arguing goes against other frankly more plausible, principles held high by other Ev-psych people. It all comes down to mate selection, and why Campbell thinks women behave differently (supposedly less promiscuously) than men. My take on it is that Campbell is not half done explaining her ideas – which will take better data than what I’ve seen and her entire career.

    But then Trunk goes on to drop these doozies:
    “…to mitigate risks [and] to protect themselves for their children.”

    For most of the 20th century, old fogey archaeologists made unsupported statements about hunter-gatherer women having too many child care responsibilities to do anything materially substantial, like chip away at flint and chase dragons. It isn't that they were wrong, per see, it is just that these leading theories were as yet, unsupported, and also biased. These were unsupported, in that, it was preposed as a likely scenario that suited an untested model and not considered further. It was biased, in that, male anthropologist weren’t thinking a wink about what women might have been doing. It wasn’t even put forward to explain any particular phenomena, simply the belief that gender roles were what archaeologist thought they were. This was used as a jumping off place for years. The model was this: clovis points were left by men roaming the globe after big things as evidenced by big bones, they killed these things off, so that's why we don't have them anymore,… and we aren't exactly sure where the women were at the time now that you mention it…

    It is complicated by differential preservation. Baskets and plants do not often (although they can if you know where to look) survive the archaeological record.

    As books like “Engendering Archaeology” were written, people started to design studies that could get at gender. The results of these vary by place and time and do not suit any one model of the division of labor. Most importantly, there is no reason to think that “evolution” was involved, egging things on from the sidelines.

    People also found better ways to study hunter-gathers, as well as “gatherers”. In general, all hunter-gatherer peoples mitigate risks. Not just the females. Risk mitigation is not just about avoiding getting run through by the tusk of a woolly mammoth. Large animals aren’t just dangerous, they’re highly mobile (also used to support why women are envisioned as having to stay put). Risk mitigation is also about chasing slower animals, making better hunting implements and going to the good spot to fish, because Frank had really good luck there last year – sticking with what works or finding something more reliable. A switch from rabbits to turtles is a form of risk mitigation and subsistence intensification. Also, for 99.9 percent of man’s existence minimizing risk was about mobility. When times got tough, you moved on – and everyone went. It’s all about trade-offs. The same could be said of a modern woman in a highly competitive male dominated field. She will do it when the benefits outweigh the water-cooler talk.

    So it's not that people are saying that women hunted big things (that probably didn’t happen very often at all. It is just that the picture is only beginning to unfold, and it isn't as simple as the one painted exclusively by the (predominately male) anthropologists of yesterday. Anthropologists and archaeologists of both sexes are contributing nicely to this on-going discussion. And whatever drives the division of labor, it isn’t the result of “millions of years of evolution”. But I’m not done.

    Recapping Trunk:
    Women are choosing not to compete

    Competition is synonymous with danger

    This choice is made because the X gene carries an allele that finds danger abhorrent.

    This genetic change happened through evolution, by which she means selection, mutation or drift. And somehow wasn’t passed to men.

    Men like competition because hunting prowess (and the rush school kids get when they win at kickball) is genetic, but is somehow not passed on to the female offspring of males, unless they play modern sports – and win.

    The conflation of evolution with selection makes me cringe, because evolution in the truest sense is not directional. However, statements like the one Trunk has made are often used to support the idea of progress, or that things have "evolved" that way because it's better and how it should be.

    Lastly, we have this old tired statement:
    "to protect themselves for their children.”

    People have used demographics, ethnographic studies of modern hunter-gathers, and archaeology and found that child care does not explain away the sexual division of labor in different societies throughout time.

    Child care is often allotted to other people. Grandparents and siblings are studied in regards to this. A single woman can look after many children. In some societies women travel great distances in their foraging routines sometime with children and sometimes by using child care.

    ‘Tons of studies’?
    This is absolutely untrue. Tons of studies do not support any such thing. I will say that some die-hard people will take an old line that men did this and women did that. No one I would listen to is saying that genetic differences lie at the root of it. Not even the Ev-psych people, who would love to say as much.

    I actually put much stock in Ev-psych, but I don’t understand why researchers that deal with such hard evolutionary outcomes, such as reproductive endocrinology and population genetics, always insist on using non-metric shabby self-reproted online survey data from sex-addled undergraduates.

    For a hilarious take on Campbell’s particular brand of Ev-psych read this:
    http://neuroanthropology.net/2008/07/18/girls-gone-guilty-evolutionary-psych-on-sex-2/

    And since I’m at it, here are the Pew findings, which don’t say any such thing:
    http://pewresearch.org/pubs/536/working-women

    Finally I would like to point out that Bitchmagazine.com reports that women are making great strides in the field of competitive eating, so there: http://bitchmagazine.org/post/zero-summing-it-up-what-about-the-men

    Cheers.

  47. Its like a stick in my eye. says:

    Oh, and happy Women’s History Month.

  48. Rob says:

    I think men and women should be segregated in the workforce. If they were both sexes would get more work done because having people of the opposite sex in the same office is a distraction.

    I have worked for four different organizations since graduating college and at every single one of them somebody was always sleeping with someone else in the office. The first place I worked the manager was having an adulterous affair with the married bookeeper that everyone in town including many of our customers knew about.

    At the second place I worked my female supervisor was having an adulterous affair with the Chairman of the Board of Directors. At the third company I worked for the Manager was having an affair with this woman who worked in another department. She was in her mid 30s and married to an elderly guy who probably wasn’t sexual anymore so she had a boyfriend at work. Her position in another department got deleted due to corporate downsizig so he fired my boss so that he could give his girlfriend my bosse’s job.

    At the last place I worked one of the employees in the office who was a blonde bombshell was having an affair with the much older manager of our office who was married to the daughter of one of the owners of the company. The manager’s girlfriend rapidly rose through the ranks to become a partner in the firm. They had lunch together every day, went jogging together. The manager’s wife (who was a beast) heard rumors sbout the affair so she prevailed on her daddy to get the CEO to transfer the blonde bombshell to an office overseas. It was just like some sick soap opera!

    • It's like a stick in my eye. says:

      Be that as it may, it isn’t a reason to discriminate against women.

      This article is largely about where women don’t belong. Your comment is largely about male’s who are in a position to deny someone a raise (or offer a promotion), misusing their power for advantage to them (sex). It’s not only gross, it’s illegal. Even consensual sleazy adulterous affairs have devastating consequences for the people who are financially responsible for the business, or the people who are caught in the cross-fire as you describe (sometimes this is also a female who won’t put up with overtly sexual environments).

      Laws are in place to protect people (in this case women) because more often then not, it doesn’t serve them to have someone unethically conducting his business for the opportunity to flex his power – whether or not they participate. For this reason, when it is consensual, people are often asked to sign waivers, or cease the relationship. Alternatively, many people just get fired. And guess who it usually is? The boss with ethically problems, or the “blonde bombshell”?

      Yet somehow, you and many people before you have managed to make it the women’s problem. Women who aren’t having affairs have a difficult enough time getting employment (especially when blog’s like this one use a few unimpressive sounding studies to promote an unsupportable idea that women don’t really want to work and aren’t as serious about their careers. Ask yourself what jobs are open to people without having spent thousands of dollars in school of one type or another. Any job that provides some stability and you could live well on is a male dominated field.

      Then there is the glass ceiling. Where I live I know hundreds of people (and I know them well enough to know their background) who work in the entertainment industry. The studios are particularly skewed. Men with no college degree have managed VP titles, and every person with “executive assistant” in their title is female. In all my years I’ve met one male Assistant to a female executive, and one male assistant in a marketing department, who had no direct supervisor. That guy made VP in less than five years of moving here from Athens, GA because he used to be in cool bands. ~70 percent of these executives are male. Many of these women have an equal or better education then their bosses (or peers in the case of the occasional female executive). In my opinion, they also work harder. And by the way, in twenty years of working around these very social people, I’ve never seen anyone sleeping their way to the middle as you describe.

      Women who do manage the same jobs as men are on average paid less money for it.

      My boyfriend told me the other day that he traded a shift with a female coworker in an extremely male dominated field. All the men breathed a sigh of relief, like they had been holding their gas in for years. When he refuses to do something that is outside the job description and very likely to get him hurt, they think he’s being pragmatic. When she refuses the same task in the same circumstance, her capabilities are called into question.

      There is only so much that the law can correct. Sexual harassment, pay disparities, sexism, hostile environments, double standards and exclusion are things that women deal with everyday. The law sets the tone and is used in the few instances when it might be wise to enforce. Most people know that law suits are rarely worth it and people who file them are often in a particularly vulnerable state to start one. I can think of a string of contract work that I had to walk away from because someone snuck up on me and started trying to massage my shoulders, or you realize that you boss has gotten stupid looking and starry eyed around you. I had Mr. ex-ray vision, the photographer who tried to use me as free divorce counseling. People who were verbally abusive in ways that a man would never in a million years speak to another man – and much worse very ugly and intolerable situations from men. It drove me back to school, and that has yet to produce different results.

      Your comment and this article make it a woman’s problem. Take some responsibility and worry about yourself and the job you do at work, not those pesky distracting female’s around.

      This blog bummed me out no end. Women, don’t be part of the problem, don’t propagate stereotypes and advocate sexism. And people, make those around you aware, this article shows they still need it.

    • KB says:

      Unfortunately, “distraction” is not a good enough reason to promote segregation efforts of any specialized group in the US. In the past, these types of arguments have been made about race, religion, sexual orientation (still ongoing), and people with disabilities, all to many heinous or undesirable repercussions. Regarding sex, follow the logic of segregated workplaces to their natural conclusion and we would end up supporting the completely separate worlds for men and women that (most of us) rightfully disdain when we see evidence of it in other countries. If workplaces are somehow “tainted” by mixed sex interaction, should churches, schools, clubs and other gathering places be likewise segregated?

      In addition, the notion that work is divorced from intimacy, as well as the idea that there is somehow a separation of two with respect to economic intent, has been shown by many to be a false pretense (see Vivianna Zelizer’s work on the topic, for example). To make claims that the workplace should or could somehow be separated from intimacy, even with segregated workplaces, is just not a reality.

    • Mimi says:

      Yes, Rob, women are distracting to men and men are distracting to women.

      People are distracting to people, frankly. But that is not a reason to build walls, or to make people wear body-length veils, or to send people to the back of the bus or another entrance, or….

      ANY KIND OF SEGREGATION.

      Penelope…you are…THE PROBLEM.

  49. Firefly says:

    I just wanted to add a few comments to this. I am a female electrician and and have been in this business for 20 years. overall I tend to agree with points in your post. The math thing i have a very different theory on.

    I think the problem with women and math is one thing. women want to know the whys and hows and learn math methods the way they reson out everything else. Men on the other hand tend to just go with the flow they do it and dont want to anylize the math problem.

    Also as far as working with mostly men goes you should understand all bets are off. there are no rules and men can be very cruel. If you work in the electrical industry make sure you really like what you are doing because if you dont you wont be there long. It has taken me a long time to understand how things work in a mans world.

    as far as segragating goes i am against it. If a man cant deal with me on their turf then maybe he should just excuse himself from the situation altogether until they grow up to be a real man. If i can pull my wieght and i can complete tasks just as the men do then no one has any right to segregate me from what is the norm. it suggests i need special treatment. I earned my license fair and square and went through school just like all the other guys.

    I was just recently fired from a multi-billion dollar company where i was a maintenance electrician. I can assure you that most of what you heard was probably a lie. Men who are insecure with themselves tend to make bold claims like that in hopes everyone will believe them.

    Case and point? I was fired because i refused to screw my boss as it turns out this fabulous company just settled out of court ust 7 months ago with a woman that was fired 3 weeks after they hired me. her complaints as it turns out are almost the same as mine.
    As a woman becomes seasoned and aquires a handle on working with men they begin to understand that there is a breed of man that will do anything to take a woman down any way they can. it is just a fact of being a feminist in a mans world. men who resort to rumors to shed a bad light on women are assholes and they tend to have no personal life of their own. they tend to also have no one to go out with because no one can stand to be around them. Why? they are ASSHOLES. I myself have learned to not let anyone get under my skin like that because this is the only way to piss someone like that off. Ignore them and you will see one pissed off loser.
    now you might think im full of it for saying that because , after all i was fired. the place i worked at was a lot like your jobs you mention.

    I am a very lucky woman. I had the smarts to record my boss sexually harrassing me. I have a lawyer and a pending investigation with BOLI.

    In these situations where the office is all about one life to live you have a choice ignore the bullshit and take advantage of the situation or feed into it

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