The Question Rephrased: Are There Some Jobs Women are Just Intrinsically Better at than Men?

It's an age old question - one that has been heavily debated in recent times: are there intrinsic differences between women and men that make each sex better suited for different jobs?

One of my aunts and I recently had a conversation about this idea of intrinsic differences between men and women.  She noted that studies have repeatedly shown that there are certain things women and men are better or worse at, on the whole, that can be traced back to our "hunter and gatherer" days.  For instance, the fact that men often cannot see food in the fridge that isn't right in front of their faces - as my dad says, "it wasn't waving its arms at me" - potentially a result of women having to be able to scan large areas for edible berries, nuts, etc.  Similarly, women are often considered worse drivers, and maybe this is true as a result of not having equal ability to judge distances between objects - a result of men hunting and having to concentrate their attention on single object that was moving.  Perhaps differences have evolved between the sexes and perhaps we should start celebrating those differences instead of ignoring them.

That was the gist of my aunt's argument and I could see some truth in it.  It seemed to me, however, that the biggest problem was not in accepting the differences, it was in ensuring that this acceptance of intrinsic differences wasn't just used to benefit men - that it would not only be used when explaining why men have achieved so much in certain areas and why men are better at certain jobs.  After all, if men are better at some things, it would seem obvious that there are certain jobs - outside of caring for children - that women would also be better at.  

It seems that the preliminary outcomes of a new study conducted from 1984 to 2004 have found a place where women's intrinsic abilities may be a huge boon: in Congress.  The preliminary results of this study show that, "on average, women [House members] introduce more bills, attract more co-sponsors and bring home more money for their districts than their male counterparts."  The study itself does not base the differences on intrinsic abilites, but while reading I began to wonder if there are some benefits to being a woman in that type of a position - are women better collaborators, better at buttering people up for money, better at multi-tasking and therefore producing more work?  Perhaps. 

The article I read (linked below) accounted for some of the differences by noting that there are so few women in Congress that perhaps the ones who make it are the cream of the crop or have more of an incentive to prove themselves.  Of course this may be true, so there is a lot to be said for the test of time.  But if anything, this study gives reason to believe that women lawmakers are very effective and a woman's ability to successfully represent her district should not be doubted as much as it oftentimes is by voters.  The best part of the article, in fact, were the comments by the women lawmakers on the difficulty in getting into office - the worry that they wouldn't be able to be the heavy-hitters that men were.  So the question may in fact be whether these women, once in office, emulated characteristics that are typically considered masculine or whether they used those skills that are typically considered feminine to achieve these stellar results. 

For the time being I'm withholding judgment, but it does make me wonder more about how we judge a person's potential "effectiveness."  Perhaps we believe that masculine characteristics are the best way to effectively make laws and represent constituents, but maybe the women in Congress are slowly, but surely proving that effectiveness is not gendered in quite the way so many people believe.

Check out the article and let me know your thoughts!

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