Biological Sex Differences in the Workplace: Reports of the End of Men are Greatly Exaggerated (As Are Claims of Women’s Continued Inequality)
27 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2013 Last revised: 21 Sep 2013
Date Written: 2013
Common examples of perceived workplace inequality – the “glass ceiling,” the “gender gap” in compensation, and occupational segregation among others – cannot be well understood if the explanation proffered for their existence is limited exclusively to social causes such as discrimination and sexist socialization. Males and females have, on average, different sets of talents, tastes, and interests, which cause them to select somewhat different occupations and exhibit somewhat different workplace behaviors. Some of these sex differences have biological roots. Temperamental sex differences are found in competitiveness, dominance-seeking, risk-taking, and nurturance, with females tending to be more “person-oriented” and males more “thing-oriented.” The sexes also differ in a variety of cognitive traits, including various spatial, verbal, mathematical, and mechanical abilities. Although social influences can be important, these social influences operate on (and were in fact created by) sexually dimorphic minds.
Substantial changes in the environment of a complex organism will often result in changes in its behavior. Therefore, we should not be surprised when changes in the economy or changes in the nature of work are followed by changes in workforce behavior and, hence, changes in workplace outcomes. For those keeping track of “the numbers,” these changes may be characterized as either increasing or decreasing equality, depending upon the particular definition of equality selected. Moreover, whether one views a particular outcome as a harbinger of the “end of men” or a reflection of continued sexual inequality of women may be a consequence of whether the focus is on group averages or the tail end of distributions. It may turn out, for example, that even if women may do better as a group on some measures, men may still dominate at the top.
Keywords: glass ceiling, gender gap in compensation, wage gap, occupational segregation, biological sex differences, risk-taking, mathematics, STEM fields, The End of Men
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation