The fairer sex? When it comes to business men and women are created equal

18th July 2011

Women have babies, men don't. 

In primitive societies women can have at most eight to 10 children.  Men can have hundreds.  Will a woman hunt live prey, risking physical injury when she's pregnant with children to nurse?  Is a man concerned about others' feelings if his chances of mating depend on his status and perceived hunting prowess? 

Woman pass on genes (that make her and her offspring like they are) to the most offspring if they are good with people, i.e good at cooperative enterprise. 

Men pass on their genes most if they handle weapons well and have high status, are good at competition.  A man with no status or an uncooperative woman will pass on genes to less offspring, and thus less of successive population are like them. 

Today, men and women are physically different, and tend to have different motivations and interests. 

Consider magazines or TV.  Men read about things, status symbols, watch Top Gear. 

Women read about people, relationships, watch Gok Wan.  Some are atypical, Margaret Thatcher was more "male" brained than most men, I like Gok Wan, but in the main the genders have different interests and motivations.

Neither is better, they're equal; but usually different. 

Business has been seen as a male area – like hunting.  Why else do people "bring home the bacon"?  Consequently, the rewards are based on male interests.

If you do well at work you get status, cars, the big office, subordinates.  You get recognition, are treated as a great hunter. 

What does that do for most women?  Nothing much.  They can do the job, but when they join the board they find few rewards that they value.  And perhaps they want to have children.  Motherhood is a DIY project, they can't leave bearing children to their spouse and carry on being a hunter.

Some people realise that the claim "women lack experience", is largely due to a lack of role models, the equating of "experience" with "same experience as me" and that recruiting in your own image causes group think.  Most don't see it and if women get there, the quota argument brands them as "token" anyway.

But when women stay on a board "on merit" they probably have the same sort of motivation and world view as most men and there is little cognitive diversity. If the women genuinely think differently to the men, they will tend to leave because they don't get rewards that they feel are worthwhile.

Actually to get diversity, you can't just cry "quota" or even encourage women, you have to change the system to provide diversity of incentive as well as cognitive diversity.

Kim Stephenson is an occupational psychologist and trained financial adviser.

His website Taming the Pound is aimed at helping people get control of their thinking about money, so they can use their money – and avoid their money using them.

More from Kim on Mindful Money

Why a great leader doesn't always make for a great business.

Financial regulation: Why bother at all?

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