Brains and bias

Female students do better at school and are more likely to go to university than their male peers, but a gender bias study has found they are seen as less capable of “brainy” tasks. In one experiment by US researchers, women were about as likely as men to be referred for a job requiring “consistent effort”, but less likely than men if intelligence was specified. In another, children tended to pick male teammates for games that they were told needed someone very clever. Athene Donald, a physics professor from Cambridge University, said the findings should be “a wake-up call to our society to change our thinking and how we pass on these biases in our daily lives to the next generation”. The findings were written up in American Psychologist.

The idea that women are less capable of “brainy” tasks than men is baloney, and always has been. Until fairly recently a good education was offered to boys because “girls get married and have children; they don’t need extra schooling or higher education”. (I quote my father, a dear man, but with an infuriatingly atavistic attitude on this subject). Epicureanism teaches that gender doesn’t matter; are all born with a huge variety of talents and mental abilities, regardless of gender; the problem is to bring those talents out and nurture them (education!).

In my old university college (a men-only institution when I was there), 60% of the students are now women, all addressing “brainy” tasks equally with their male colleagues. We should sincerely celebrate this fact of human nature and use the talents of women for the benefit of humanity – and abandon old-fashioned prejudices still lingering among those who should know better. (How much does the prejudice owe to the competition from women for jobs and preferment, and resulting resentment? Who knows? No one is going to admit it).

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