This is a global issue – If we go back just over 100 years it was a widely held view the world over that males were better able to carry out many roles than were females.

However, this is changing and the pace of change is accelerating. Some of the change has been driven by necessity. During both world wars as men were required to join the armed forces, this created gaps at all levels in organisations and in society which could only be filled by females. This duly occurred and females generally handled their new challenges every bit as well as males did.

Another driver is the economic case. Most developed societies, seeking to grow wealth, need the active participation of everyone on their societies. It makes no sense to complain about a lack of skills or human resources when approximately half of the population is under-utilised and is perfectly capable of developing and applying those skills.

The field of equality in the workplace is very complex. This particular article will focus on one basic question only. Is there a reason – in terms of abilities or attitude why females cannot carry out “male” work? And the short answer is there isn’t.

In the workplace there are three sets of cognitive abilities which are generally held to be important for performance:

• verbal skills – to understand and process written or oral information

• numerical skills – to understand and process numerical information and data

• spatial skills – a unique type of intelligence which enables individuals to understand and process information in the form of shapes, diagrams, images etc. Often important in engineering and the sciences.

There is now a wealth of research across the world about the corresponding capabilities of males and females in this regard.

In 2014, the American Psychology Association (APA) published a summary of research which showed

that Psychologists have gathered solid evidence that when it comes to how — and how well — we think, males and females differ in very few but significant ways.

(http://www. apa.org/action/resources/researchinaction/share.aspx).

Looking at more than 3 million participants in education, researchers found no large overall differences between males and females in math performance. Girls were slightly better at computation. Males showed a slight edge in problem solving, which might be explained because they took more science classes that emphasized those skills. But both understood math concepts equally well and any gender differences actually narrowed over the years.

In the UK, in recent years we now see that females generally do better in exams than males and, in 2015, for the first time there are more females attending university than males.

Ultimately the suggestion is that males and females have equal, or perhaps higher,  cognitive abilities in terms of these three key cognitive abilities. And that this was much more the case where they had equal or equivalent educational opportunity.

This has implications for education prior to employment and for training and development when females do participate in the workforce. This means that this is also a challenge for leadership. If the purpose of leadership in organisations is to enable everyone to optimise their potential, then this should embrace all employees – male and female.

The core of our work lies in understanding mental toughness and its implications for individuals and organisation. It is sometimes supposed that males are more mentally tough than females and can deal better with the pressures associated with some roles – especially senior roles. The evidence is clear. The patterns of mental toughness are equivalent when it comes to looking at male and female responses. Females can deal with stress, pressure and challenge as well as males.

See full article by Doug Strycharczyk, CEO AQR – published in HR Echo Magazine Issue 3, a publication of the Federal Authority for Government Human Resources at www.aqr.co.uk/press_coverage

If you would like further information on the emtnal toughness model and measure please visit our website athttp://www.aqr.co.uk/page/mentaltoughness  or to request a free of charge trial assessment please contact us atheadoffice@aqr.co.uk

AQR is a leading edge publisher of psychometric measures, we also work through partner organisations. For more information please visit www.aqr.co.uk

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