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.
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.
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