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Friday, 30 October 2015

Daily Mail Readers, Know Your Limits

Much flusteration on Twitter after the Daily Mail publishes an article reporting research that people with "feminine brains" earn less than people with "masculine" ones. But don't go thinking, little ones, that just because you are a man you have a masculine brain, or just because you are a woman you are a feminine-brain possessor. Oh, no. Are you good with instruction manuals and maps? Do you make lists and spot trains? Do you honestly answer the question "does my bum look big in this?" These are the things that give you a masculine brain.

Bit baffled by the last one, to be honest. I don't know how often the question "does my bum look big in this" is asked in boardrooms up and down the country. But I bet it doesn't come up at the typical late-night emergency strategy session where everybody's looking tense and talking about upside risks and under-capitalisation and shouting "damn".

This is the report from Nick Drydakis at Anglia Ruskin that originates the Mail article. The abstract could certainly be - well, abstracted from its context to produce the Mail's article.
Whilst men and women in certain occupations might face positive wage rewards when they have empathising and systemising traits and work atypical of those common to their gender, it would appear that evaluating individuals’ empathising, systemising and brain type is perceived to be important for employees’ wage returns. 
I think it's applying the male and female concept that causes the concern. That being good at organising helps you up the career ladder to an extent is truism. The minute you suggest this is a male-brain thing you end up in the world of Harry Enfield's "Mr Cholmondeley Warner".

Before you know where you are, this diagram

..... has become this one.....

So here's some better advice.

  • If you have tend to worry about people you've never met because they're a different colour;
  • have stopped eating any kind of foods because they give you cancer;
  • think benefits are for lazy people
Then you have a Daily Mail brain. You will probably never get beyond middle management.

  • If you think a Labour leader wanting to win an election is an act of betrayal;
  • Have an unstoppable urge to tell other people they should believe what you do;
  • Are condescending about religious people, poor people and Conservatives
  • Eat only coffee that has passed through the digestive tract of small animals in a responsibly-managed clearing in a Balinese rainforest
Then you have a Guardian brain. Your best bet of employment is probably in academia (or the Church, ironically), as they really need things to work properly in business.

  • If you still think new evidence will come out about the death of Princess Diana;
  • Worry about the price of your house should a new Ice Age break out tomorrow;
  • Are obsessed with ISIS
Then you have a Daily Express brain. You'll never achieve much as you'll always be checking under the bed for terrorists or the Duke of Edinburgh

  • If you have a fondness for photographs of young women getting their exam results;
  • Still think we have an Empire;
  • Think that not enough people taking up the sport of rowing is a national problem;

You have a Daily Telegraph brain. You will probably end up as Chief Executive. Just as soon as your dad retires.

  • If you think the latest soap-opera stories are important;
  • Care who Ryan Giggs may or may not have slept with;
  • Stick a pen or cigarette behind your ear in case you need it

You've probably got a Sun brain. You may not achieve much, but then you probably never thought you would. You may be the happiest of the lot.

When you get beyond the middle-ranking, list-making, attention-to-detail ranks in business, you discover something. There comes a point when it's self-confidence, being able to get on with people and being the sort of person that is - yes - comfortable talking to new people that gets on. When you get to the point where you don't need to make lists because you have people to do that kind of thing for you, train-spotting skills are irrelevant. The skills you need from then on  are quite often what the report thinks of as "female" attributes. The numbers of women on FTSE company boards are rising - but a lot are non-execs and (anecdotally) women on boards still seem more likely to be in Marketing or HR than in IT or Operations. That's the real issue we need to address - enabling women to use their talents in whatever field they want, wherever their skills fit, and taking away the barriers that stop them.

It's not about psychobabble about "masculine" and "feminine" brains that we need to look. It's the walls in our own brains that stop us evaluating people equally and fairly for the skills and personalities they possess.


  1. Hey ArchD, I am going to say something totally un-PC here. I spent many years working in a female-dominated profession/environment: hospital nursing. And I came to certain conclusions about female management. Now you may not have noticed, but the majority of nurses are women, men make up only 10% of the total workforce. But take a closer look. Suddenly it leaps out that over 60% of senior managers are male. Look at the unions, same imbalance (the Royal College of Nursing, despite its grand name a union, is 50% male). Moreover, you will see men achieving senior management positions at a much younger age than their female counterparts.

    Now some of this is because historically men were more career-orientated than women. They would be to the forefront in putting themselves forward, applying for promotion, yada yada. But, and this is never mentioned, the profession actively pushed men upward and onward. I have been privy to discussions about promotion of male applicants where the (all-female) appointing committee would quite seriously say, meaning it as a clincher, "Well, he needs this move up because he's engaged and wants to get married next year." I have watched, quietly suppressing my mirth, a young (mid-twenties) Unit Manager literally bat his eyelashes in charming a team of hard-faced, middle-aged female nurses, when he wanted them to do something which their years of clinical experience informed them would be ill-judged - and get away with it. You hear jokes about the male menopause and male managers in thrall to busty secretaries; believe me, that's as nothing compared to the female manager who has discovered a male soulmate/virtual son among the workforce, whereafter everything hangs on his approval. It's hormones, not brain, that ultimately powers management. And the female is (or used to be) a bit older and experiencing motherly, rather than romantic, urges, hence more discreet about indulging these urges, that's all.

  2. I've always thought that those who have a #Beano brain (as in the Comic Book) or a #Private Eye brain should rule the world with Desperate Dan as the Premier. Good for farming with all of his Cow Pies and with Mr Hislop as his deputy, we'll be entertained for ever.


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