Monday, 23 June 2008

Women want opportunity, not coercion

In the latest book on the biological differences between men and women that may affect their progress in the world of work, clinical psychologist Susan Pinker argues that prenatal testosterone creates a 'wired-in' difference. She believes that this explains "why women are biologically driven to nurture their young rather than climb the corporate ladder."

Her arguments are strongly challenged in a review of her book that appeared in 5 April edition of the New Scientist. In her critique of The Sexual Paradox:troubled boys, gifted girls & the real difference between the sexes*, Durham University’s Anne Campbell challenges Pinker’s argument that even men suffering from conditions such as Asperger’s syndrome succeed in the world of work whereas privileged women fail.

Campbell questions Pinker’s definition of success, because it is based on the traditional male criteria of academic achievement, high salary, early promotion and corporate power. She also challenges Pinker’s determination to find an enemy, defined as those who are “insisting on a 50-50 gender split in all fields, ” and who are willing to tamper with human nature itself to achieve it.

This is old hat, thinks Campbell. She asserts that for some 20 years the focus has been on creating opportunities for women to study male-typical subjects and to work in previously male dominated fields. She says, “Giving women the change does not mean forcing them to take it, any more than it means debarring men from these fields."

*Atlantic Books, £12.99

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