Sunday, September 07, 2008


No ceiling, 'concrete' or glass

There is no "concrete ceiling" for women. Or even a glass one, come to that. Yet this entirely bogus and unscientific notion is claimed by the Equality & Human Rights Commission -- as a continuation of the old mantra from the unlamented EOC. Women newspaper columnists have queued up this last week to rubbish it, though only on the unenlightened usual lines of women being held back by babies. The broadcast media struggled even to manage this, notably remaining as scientifically illiterate on this as on all matters.
Women certainly are 'going backwards', but it's not just over the past year as the EHRC fears: the position of women at the top has been consistently falling for well over a decade -- probably two. Women become less evident in commercial organisations the more commercial (and therefore hierarchical) they are. The numbers of women on the board has declined, and even more so have the numbers of women even in any 'head of function' role -- which is the launchpad for future board membership. This means that the decline will continue to accelerate.
Why? Because women are not men.

Regarding almost any sort of ability or achievement that you care to measure, you always find mostly men at both the top and at the bottom. Women by contrast bunch in the middle. This is the result of the very different motivations of the sexes. Men have to compete with each other for status in order to 'have a life' -- 'mate value' in biological terms. They tend to have an all-or-nothing approach and to put their eggs in one basket. They either succeed or fail rather than hanging about to be merely mediocre. For women, it's another world. To 'have a life', status is of no use at all to them -- at least in any direct way (women can of course compete to place themselves in the milieu of high status men, but even this often backfires). Women 'have a life' simply as they are. Their youth and beauty is the measure of their fertility, which is what 'mate value' is for females. This does not have to be -- and cannot be -- competed for.

Nothing will ever get round this most profound sex difference at the very root of all social organisation -- in ourselves and in all other animal species. Even if women on average became more able than men, the stark reality of different types of distribution of attributes and abilities that characterise the sexes would still leave the top of organisations predominantly if not exclusively male.

But why do we never hear about the men correspondingly at the bottom? This is because of the basis of the greatest prejudice in all societies, which is against men generically -- based on the biology of 'policing' the male hierarchy. Equal opportunities bodies would do much better to focus on the real disadvantaged sub-group in this as in every society: the majority of (necessarily lower status) men, and not women at all.

Indeed it is the greatest political scandal that they don't. Especially given the very recent research on profound sex discrimination against men in applying even for the most male sex-typical professional jobs. Men are now discriminated against to the point that they are four times less likely to get an interview (Riach & Rich, 2006). Now, if anything in the world of work needed something done about it, then it is this stark new sex discrimination. But being the 'wrong way round', as it were, for the liking of contemporary political prejudice, then we can expect a deathly hush.

[Cathy Newman of Channel4 emailed me to say that she disagreed with all of the above. Does this mean that science is not allowed on Channel4? On the basis of just what theory or data does C4 base its line on men-women? None at all: there is no theory or data to support it.]


Steve Moxon

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