Men/Women Nature/Nurture? Who Cares

There was a bit of a debate on the BBC recently about whether men are conditioned or born to be aggressive, win everything, and have to learn how not to behave like a 60s character from Mad Men etc. The speaker, male, inclined to view that it was in their nature and they had to learn to repress baby dollstheir natural instincts. They were prompted by Stephen Pinker’s work, a psychologist, who thinks men are changing their behaviour and that there  is less aggression and warring in the world than there used to be.

The two women on the item, Beatrix Campbell and Laurie Penny, were more inclined to the view that this was not accurate and that nurture was a more significant factor.

It was an interesting discussion not least because we don’t hear much debate about feminism and women’s rights on prime time media  (you can listen to it here.)

Despite being pleasantly surprised to hear John Humphries of the BBC saying out loud that women have never been equal and that men rule the world, and loving Beatrix Campbell having a go at the patriarchy of the BBC, I found myself feeling strangely subdued and a tad depressed about it all.

As a plain human right half the population should be represented at ALL levels in society. Society has been constructed (at work particularly) so that male values/mores/behaviours etc triumph and are the norm. That’s what needs changing. We need gender neutrality and equality and that is hard but it is possible. I am not especially pro women’s groups at work per se as this should not be seen as a woman’s problem, ( I know, that’s weird coming from someone who runs women’s courses …more on that here) but a societal one. It is wrong that one half of society is rewarded by their gender alone, while the other half is penalised.

I was recently asked what women bring to the table vis a vis work, if I could share some evidence that having more women at higher levels was a good thing. Sorry to shout but…women are half the population of the world! That’s what they bring to the table. It doesn’t need to be a case of having to prove anything, to have to behave like men to get anywhere or prove themselves as capable or better than men. It needs society as a whole, men and women, to think gender equality in everything. Male behaviour should not be the yardstick, human behaviour should.

Conditioning clearly pays it part in maintaining the status quo; good grief even Lego have gone stupid with gender divisive bricks! Clearly we need to recognise just what we need to change re that conditioning, or nurturing. That is one of the reasons I do what I do. I want to fill women women with the confidence to challenge the status quo, and to recognise that the oft quoted ‘lack of confidence’ at work may be nothing to do with them but attributable to the world of work they inhabit which ‘conspires’ to keep them in their place.

On one level it doesn’t matter one jot to me whether it’s nature or nurture; the only thing that matters is that women are under represented at every level in every society in the world. And women make up half the population. The arguments about ‘natural attributes and instincts’ are so redolent of excuses made through time when powerful men didn’t want to give up their status and power. Remember, at one time we were told it was OK to have slaves because they weren’t like us? Their brains were different? That’s a slippery slope to go down. I don’t care if I’m different. I know I’m different to men! Don’t teach me how to behave like a man to get on. I’m not part of a minority group needing special attention and classes. My gender is half the population! I am a woman! I demand equality as a basic human right.

I think we all know where I stand now…tea, anyone?

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Posted on June 4th, 2013 by

7 Responses to “Men/Women Nature/Nurture? Who Cares”

  1. Karen Redman says:

    Hi Jane,
    Interesting article. One particular point rang alarm bells: I am not a great fan of women’s groups – in fact, I actively dislike them.
    As long as women feel it necessary to have gender specific groups/networking meetings inter alia will be as long as we “promote” the differences between ourselves and the other gender.
    We need “people” groups and activities wherein gender is simply a non-issue.
    That said, any group that teaches women to feel it unnecessary to be vehemently “women orientated” is a good thing.
    Just adding my two pence worth (naturally saved from the housekeeping money!)

    • Jane says:

      Yes agreed. You’ll have seen that I’m not a fan either; their day has been and gone, I think. Jane PS Only tuppence?

  2. Tammy says:

    Hi Jane, another excellent article. I agree with your article that men’s values and behaviours have been the yardstick. That is why women use up so much time trying to prove that we can measure up or try to behave like men. Do you remember a time when sports coaches would shame a boy by saying that he threw like a girl? And sometimes in old TV shows men referred to women as “skirts”. Have you ever heard the statement “ women should be seen and not heard”? I am sure there are many more slangs and terms used to degrade women. I am glad that you are helping women to become more confident. Becoming more confident means knowing our worth and being treated with respect.

  3. Katherine says:

    Thought provoking article…having worked in the ‘Corporate’ world until last ear it was interesting how I was treated compared toy male colleagues…comments about how I looked/dressed, if I expressed an opinion in the same way it was ‘aggressive’ or I was ‘hormonal’….or told to ‘calm down’ followed by smirks.

    Women are not allowed to be ‘themselves’ in the corporate world – you’re ‘aggressive’ or ‘to-soft’….no I’m just like my male colleagues, me!

    Now I’m out of that environment I realise how the gender differences were played up – despite there being more women than men…it’s sad that we allowed that behaviour to happen.

    You’re right Jane, we are half the population and don’t need ‘women’s groups’ we need ‘people groups’ and be able to have a comment without it being twisted ino something it’s not – period.

    • Jane says:

      Thanks for the comment, Katherine. It is strange how when you’re in it it’s so much harder to see. A lot of smart women are getting into self employment (like me and you) but it doesn’t stop me wanting to change the world! Jane

  4. Hi,
    Glad to have been part of inspiring this great post. As you know, my view is that it’s might very well be our right to own half the world, but we are not getting it. There are 2 ways to get it: grab it, which is your area of expertise. The other way is to get organisations to see we bring value for them. Organisations don’t change there way because it is the ‘thing they ought to do’. They change their ways because they are in a crises and need to get out. They need some sort of business case to really start moving, and that’s what I am working on.

    • Jane says:

      Thanks Inge. Yes you were an inspiration for this post, thank you very much. Actually I am often asked about what women bring. There is room for several approaches to this – education all round! You’re right, mine is to empower women to feel confident enough to go for it but organisations need an impetus to change too. At 57 I just didn’t believe we’d still have to be making arguments like this. My frustration shows sometimes! keep up your good work. Jane

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