Education

Assumptions and Facts; Are men really smarter than women?

It is widely known that certain genders are more likely to find themselves employed in certain jobs- for example, a woman is more likely to be a teacher or nurse and men are more likely to be a Civil Engineer. This is generally believed to be as a result of differences in intelligence levels between the genders with men generally seen and considered as smarter than women. While the reflection of this dichotomy is clearly evident in the workplace and backed by hard employment data, it is imperative to also ponder if the former assertion is truly an effect of the latter- is the difference in intelligence among the sexes a fact or is this relationship just an assumption simply as a result of correlation vs. causation mistakes? It is certainly easy to attribute causality when what’s before us is simply a correlation.

In truth, gender-related expectations founded upon and sustained by customs and societal standards plays a much bigger role in perceived gender difference particularly in intelligence than actual gender differences. Numerous studies have been carried out to investigate this matter and while results remain conflicting, one thing that can be deduced from all available data is that no significant difference exists among the sexes save some sub-categories.

The long held theory that men and women behave differently from each other due to innate biological differences is gradually being dismantled and we now know that there are fewer women in science not because men are naturally designed to be better in STEM subjects but because women have traditionally been brought up and taught to believe they are inferior in that aspect and should focus more on feminine fields of life. It is really more a matter of thought conditioning; more of man-made wiring than natural design.

Conventional wisdom tells us that male and female brains are wired in such a way that each sex has advantages over the other when it comes to certain tasks. That is probably true as men often possess more strength physically than women and similar differences also does exist in some domains of intelligence. Men, for example, are often said to be better at math and spatial orientation with women better with spatial memory, reading and empathizing. These, unlike many of the perceived gender differences aren’t just blind assertions; they are based on empirical data but their veracity is even being questioned in recent times.

One cross-cultural study examining boys and girls in 40 countries showed that gender gaps in math scores disappear in countries that score better in terms of gender equality (based on measures such as reproductive health and workforce participation). Another paper found that gender gaps among the most mathematically talented in the United States have narrowed considerably since the 1980s. This puts more credence to the correlation-vs.-causation error theory and the real picture is likely to be that boys have been performing better than girls in math because girls used to take fewer advanced math courses than boys, but now they are taking just as many and consequently performing as well as boys on standardized math tests.

The origin of gender sorting usually begins early in life and often starts in the family. A study published in the journal “Science” found that 6-year-old girls are less likely than boys to believe that other members of their gender are “brilliant.” This also seems to be the age when they become more likely to shy away from activities described as for children who are “really, really smart,” according to the research. The parents also fuel the flames of gender inequality by considering it natural for their male child to do well in mathematics and the sciences while a daughter’s mathematical achievement is more likely to be seen as outstanding. They simultaneously discourage these young girls from picking up interests in such subjects.

It is clear that the current gender disparity is a long standing problem that was man-made or at least man-thought. Just imagine that if right from time, by default, it was men that were assigned the role of caring for the family and doing house chores, we would have a total reversal of the picture we have presently. I am not saying we should disregard sex differences, I am only advocating that boys and girls be given equal opportunities to develop themselves as standing up straight to pee doesn’t necessarily make anybody smarter, or dumber.

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Adewuyi Roseline is passionate about the girl child. Growing up, she had a lot of questions about her identity. She is on the journey to ensure that young girls rise above limitations, smash stereotypes in their communities.

One Comment

  • Alade, A. M.

    Mhen, that last statement kicked me off my feet.

    Brilliant writeup. But I’m curious about the correlation vs causation theory you made mention of, can we liken it to nature vs nurture theory??

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