After a recent presentation at a conference in Romania on how projects needed to be managed using the whole brain, and explaining how the different elements need to interact, I was asked whether this could mean that there was a particular place for women in project management and engineering.
I have frequently been surprised at the lack of women in engineering and management positions in the Western world. When working in China or central Europe, I find a better level of parity: at the Romanian conference, focused on software engineering, approximately 40% of the participants were women - in more Western countries, that would be amazing. In the UK, I keep on hearing people complaining about the need for more women in politics, in management positions and even on bank-notes. The argument given is usually to state that half the population is female and therefore should be represented, which I find an extremely stupid argument; should we have a better representation of Asian people on British bank notes, what about redheads or homosexuals?
There are better reasons for expecting parity; but that requires acknowledging the fact that men and women are not equal: they are complementary (meaning they are equal, not to be confused with "complimentary" which would mean they are to be congratulated).
I want to give here some averages. These are based on a variety of researches and peer-reviewed publications. I do not claim that these statements are true for every man or every woman, only that we find that there is a tendency to go to one side or the other of the median line when looking at large numbers of men and women.
The testosterone in which the male brain is bathed during its formative years has a destructive effect on certain aspects of the brain, particularly the bridges between the left and right sides. It also promotes growth, which, as men are generally larger than women, means that a man's brain is somewhat larger than a woman's brain. In various tests, it has been seen that the woman's brain is more active, and more active in every part of the brain than the man's; a man's brain is more often at rest.
While a man may have better spacial awareness, the activity in a woman's brain tends to give her a better understanding of her environment, the impact and influence on people, the atmosphere, the feelings of people. This allows a woman to be better at planning and organizing things; while the man, more focused on activity, would be better at doing a job that requires continued concentration.
When faced with danger or provocation, the man's amygdala tends to provoke a "fight or flight" reaction, while the woman's will provoke a "tend and befriend" reaction. A wounded man will want to hide in solitude until he feels better; a wounded woman will want to talk, nurture, care.
The result of this, in my opinion, is that we need more women in positions of management and power: it appears that a natural tendency of women would be to be compassionate and understanding, as well as having more natural skills towards planning and organizing. On the other hand, perhaps men's ability to focus on a continued task is a reason why there are more men in the engineering world.It also explains why I would like to see more women in governments and in boardrooms. We are not equal, our differences make our value. We complete one another. That is why we need equality of opportunity, of access, of pay so that we can recognize the unique skills of every individual.
But, of course, these are generalities and each and every one of us is different and unique.