The Reality of Gender Differences

Cooties and Cooperation

Written by Michael Richardson 

Women are bad at driving and too emotional. Men are angry and lazy.

Stereotypes like these and many more persist in our culture today, even though science tells another story. With both biological and societal roots, gender dissimilarities do exist, but they often don’t follow society’s stereotypes, and they certainly don’t hold true in all cases.

Perhaps the worst consequence of gender stereotyping is that it can be divisive when, in actuality, there is great potential for each gender to be better with the help of the other. Here are the realities of gender differences and how to let them help you, not hurt you.

The Brain

Women: Research shows that women are better with certain types of memory and retrieving things from memory, psychology experts said on NPR. Girls also perform better with fine motor skills, speech articulation, writing and literacy.

Girls do better in school and more often go on to college, even though they are less apt than boys to say what they know in the classroom.

Men: Men are good at spatial imagery, meaning they can rotate an image in their minds and know what it might look like from unseen angles. This is a valuable skill in many fields including math and science. It is also helpful for simple things like trying to assemble furniture at home. Women tend to be worse at spatial rotation, but it is a skill that can be learned, just like how men can gain a better grasp on writing.

Men also do better when it comes to fluid reasoning, which is when a test or task doesn’t match curricula, like the SAT or ACT. For males, however, there is more variability on measures of cognitive ability, meaning there are many who score high and many who score low. Case in point: men win lots of Nobel and Pulitzer Prizes, but also pretty much every Darwin Award.

Solution: Utilize the cognitive abilities of the other gender and try to develop similar qualities instead of being vain about the ones you already have.

Expressing emotion

Stereotypes about how each gender does or doesn’t express emotion are often inaccurate. In terms of experiencing specific emotions, females don’t necessarily feel more emotion than males, according to research from Florida State University (FSU); they just express it more, whereas males conceal it.

Women: Women report negative feelings more often than men, such as feelings of anxiety and sadness.

Depression rates have historically been higher for females. A 2010 Centers for Disease Control report says that of persons age 18 and older, 10 percent of females are depressed, compared to 8 percent of males.

It should also be noted that while males and females show similar levels of anger, women self-report that their anger is more intense and lasts longer than the anger of males. Females are most likely to cope with angry feelings by talking with someone about their feelings.

Research from FSU finds that women are more likely than men to disagree with the statements “I keep emotions to myself” and “when anxious, I try not to worry anyone else.”

“Women appear to be less concerned about other people’s feelings when they themselves are experiencing these particular negative emotions,” researchers wrote.

Men: Men report positive emotions more often than women, such as calmness and excitement. But in general, men are more likely to conceal their emotions than women. Men are more likely than women to cope with their anger by taking a mood-altering substance, like a pill or drink of alcohol.

Solution: There are times to conceal emotion and times to let it go, and healthy ways to do both. Learn from the other gender.

Money

Each gender tends to follow certain spending patterns, according to The State of Our Unions, a joint publication from the University of Virginia and the Institute for American Values.

Women: Women tend to spend their money gradually over time and place emphasis on money’s power to immediately improve life and create a lifestyle. Women can wreck family finances through overspending on a day to day basis.

Men: Men, on the other hand, spend money on a number of big things and tend to spend money for the future. The State of Our Unions suggests that men can ruin family finances through reckless long-term spending and investing, being more likely to take risks and not listen to good advice.

Solution: Be careful to not to condemn your partner’s spending habits just because it isn’t what you might spend money on. Successful relationships understand these different approaches to money and material wealth and find ways to compromise and reconcile spending. A good tactic is to have both genders take part in short-term and long-term spending (women are already moving this way) because the spending preference of each partner can help erase extremes.

Ruth Hayden, author of For Richer, Not Poorer: The Money Book for Couples, compares the differences within a couple’s approach to money to two business partners, one being the creative person, the other a finance person. They each need the other to have a successful business, but they have trouble talking the other’s language.

Possibly the biggest problem is that couples don’t often talk about money and aren’t always honest if they do. A 2011 survey from the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) and ForbesWoman found that 31 percent of spouses have lied to their partner about finances.

Driving

The idea that men are better than women at driving is false, simply put. First, men get in almost 2 million more accidents each year than women, as of 2007, and a much higher percentage of those accidents are fatal. Men also get more traffic violations, according to 4autoinsurancequote.com, a company who published data on the genders and driving in a report called Women are Bad Drivers- Fact or Fiction?. Men are more than three times as likely to get cited for reckless driving, driving under the influence and driving without a seatbelt, compared to women. Men are also more likely to speed, not signal and not stop at stop signs.

Nationally, men pay higher car insurance than women, which is probably the surest proof that males are worse at driving.

Communication

When couples have marital troubles, it typically isn’t about taking out the trash or forgetting anniversaries. It’s about communication.

The differences between male and female communication is well researched and documented. Despite this, misperceptions persist, like the idea that women talk more than men, which isn’t true. What is true is that women talk to different people and for different reasons than men. Society and the media solidify many flawed ideas about how men and women communicate. Here are some key communication differences backed up by research.

Women: Women tend to be more discussion oriented, according to discovery.com. Growing up, girls often form and solidify relationships by talking about things, telling secrets and revealing their problems.

In marriage, wives are looking for conversational partners, but husbands often aren’t. Women frequently use body language in normal conversation. A group of girls who go out to eat will often sit facing one another, and they don’t hesitate to maintain eye contact. They also make sounds of understanding like “mhmm” or “uh-huh” more often than men.

When a peer or partner has had a bad experience, women show support by agreeing with what is said and giving condolences.

Men: Males offer support differently than females. When men present a problem to their friends, the guy friends show loyalty by simply dismissing the problem.

Men are more action oriented when it comes to conversation. While females talk for many reasons, males tend to say things as they relate to taking action. Boys often form friendships based on doing things rather than speaking.

Men will also speak when they feel the need to defend themselves, establish a status or show their intelligence. If they feel like they have the trust and respect of their wife or partner, abundant conversation might seem unnecessary.

Conversation can be somewhat competitive for males, especially when there’s an emphasis placed on being right rather than simply giving information. Males may be less likely to admit fault or apologize because, to a man, an apology is to give the other side a leg up.

Body language doesn’t play as much of a role for males. When males are out together, they sit with chairs askew and often look about the room, rarely making eye contact.

Solution: When the two genders unite, each side can be confused or offended, even if intentions are good. Females feel disrespected when a man won’t focus on her during a conversation. Men might feel like a woman is being insincere or overreacting when she is always using body language, eye contact and sounds of understanding.

When a woman comes to a man with a problem and looking for support, the woman expects understanding and comfort. Instead, the man says, “It’s not a big deal,” and dismisses it. To him, this is great condolence, but the woman is looking for something more.

Just because someone communicates differently than you doesn’t mean they are flawed. Be mindful of what others consider good communication and adapt your speaking to it, instead of getting peeved over differences. Men and women can meet in the middle to have healthy conversation.

Cooperation

We often fall prey to what is called the “stereotype confirmation process.” This is when we have a stereotype in our minds, like women are bad drivers; then, whenever we see a bad female driver, we say, “Yep, see? Women are bad drivers.” In reality, we simply don’t remember all the other instances of good female drivers.

“A lot of us miss a lot of disconfirming evidence,” said Janet Hyde, a University of Wisconsin psychology and women’s study professor, to NPR.

When we do find real dissimilarities, there is no reason to let them spark yet another “battle of the sexes.” On a basketball team, there are good shooters, good rebounders and good passers. Taking advantage of those differences, rather than arguing over which is most important, is what makes a winning team.

 

Article Reviewed: February 11, 2015

 

Michael Richardson

I have a talent for compelling and concise communication with years as a journalist and editor. I love diving into the root of issues and the backstories. I learned to love finding and telling stories as a journalist, and found fulfillment in being part of company stories as a marketer. As a brand communications manager, a learned that I value the larger perspective, and having broader ownership over the success of a brand.

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