Over 10,000 Studies Debunking Outdated Biological ‘Explanation’ for Male Success


From global politics to top-tier companies, to the top echelons of academia and even Nobel Prize winners, men far outnumber women.

A claim to such a disparity has been attributed to biology. The idea that there is some sort of “superdiversity” among male brains has been cited repeatedly in the scientific literature over the past decades; but according to a recently published meta-analysis, this argument for male success is completely unsupported by the evidence.

“Based on our data, if we assume that humans are like other animals, there is as much a chance of having a similar number of successful women as there are successful men in this world,” says the biologist and senior author Lauren Harrison of the Australian National University (ANU).

“Based on that logic, there is also an equally great chance of having a similar number of men and women who are underperforming.”

Most research on diversity within various species tends to focus on gender differences. It is not difficult to find numerous and extreme examples of dimorphism; even within our own species, the contrasts in the sex chromosomes are responsible for exaggerating a litany of anatomical features, such as beards or breasts.

Since the end of the 19th century, with the writings of the famous English sexologist Havelock Ellis, the hypothesis that a bigger male brain equates to a greater potential for cognitive prowess has been used to explain why men “deserve” positions of power. influence and command.

Much has since been written on whether statistical differences between the sexes translate into something really significant (short answer – it does not), but few studies have investigated whether Anatomical diversity within a sex offered a greater range of behaviors.

Generalizing the claim to non-human animals, in this new meta-analysis, the team investigated whether the equivalents of our own personality traits across 220 species vary to a large extent within one or the other. other of the sexes.

Despite an extensive search of some 10,000 studies, the team could not find any convincing evidence demonstrating a greater wealth of variability in the personality traits of males or females of any of the included species.

This is not to say that there were no differences between the species as a whole. Certain selected characteristics, such as immunity or certain morphological traits, were also found to vary considerably between sexes in particular species.

But if we are to use nature as an indicator of our own extent of variation within male brains, as suggested in the past, we can only conclude that the rich landscape of female brains offers so many opportunities for genius (and nonsense) than that of men. .

“If men are more variable than women, it would mean that there are more men than women with very low or very high IQs,” says one of the authors, evolutionary biologist Michael Jennions of the ANU.

“But our research on more than 200 animal species shows that the variation in behavior of males and females is very similar. Therefore, there is no reason to invoke this biologically-based argument as to why more men than women are Nobel Prize winners, for example, which we associate with high IQ. “

A lack of evidence in favor of behavioral variation in men does not rule out other biological explanations for the shatter-proof glass ceiling that permeates so much of modern society.

However, this limits arguments that this cap is the result of our biological wiring, and therefore is something that we can’t – or shouldn’t – do anything about.

Dismantling notions that male merit is cemented in biology could even help break down the social structures that are really responsible for gender bias.

“Instead of using biology to explain why there are more male CEOs or professors, we need to ask ourselves what role culture and education play in pushing men and women down different paths,” says Harrison .

This research was published in Biological examinations.


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