23 July 2007

Women lack aggression

Although, in India, we have had a woman Prime Minister and now have a woman President, high-ranking positions in the political, academic, business and corporate worlds have usually been held by men. If you feel India is a little old-fashioned in distributing career opportunities to women non-equally, you’re probably right. But then, the rest of the world isn’t that far ahead of us. All across the world, gender differences prevail in all sorts of job roles and positions, not just in the high-ranking ones.

Why is this so? Well, discrimination against women is one reason that comes to mind. Then, as it so happens in the wide world, there are preferences for human capital of a specific gender for certain job roles. Perhaps this, too, is discrimination as there is a bias in favour of men… resulting in the proverbial gender gap in earnings (mentioned in my earlier posts). Connected to this thought is another: that women may be less competitive than men. Or, women may be less effective than men in competitive environments.

Could this be true? My experience tells me it is. That women, at least in India, are less competitive than men. Unlike men, women lack aggression, which is an important component of performance in a competitive environment. By ‘aggression’, I don’t mean hostile behaviour; but, rather, a propensity to perform at an enhanced level in order to win in a mixed-gender competitive environment. The ‘mixed-gender competitive environment’ is critical here as, I’ve found, women to be aggressively competitive in the company of other women.

If this is true, then it is indeed an interesting phenomenon. The fact that women can be aggressive per se, but not so when competing against men, is really an eye-opener. Because, then, the adage ‘women lack aggression’ is really a matter of belief, and has nothing whatsoever to do with their ability or skill or talent. It means women choose to use non-aggression as a behavioral strategy in a mixed-gender competitive environment, forfeiting their credentials, their job opportunities and their careers. And, in turn, limiting their chances of success (against men).

The question is, could this be classified as a gender stereotype?

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