Sunday, February 22, 2009

In praise of women

A friend recently wrote to me, to enquire what I thought about an article which has apparently appeared recently and which describes differences between male and female brains. Apparently when females undertake judgments of beauty, both of their cerebral hemispheres are engaged whereas in males it is the right hemisphere alone that is engaged.

I have not been able to trace this article but recall having seen another article along somewhat similar lines many years ago, which again purported to show that, in females, both hemispheres are engaged when undertaking certain tasks whereas males use one hemisphere alone for the same task.


One conclusion from such studies is that male and female brains are different, which of course in a sense they are.

Another conclusion is that women need both hemispheres to do what men can do with one hemisphere.

To which I would like to add a speculation: that women do many things better than men, precisely because they use both hemispheres and are thus more engaged with the task.

If my speculation has any merit, then it makes sense to engage women a lot more in many areas of our lives than we actually seem to do, even in the most advanced societies. It is in any case their right, since they gain to lose as much as men when wrong decisions are made.

Consider our present economic plight. I have seen a most interesting documentary produced by It is in five parts and is entitled Frontline: the Meltdown. It is well worth watching.

One of the striking things to emerge from this documentary is that there is only one woman among the leading personalities who have dealt with economic crisis, one woman alone (I exclude the women who were being interviewed about their views). The documentary does not make this point, but it became obvious when I viewed it.

One woman alone!

I wonder. If the effort had been more equitably distributed between men and women, and above all if there had been more women in powerful economic and financial positions, would we be in such a mess today?

Would women be quite so reckless in promoting debts which they know can never be repaid? How many, I wonder, of those who purchased mortgages which they knew they could never repay were women? I bet a minority. Would they have accepted complicated economic formulations prepared by mathematicians who do not understand economics and accepted by economists who do not understand mathematics?

Women, on the whole, have a better instinct to preserve and stabilize and hence their judgment in these matters is often better, unlike men who can be, and often are, reckless in these same matters. There lies one difference between men and women and the advantage lies with women.

Margaret Thatcher always insisted on running the economy as she would run the household as a housewife. Never spend beyond your means. I don’t think that male economists over the past 15 years would think like that. They certainly haven’t acted like that.

If such differences are traceable to differences in brain organization, then why not use that to advantage? In any case, given that women suffer as much as men from the economic downturn, and probably a lot more, why not at least make them share in the decisions? It is, I think, scandalous, that they have such a minor representation in deciding our affairs, especially our economic affairs.

And here is my favourite quote of the week. It comes from Paul Volcker. He is quoted as saying “Even the experts [economists] don’t know quite what’s going on”!!!

Did they ever?

And of course, the overwhelming majority of “experts” who got us into this mess are men.


Anibal said...

One woman with a fine opinion about this global recession come to my mind: Noreena Hertz.

It would be better for us if we take her sayings into account.

sian tiksom said...

You are really getting there proffessor.
I am reminded of the complaints of women in countries where females are not allowed to drive cars- that mothers must sit in the back seat biting their knuckles while their 13 year old sons drive the car!