What sex is your brain?
There is a small village in the Dominican Republic where something quite magical can happen to 12-year-old girls. The magical thing is that after having been a girl their entire life, they turn into a boy. This isn’t a myth, this is actually true. These girls, who have all the usual signs of being girls, start to grow a penis and develop testicles. There’s a name for them: Guevedoces. It quite literally means ‘penis at twelve’. Not very imaginative but totally accurate.
What happens to these special individuals at the age of twelve is something that happens to roughly half of foetuses eight weeks after conception. Up until that point, we all had a female body. Everyone. Even Chuck Norris. There is NO physical difference between the sexes. Males (the ones with both X and Y chromosomes, you may remember from school) are then flooded with testosterone which sets their development off in another direction.
The Guevedoces are deficient in an enzyme that processes the testosterone, so they don’t undergo the transformation in the womb and continue to develop as girls. Until puberty kicks in.
So the difference between men and women really isn’t as dramatic as you may imagine it is.
And much of our understanding of the psychological differences between the sexes is also pretty flawed.We all had a female body. Everyone. Even Chuck Norris.Click To Tweet
Proving the wrong thing
If you Google the psychological difference between men and women, you’ll find lots of articles citing studies that show we’re different (go on, I can wait). They’ll tell you that male brains use seven times more grey matter while female brains use ten times more white matter. That women have a larger hippocampus. That women have a thicker corpus callosum. And all sorts of other stuff. And publications will tend to dumb it right down and tell you that these things support stereotypes like women being more emotional and men being better at parallel parking.
But – as with so many things in life – it’s more complicated than that. And more interesting.
Because these studies worked with an average of scans of a number of men and women, the results are an amalgamation of all these brains. The most you can say is that “on average, women’s brains TEND to be like this”. Recent research now believes that the differences between male and female brains isn’t quite as binary as we’ve been led to believe. Instead, it puts forward the mosaic theory of the brain. Certain traits are more likely to be found in women, certain traits are more likely to be found in men and certain traits are evenly spread across both sexes.
Aran Rees put it very succinctly to me the other day:
“Brain traits are like haircuts. Each one is more likely to be found on one of the sexes but that’s not a set rule.”
And he’s right. Just look at Peter Stringfellow. Or a girl after my own scalp, the 1980s Sinéad O’Connor.
The likelihood is that you don’t have a ‘typical’ brain for your sex. You have a blend of female traits and male traits. You hold a cerebral cocktail in your skull.
That’s statistics for you. Very often the ‘typical’ example just doesn’t exist. Or – at very best – is extremely rare.Brain traits are like haircuts. Each one is more likely to be found on one of the sexes but that's not a set rule.Click To Tweet
What can you do with this insight?
If you understand that there’s no ‘typical’ woman or ‘typical’ man, you need to accept that you can’t have a ‘typical’ way of dealing with either sex.
If you treated me like a typical man, you’d be ignoring the fact that I’m not an alpha male. I like collaboration. I’m empathetic (possibly more so than my female wife). And I’m very open with my flaws and weaknesses.
As I said a couple of days ago, it’s about flexibility. It’s about treating everyone as an individual, regardless of their sex. And that requires a different kind of management style. And it’s one that’s easier to implement if you actually care about your employees.
And maybe that’s what it’s all about; giving a crap about people. Regardless of where their brain fits on the sexual spectrum.http://openforideas.org/blog/2017/03/17/what-sex-is-your-brain/https://i1.wp.com/openforideas.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/womanman.jpg?fit=1024%2C576https://i1.wp.com/openforideas.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/womanman.jpg?resize=150%2C150Diversity & Divergencybrain,chuck norris,female,guevedoces,haircut,hippocampus,male,science,sex,statistics,study