The Gray Lady Discovers Sexual Differences

When Larry Summers noted the real-world discrepancies between men women in math and the sciences, he was pilloried by the Leftists in the MSM, who took offense at his assertion that the differences do exist. The most easily excitable ones immediately interpreted his comments to mean that he thought women were dumb.

Well, now some research has indicated that perhaps women simply don’t like the subject as much, which Larry never disputed:

The women in the study opted out of a math tournament more often than the men did, despite the fact that many of the women performed the problems better or equally well. By declining the chance to compete, the women also turned down a shot at higher pay.

Most men, even those who performed poorly, chose to compete.

Wow, what a shocker! Men like to compete, and competition helps hone skills. Who’da thunk?

The real surprise, though, was that the New York Times saw fit to publish a commentary on the study. But, of course, the Gray Lady, like most Leftist outfits, abhors competition, and the inherent risks in it. So it opted for this sop to its Leftist fanbase:

The women in the experiment who didn’t want to bother with a five-minute tournament are not likely to relish spending 16 hours a day on a Wall Street trading floor. It’s not fair to deny women a chance at those jobs, but it’s not realistic to expect that they’ll seek them in the same numbers that men will.

For two decades, academics crusading for equality in the workplace have been puzzled by surveys showing that women are at least as satisfied with their jobs and their pay as men are. This is known as “the paradox of the contented female worker.”

But maybe it’s not such a paradox after all. Maybe women, like the ones who shunned the experimental tournament, know they could make more money in some jobs but also know they wouldn’t enjoy competing for it as much as their male rivals. They realize, better than men, that in life there’s a lot more at stake than money.

I wonder if John Tierney has ever tried living a full social life without money. The fact of the matter is that men, in their social role as providers, are going to be more about the money than women. What this means is that money isn’t as big a priority for women (although the things that money can buy are) as it is for men.

But, if not money, what will men compete with each other for? Men are biologically programmed to compete, so compete they will. And in the end, on a primal level, it’s about competing for women; or, more specifically, about competing for the chance to mate and thereby pass genes on to the next generation. As men make millions of sperm all the time, they are more wont to cast their seed far and wide. Similarly, as women make very few eggs, they are in the biological role of being the chooser, and ultimately nurturer, which doesn’t assign as high a priority to competition.

Of course, most of us learned about this difference between boys and girls even before we entered puberty. Some of us have fought against the roles; some of us have sought to straddle both roles. But few of us deny that these roles exist, or that they are rooted in both our biological and social evolutions.

For such a Leftist rag, you’d think that the Gray Lady would be more appreciative of the biological fact of sex.

By the way, the Calico Cat figured all along that there was more to Larry’s remarks than the MSM were giving him credit for:

You will also notice that he is trying to spin his remarks as meaning ďI donít really know if innate differences cause men to be better at math, but Iím just saying that it should be investigated.Ē However, he knows that itís a politically incorrect statement, he would never have said unless he really was already convinced.

My conclusion is that Lawrence Summers is personally familiar with research studies in this area, and he has drawn his own conclusion that they prove that there are innate differences between men and women related to mathematical ability.


[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]

7 thoughts on “The Gray Lady Discovers Sexual Differences”

  1. Men are biologically programmed to compete, so compete they will.

    There’s definitely good reason to believe that’s true, but it runs counter to the “nurture is everything” dogma which is embraced by many leftists. Just as they deny any other kinds of cognitive differences between the sex, they’ll deny this one.

  2. Further reading: Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate; Steven E. Rhoads, Taking Sex Differences Seriously; David Geary, Male, Female: The Evolution of Human Sex Differences; Christina Hoff Sommers, The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism is Harming Our Young Man and Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women. Of course, some of this is common sense.

    Given the extortion this year Harvard was willing to pay (and MIT did earlier), the future may not look good. I don’t know much about science but we have friends from central Europe that orignally chose chemistry because of the Lysenko effect. I suspect some serious untenured scholars are choosing other areas to research and some non-serious ones may be turning out well-financed junk science.

  3. I think that somebody ought to point out to the Gray Lady that very few people spend 16 hours on a Wall St. trading floor as the stock markets are only open for 6 1/2 hours (9:30am – 4pm EST). Unless they’re trading currencies but that’s a different story.

  4. Go to for a stimulating debate between Stephen Pinker and a feminist psychologist from Berkeley who denies sexual differences.

    Then go to the comments on the debate where three more feminist psychologist (amazingly) support the nurture side of the debate against Pinker. Nobody really comes to Pinker’s defense, probably because they all saw what happened to Summers.

    You really must be good at flexing your spine and tucking your head into unlikely crannies to continue to deny sexual differences in career preference and aptitude. These feminist psychologists are eminently flexible in that way.

  5. Thanks for the link, Peter. Pinker demonstrates that he really doesn’t need much help. He did an excellent job in the Q & A of keeping the discussion focused on what is really a very narrow question instead of allowing it to be opened up into the more general political and moral discussion.

  6. “Similarly, as women make very few eggs, they are in the biological role of being the chooser, and ultimately nurturer, which doesn’t assign as high a priority to competition.”

    I don’t think that women are less competitive than males. I think they are more sensitive to the marginal cost of obtaining more status than males are.

    Men play a numbers game. They seek to have the largest number of offspring possible. They seek the highest possible status in order to have the largest possible number of prospective mates. For men altitude in the social hierarchy is everything. They will expend 90% more effort to get that last 10% of status hoping for a big reproductive payoff.

    Women play a quality game. They have few offspring but invest a great deal in each one. Women seek status as means of insuring security. The extra 90% effort for another 10% of status usually isn’t worth it. They will use the security of being in the say the 80th percentile of status, to insure their offsprings safety and success while avoiding the inherent risk of getting to the very top.

    As a population, women are more likely to chose not to seek more status at a high cost than are males. This in turn causes sex asymmetries at the very top levels of many professions.

  7. In response to a comment by Kagehi at a cross-post to this, I replied:

    Yes, there are various studies about this. Sexual selection and reproductive strategies are a fascinating topic, and I would recommend both The Red Queen by Matt Ridley, and The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins for further reading.

    Women do compete, but are less overt and less aggressive about it. For women, “good enough” will suffice; whereas for men it’s often “all or nothing”.

    It has even been suggested that our brains evolved the way they did as an arms race between men and women, who try to cheat each other. Makes sense to me.

    Theological inhibitions are not, of course, the only way to repress the genome’s instincts. Customs do as well. The Western tradition of monogamy at least gives the illusion of fidelity in order to forestall deadly paternity feuds.

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