The Reasons Why Women Won’t Match Men in the Workplace Irrespective of Whatever Action is Taken
Submission to the Inquiry ‘Women in the Workplace’
by the ‘Business, Innovation and Skills’ Select Committee,
House of Commons.
Moxon SP [This, written submission, 2012; subsequent oral presentation, 2013]
1. The central and first issue to address is not what measures can be taken to increase the proportion of those at high levels in organisations who are women, but whether or not this can be achieved even in principle, given relevant scientific understanding. As I outline, the seldom discussed, but overwhelmingly evidenced scientific research reveals ineradicable very deep-seated (biologically-based) reasons why few women are on company boards in comparison to men, and why this will never substantially change.
2. The central question of feasibility in principle is relegated to almost the bottom of the list of questions in the remit (and is only a half question at that; inappropriately linked as the other half to another question that has as its implicit assumption that measures would in fact provide a benefit), indicating a serious political reluctance to even broach it. Yet irrespective of the political position the Select Committee may adopt, if the science is ignored and measures are taken to try to increase the proportion of women on company boards, then (for reasons I outline) this is not unlikely to be counter-productive and lead even to a decrease, let alone to no change.
3. At least by taking into account the science, then this sort of adverse impact on women may be minimised. Given the general appreciation that women would have been given further help, then any women who do get on to a board would be regarded even more than at present as having risen not according to their talents. Consequently, measures easily could serve generally to undermine women in the workplace, in direct opposition to the intention.
4. Women rarely reach high levels in organisations for reasons of major ramifications of the essential functional difference – indeed dichotomy (profound, non-overlapping difference) – between the sexes, that impact not only on relative competitiveness but also in terms of the social structure and dynamics distinctive according to sex.
5. Not only is the nature of the workplace structure in accord with male sociality and at odds with that of the female, but competitiveness per se is inimical to how women behave in the presence of the opposite sex: whereas men actually become more competitive as part of their displaying to women; women actually back away from being competitive because this compromises their displaying to men the attributes that confer female mate-value. Furthermore, male competitiveness allied to the male facility to focus leads to men intensifying competitiveness in areas that are favourable to them but withdrawing from other areas, resulting in a distribution of effort on any particular measure showing a pronounced polarised spread, with males disproportionately at both the top and the bottom of variation. This contrasts with women tending to crowd the median of any distribution. Consequently, even if there were in aggregate no sex difference in performance or aptitude – and not excluding in competitiveness itself — then still there would be ten times as many men than women at the top.
A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO THE SUBMITTER
6. Given the central question posed in the Inquiry remit of ‘why are there still so few women in senior positions on boards’, I feel that I am in a very strong position to provide an answer and therefore to make a submission. As a cross-disciplinary researcher and published writer regarding the nature and basis of human sociality (social structure and dynamics), with a special interest in the sexes, in particular I focus on the neglected but crucial necessity of fully understanding the deep biological roots of sex differences that are ineradicable and profound.
7. My work appears in science journals, and also in book form through the renowned academic publisher, Imprint Academic: The Woman Racket: The New Science Explaining How the Sexes Relate at Work, At Play and in Society (2008). This has had a considerable influence amongst evolutionary psychologists in particular, receiving distinct praise from Professor Geoffrey Miller (University of New Mexico, USA), the author of the ground-breaking book, The Mating Mind. My MS had received such a glowing review from Professor Bruce Charlton (Universities of Newcastle and Buckingham) that Imprint Academic felt immediately obliged to publish it, and Professor Charlton provided assistance in further development.
8. Women and work is the subject of the book’s most prominent chapter, for which I had some help in content and overview from the world’s leading expert on this topic, the sociologist Catherine Hakim, formerly of the LSE.
9. Constantly researching, I am always preparing papers and working towards a follow-up book to include all of the relevant science irrespective of disciplines.
10. Mine is a contribution of the sort standard academics are unable to make owing to their specialisms. You will appreciate that without a full and wide-ranging scientific understanding of the basis of why women tend to fail to rise within workplace hierarchies, any policy initiatives to try to change the current reality are doomed to failure; if not, indeed, actually to produce the very opposite effect to that intended.
11. It is widely agreed that this is already evident in the attitude of businesses to maternity and childcare legislation, and it cannot be assumed that even just the threat of imposing such as quotas will not produce overall a negative impact on women. Indeed, and as I outline, in some respects the agents of a negative impact on women of trying supposedly to help women, are likely to be women themselves.
The Reasons Why Women Won’t Match Men in the Workplace Irrespective of Whatever Action is Taken
12. My submission is to address the one central question in the remit: “Why are there still so few women in senior positions on boards, and what are the benefits of having a greater number?” As I outline below, the actual reasons for the first part of this question are not those usually supposed, which are implicit or explicit within the Inquiry’s remit. The actual reasons render irrelevant all of the other set questions, so there would be no point in my answering them. Despite its absolute centrality, and the question that needs to be asked before any other, the first part of this question is near the foot of the several questions within the remit, which is thereby revealed to be fundamentally misguided and ideologically motivated. This is also revealed by the second half of this question in its being loaded to assume a benefit; apparently not even accepting the possibility of no benefit, let alone of a disbenefit..
13. PRELIMINARY NOTE
This submission necessarily is in terms of the roots of human social structure / dynamics, because only a ‘bottom-up’ analysis from the biology can explain what is going on with women in the workplace. It is too often not understood that all culture is itself biology in being a manifestation of human psychology evolved to function to feed back to fine-tune and reinforce the biology underpinning it. Consequently, culture never goes off at a tangent such that it needs its own level of explanation beyond biology; and far from being obscured by culture, actually culture serves to render the biology ever better expressed. The problem with a ‘top-down’ perspective, as from sociology, is that culture has evolved not least to further the biology in an ‘ignorance is bliss’ way to obscure from us its working, and even to cause self-deception. The upshot is that sociological starting premises are really ideological and not scientific positions, into which any data is prised as a circular exercise little better than a tautology. Therefore, the biological perspective is the necessary one, and so any investigation has to start with the evolved roots of human social structure / dynamics to see if sex differences or dichotomies exist that account for women’s failure to climb the workplace hierarchy.
14. The executive board of a commercial enterprise is at the apex of a form of organisation essential and therefore common to all workplaces of a hierarchy, which is the form of organisation of human male sociality apparent right from early toddler age onwards (this fact having been long universally accepted in the science literature, so there is no need to cite any here). Same-sex (all-male) dominance-hierarchy is a ranking of individual males otherwise relatively loosely inter-connected within a coalition. It is entirely different to the female form of sociality, also evident from early toddler age, of what is generally dubbed a ‘personal network’ of much more intimate same-sex dyads (twosomes) extending out from family to friends and acquaintances. Dominance hierarchy is the male form of sociality ubiquitous across species in biology, ineradicable in humans, and fundamental to the essential biological function of the male, which is as the ‘genetic-filter’ [1. 2.] (or, as very similarly but alternatively conceptualised, ‘mutational- cleansing’). [3.]
15. To unpack this a little for essential background to subsequent discussion: within the dominance hierarchy, competitive defeat causes an individual male to be reproductively suppressed (low fertility and sex drive), and to be rejected sexually by females; whereas competitive victory confers higher-status, indicating ‘good genes’. As the lower-status males fail, absolutely or relatively, to reproduce, this system rids the gene pool of accumulated gene-replication error (deleterious mutations and recombinations) that otherwise would lead to local and ultimately to species extinction. This is the male ‘genetic filter’ or ‘mutational cleansing’ function in action, and thus is solved the fundamental problem in any biological system. The male turns out to be the very opposite of ‘useless’. The corresponding female function is in being simply the ‘gene-vessel’, as it were, to transmit the genes filtered by the male – the ‘good genes’ in higher-ranking males — to the next generation. Consequently, female mate-value (sexual attractiveness) is not to do with ‘good genes’, but is instead to do with fertility. Albeit that genes also determine fertility, as it is indicated by youth and beauty, this is a narrow set of genes, and the qualities they code for and control are more or less a ‘given’ – innate and immutable – and therefore cannot really be fought over (which is why, across nature, in species where females also exhibit dominance hierarchy, rank is often simply inherited). As a result, human female intra-sexual competition tends to be confined to mutual derogation regarding sexual proprietariness (in that suggestions of future infidelity would injure a female’s chances of acquiring a long-term sexual partner). Intra-sexual competition is fierce in males and for the most part relatively weak or absent in females, because for a male it determines whether or not he gets to reproduce, and, if he does, the degree of fertility and the number of partners with whom he reproduces. It determines little if any such thing for the female. This sex dichotomy is confirmed by very recent research into stress response. Brain imaging very graphically reveals completely sex-distinct major neuro-hormonal pathways and brain systems, whereby although stress is something to be alleviated in the female, it is by striking contrast something that is actively produced in the male so as to drive competitiveness.
16. The underlying separate sociality of the sexes continues through adulthood, notwithstanding cross-sex interaction. Other than matters sexual (and parental), the aspects of the social environment individuals find most salient are intra-sexual – within their own sex. This applies in particular to competition. [4.] As it would make no biological sense for competition to be inter-sexual, then competition is only de facto when, for example, individuals of both sexes apply for the same job promotion. The context merely of a ‘socially amorphous’ formal work organisation does not render the competition as being psychologically salient in any inter-personal sense. Albeit that the workplace formal social structure mostly corresponds to the informal actual hierarchy of male dominance of the male individuals within the workplace, it is not the same thing; and the disparity would be spotlighted when two opposite-sex individuals within the work organisation interact. What is psychologically salient then is not competition but sexual display.
17. Regarding sexual display, recent research (re which I have a review paper myself in preparation) shows that in the presence of males, females tend to withdraw from any form of competition and instead display, whereas males in the presence of females become still more competitive. [5.] [That is, they compete in effect against their own previous performance or the performance of other males.] The upping of male competitiveness in the presence of females is evident even ahead of puberty in running-track experiments by Uri Gneezy (a key researcher in behavioural-economics) with children at an age (ten) when there is no sex-difference in athletic ability. This seems to be because competition per se is felt by females (girls as well as women) to be antithetical to revealing female mate-value, whereas for males (boys as well as men) competitiveness per se indicates male mate-value and is part of male sexual display. Mutual sexual display makes a nonsense of the claim that women would confer a benefit to company boards through engendering reduced risk-taking, because their very presence is likely to produce the opposite effect of greater male risk-taking behaviour.
18. As part-and-parcel of these sex-dichotomous forms of sociality is sex-dichotomous in-grouping psychology – the sex-specific psychology which explains how an individual envisages his/her own group-belonging. [6. 7.] Human male in-grouping psychology is a symbolic identification with any salient group of which an individual male feels himself to be a part – such as the work-group, company, university course-group or year-group, etc. This would correspond to a dominance-hierarchy of the males within that grouping, but would appear additionally to include collaterally any associated females. By great contrast, but analogously, female in-grouping corresponds to the individual female’s ‘personal-network’, cutting across the more obvious basis of grouping felt by males; and also unlike for males features a fourfold same-sex preference.
19. It is immediately apparent from this that women are likely to have serious problems in even wanting to locate themselves within the workplace, given that their mode of sociality and in-grouping psychology is very much at odds with the structure and dynamics of the contemporary workplace. Albeit amorphous and supported by official exhortation that everyone is supposedly the same irrespective of sex, the workplace is in significant ways less conducive to women than to men. It might well be asked, then, why any women desire to climb a workplace hierarchy? Status, in being in effect a summation of male ‘good genes’, indicates male but not female mate-value, so there would seem to be no good reason why any woman would wish to try to acquire status per se, with rank of no evident use to her. Even so, by climbing the amorphous social structure of the workplace, a woman can better meet males who possess the high mate-value she requires. She can place herself in the path of high-status men. On this understanding, whereas men obviously have a clear direct motivation to vie for status, women are only indirectly thus motivated. Therefore, women’s motivation will be weaker. This analysis does not conflict with the proximal explanation most people in work would provide: of a need to do a job well, and that this is its own reward. A progression up the ranks with increasing expertise follows naturally. Certainly this applies to women – given the findings that females are more conscientious than males; though males have greater facility to be focused – and can be envisaged as a tight positive feedback loop that has come to be split off from the core, distal motivation, to become an end in itself. Distal motivations are the crucial ones, and that we are mostly unaware of them actually is instrumental to better actualising them.
20. When you consider what is in effect playing a ‘double sexual game’, as it were, of aping male status-striving whilst not eschewing sexual display, together with the exclusionary basis of female in-grouping psychology and personal-network; then it is hardly a surprise that women are revealed to have a strong aversion to women managers – as shown by academic research [8. 9. 10.] as well as extensive if less rigorous survey (by the Alfred Marks Agency, the Royal Mail and the magazine, Harper’s Bazaar). Women prefer as their managers even incompetent males over competent females. Conversely, women overseeing senior appointments are likely to favour only those women who are within their own in-group, notwithstanding a fourfold same-sex preference. Although this would drive discrimination against males, it would be counteracted by the universal view of males as naturally fitting into hierarchy and therefore appropriate as line-managers. The upshot is that as the proportion of women in management increases, then other women are the main obstacles to further advancement for many or most women. For some women their female manager may be the source of unfair preferment, but the introduction of such a nepotistic element is itself damaging to the workplace in contributing to inappropriate over-advancement .
21. That there is not some simple sex discrimination against women in the workplace is shown very clearly by recent field survey work sending CV applications to employers for real jobs, where the CVs were identical other than for the sex of the applicant. The female-named applications were four times more likely to attract an invitation to interview. [11.] [This dramatic sex discrimination in favour of women is despite the jobs in question being highly male-typical jobs: systems analyst and accountant.] This suggests that the preponderance of women in HR departments might now be allowing the expression of the aforesaid fourfold female same-sex preference in recruitment. This would result in a large imbalance at entry level in (and in ‘parachuting’ into) organisations, with only particularly well-qualified and suitable male applicants being accepted in comparison to their female counterparts. This translates into a much poorer pool of female candidates for subsequent promotion to high position. However, the jobs in the study were not managerial, and when a very similar survey-study [12.] was carried out within science academia, the pro-female/ anti-male sex discrimination partially reversed, because the job in question was ‘lab manager’. As soon as it becomes a question of line-management, then women as well as men view the job as naturally male-appropriate. It is not through some supposed general favouring of men, because the applications most liked were those purporting to be from a female. Notwithstanding this preference in favour of women, the male-named applications were more often chosen through being assessed as revealing greater competence. The competences in fact were identical, so this is an artefact of an implicit understanding that males rather than females are suited to hierarchical positions.
22. This picture clearly is a problem for women not simply to be selected, but – to return to a major point already made — themselves even to want to climb the workplace hierarchy: at least through line management. Women alternatively could expect more success if they eschew line management and try to progress through staff positions, such as in human resources departments. Clearly, this is very much what women do; HR being just the kind of ‘people-centred’ employment niche women favour; but it is not the route to get a full business sense of the company. This explains the striking current data revealing that almost all appointments of women to the boardrooms of major companies are for non-executive roles. [Between March and August 2012, as a result of the threat of legislated quotas if FTSE100 companies don’t ‘voluntarily’ achieve 25% female representation by 2015 (as recommended in the Davies report, 2011), 55% of new FTSE100 directors were women (up from 13% in 2010 and 30% in 2011), but fully 100% of these have been as non-executives. All of the 18 new executive directors over the same period have been men.]
23. Yet this is but the start of the ramification of reasons why women are less evident on company boards. As a result of the radical sex difference – sex dichotomy – in competitiveness, the distribution of almost any attribute or accomplishment varies across individuals in two distinct types of distribution according to sex. The female normal distribution curve features a pronounced median but with both the top and bottom tails quickly falling away to zero. For males, the median is far less pronounced, whereas correspondingly the top and bottom tails are quite ‘fat’ and tail off only slowly. The upshot is that even in the unlikely event of there being a nil sex-difference overall (that is, identical in aggregate) in ability or aptitude in respect of whatever is being measured – and this applies even to competitiveness itself – then, as you approach the top tails of the sex-separate distributions, you encounter the distinction between the pronounced top tail of the male distribution versus the near non-existent female top tail. This reveals the occupants at this point to be overwhelmingly if not almost 100% male and near 0% female. [This is commonly pointed out in the science literature. For a fuller outline see Moxon (2008). ] This is precisely the scenario pertaining to the apex of a commercial enterprise, and is highly illuminating in considering the sex composition of a company board. A ratio of men to women typically of ten to one is what would be expected.
24.There is a surfeit of explanation for the lack of female company-board presence even before the more obvious, indeed self-evident usual explanations are proffered — such as a response to pregnancy, childbirth, and young children, of shifting to part-time work, taking a career break, down-shifting or even leaving work permanently; these being now understood to be the result of not constrained but free choice, or, more subtly, neither choice nor restraint but ‘satisficing’. [14.]
25. What is often not appreciated is that sex-dichotomous psychology rooted in the most basic biological distinctions is the strongest driver of the various different work patterns that distinguish women and impact in slower progression. Part-time working (and, for many women, not working at all) is preferred irrespective of having or intending a family. [15.] Then there is the additional desire for both good working conditions and a conducive social aspect that is prominent for women but not for men. [16.] This drives profound sex differences in the choice of work niche. [I won’t go further into this, given that you have a submission from Catherine Hakim, who is the world expert on all this.]
26. Deep psychological sex differences are also behind not merely work-niche but work-sector preferences. The orientation towards ‘people’- and ‘care’-centred occupations is all too well-known and I hardly need to cite work on this here – again, the most comprehensive reviews are by Catherine Hakim. Even when both sexes gravitate to the same work sector, they may well have a completely different view of it. In academia, the key reason cited in the recent major review [17.] about why women don’t get to the top in science is that women much prefer teaching to research roles, and thereby do not place themselves on the main career ladder that requires prestige in a particular field. It would seem that whereas men are interested in working in science fields for the science per se, women tend to be interested in the ‘people’- and ‘care’-centred’ aspects of science as a platform for a profession in teaching, and thereby self-limit their progression up the hierarchy.
27. This submission is but an introduction to a plethora of research in the sciences that has direct bearing on the question of why it is that women do not climb the work hierarchy. Given the surfeit of explanation that is nothing to do with sex-discrimination, then it follows that all of the other questions within the Select Committee’s remit on this topic are irrelevant, and I need not address them.
28. Indeed, to continue to still further press on with the intellectually dead extreme politics that drives the ‘women quota’ agenda, is to cause the very evil that it is intended to try to end. Actual sex-discrimination is produced: against men. This cannot be admissible if all of the effort in respect of alleviating discrimination is to do with egalitarianism as it purports to be. Unfortunately, it is not at all as it purports: the efforts all stem from the now hegemonic political-philosophy of ‘political-correctness’, which originated and developed as an attempt to salve the ‘cognitive-dissonance’ experienced by those with a political-Left mindset in the wake of the long-standing demonstrable failure of their ethos in practice. [18.] Instead of blaming the theory and one’s own gullibility in accepting and adhering to it, blame was transferred to the hitherto projected recipients of ‘liberation’ from ‘oppression’: ‘the workers’. [There is full agreement on this amongst the various scholars who have written about ‘political correctness’, e.g. Browne.]  In that ‘the workers’ typically were male, ‘white’, and heterosexual, then a replacement mass of people deemed worthy of being the ‘victims’ in need of ‘saving’ was deemed to be by inversion the sum total of all those individuals who are non-male, non-‘white’ and non-heterosexual: that is, females, ethnic-minorities and homo- and trans-sexuals. This is a political idiocy without precedent in the history of our or any other culture. It is deeply disgraceful for this Select Committee that it should be even giving lip service to such foolishness.
29. The consequences, inevitably reflected ‘downstream’ through the economy, of the combination of putting ever further obstacles in the path of men, with the bogus reasons (when they become generally understood) why this is being done, hardly need to be spelled out. The key problem – known to everyone intuitively, but now deemed politically inadmissible – is that men (but not women) need a good job in order to ‘have a life’ – that is, to acquire a partner and have a family. The explanation for this could not be clearer. Males possess mate-value in terms of the degree to which they possess ‘good genes’, regarding which male status is the major indicator. This is not the case for any woman: there being no overlap with men here, because female mate-value is ‘fertility’, not ‘good genes’; and as such is unrelated to status. Status is purely a measure of male mate-value. Inasmuch as the scope for males to achieve status is ever more narrowed by deliberate government anti-male discrimination and in artificially favouring women — and inasmuch as this is exacerbated by an inexcusably elitist-separatist motivation by those who have placed themselves within the government-media-education über-class — then many or most men indeed will not be able to ‘have a life’. The predictable impact of this is serious social breakdown, one major manifestation of which would be likely violence against the government-media-education elites, given that they are clearly identifiable as being responsible.
30. Finally, the last part of the question I’m addressing posed by the Inquiry is in regard to what may be the benefits of including more women on company boards. Referring above to the issues that women themselves have with woman managers, then the presence of women in senior positions is likely to be a disbenefit to many or most other women in the company, and of no benefit or again a disbenefit to women even in terms of representation. The ‘womanly’ qualities sought after are exactly those qualities likely not possessed by the very unusual women who do successfully compete for a place on the board. This renders any ‘representation’ argument worse than empty. A childless career woman is hardly likely to be more able to represent the interests of the great mass of ordinary women (who never place work, let alone career at the centre of their lives) than is a man directly serving the interests of a typical woman in being partnered to such a woman. So even the presence of the ‘token’ woman is unlikely to be of benefit. The case for even the most minimal ‘positive discrimination’ is, to say the least, unconvincing. In any case, the economic case has been radically misrepresented. Already a poorer performance of companies in Norway is being seen after the imposition of female quotas for that nation’s company boardrooms (though it is not for me to present the data and studies here, given that the knowledgeable expert on this, Michael Buchanan, has submitted specifically on this). Negative economic consequences into the bargain really does put the seal on the faux egalitarianism of imposing ‘women quotas’, doomed to failure as is any such attempt by the impossibility of engineering a wholly new human sociality. To imagine this is possible betrays an extraordinary historical and cultural illiteracy, and a wilful ignorance of science with the profoundest denial of human nature through a reprehensible inegalitarian extreme political philosophy.
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