Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Why are men on top?

Helena Cronin makes an interesting point about the statistics of male and female ability. Whilst mean ability is approximately the same amongst men and women, the variance in male ability is considerably greater than the variance in female ability. As a consequence of this, the highest achievers tend to be male, and the lowest achievers tend to be male also.

Cronin points out that "discussions standardly zoom in on the means and blithely ignore the tails. So sex differences are judged to be small. And thus it seems that there's a gaping discrepancy: if women are as good on average as men, why are men overwhelmingly at the top? The answer must be systematic unfairness — bias and barriers. Therefore, so the argument runs, it is to bias and barriers that policy should be directed. And so the results of straightforward facts of statistical distribution get treated as political problems — as 'evidence' of bias and barriers that keep women back and sweep men to the top. (Though how this explains the men at the bottom is an unacknowledged mystery.)"


Peter Burnet said...

The top and bottom of what? We all have a vague notion of what, say, a brilliant physicist is, but what is his...sorry, his/her complement? A thick-headed unemployable chav or a physicist that can't do his sums properly?

This theory will be very popular among mediocre overemployed men.

Neil Forsyth said...

Could it be, despite the revolution, that more women don't like to be on top but men aren't fussy one way or the other!?