Posted by: marthakarnes | February 6, 2014

Brain Game

My original plan was to do a post about collaboration and why I think women are more supposedly collaborative but then I stumbled upon this article.

As I was reading, my first thought was, huh? is this for real? I even checked to make sure it wasn’t a satirical news site or something. It’s not; it’s a Canadian newspaper. If I’m being honest, I have a hard time believing what this article is saying. We always talk about equality and how men and women are equal and in class we always say things are so circumstantial, but what if we’re talking about the wrong subject? Are women in leadership seen to be more collaborative because our brains are actually wired to be collaborative?

Like I said, I’m not very sure if I think that’s true. I even looked up the study to try and see if it could sway me (here it is). I think the biggest problem I have with the study is its limits, mainly the 8-22 age range. I think it would possibly be more interesting to look at the brain as its more developed (PSA: I’m not a neuroscience major) and when someone has more experiences, just to see if things are different. Even more interesting than that, I think, would be to try this study on men and women in top leadership positions to see if the same results are produced.

The main thing this article made me wonder was, should we be talking about this at all? Maybe neuroscience could help us further our understanding of leadership and “masculine” and “feminine” leadership. I think this is definitely something to consider and I think it could potentially make a lot of things we talk about- the idea that women have a different leadership style from men when the research shows they don’t- clearer.

I came into this post thinking I would write about how I think women are more collaborative because they have to be in order to navigate through the labyrinth; that collaboration might make them seem more favorable because of the stereotype that women are collaborative. From all we have read in class, I still believe that collaboration is one of women’s tools to navigate the labyrinth, but this study calls into question that maybe there is something deeper.

I’m curious to hear everyone’s thoughts about this. Do you think there is a significant difference in male’s and female’s brains? Do you think this could be relevant to the study of leadership?


  1. I found this post very interesting. It had me thinking about how we do talk a lot about circumstance in order not to throw every man and every woman in one group. I believe even when it comes to genetics, biology, wiring etc. it can still be quite circumstantial. I know many women who are extremely collaborative in their leadership style and in personal relationships. Through experience, I also know many men who are quite collaborative -I have learned this through group projects and assignments in leadership classes. I think men and women are, in fact, wired differently, but a lot of traits come, not only from genetics, but personality. It is entirely possible that the female brain utilizes a more “relationship” oriented portion and the male a more “technical” portion, but I do not believe that how you are wired always affects your effectiveness as a leader. Many people have been known to make something great out of themselves and enact change coming from very difficult circumstances, disabilities, etc. I do not personally feel this is relevant to the study of leadership -because I believe that your life is what you make of it, and if you choose to be a leader, regardless of your circumstances, one must find a path that is most plausible and allows them to be effective as a leader, male or female, disabled or not, “having a collaboratively oriented brain”, or not.

  2. I am a neuroscience major, and this article is absolutely amazing! I took a neuroanatomy course last year, and evidence/research has shown that men and women do in fact have differently “wired” brains. Every brain has millions of neurons, which connect to different parts of the brain and send signals throughout the body. It is shown that many neural connections in male brains run from the front of the brain to the back of the brain, whereas the female brain connections run from side to side of the brain. (The article that backs up this claim is attached.)

    These differences may not directly correlate to leadership, but it does explain how men and women think. Research has also shown that these differences allow men to be better at spatial tasks, while women are better at verbal tasks.These verbal tasks allow women to be more intuitive.

    While clearly this doesn’t explain much, it is very helpful to help us analyze how the stereotypical differences between men and women may actually be on a deeper genetic level. Perhaps mens’ quick-wit and aggressive behavior is due to their brain wiring, while womens’ compassion and genuine emotions may be due to their different wiring as well. Just some food for thought: maybe de-gendering isn’t going to be easy as it seems, simply due to mother nature.

  3. It is interesting to consider how men and women’s biological differences lead to more pronounced differences between males and females. If there is different brain wiring for men and women as the research suggests, I think that our gender roles have pronounced them. These differences would still exist but I believe that they would be portrayed more subtly without the magnification of gender. I think sex differences in the way our brains work are ok, but gender differences in what we accept as good leadership are not. It’s my belief that we would not have an issue with women attaining leadership if the only differences were attributed to sex. The types of brain wiring mentioned in this article both lead to traits suitable for strong leadership. However, when we start creating bias and ideas of what a leader looks like, we have moved past the biological differences.

  4. I find this aspect to be, not only very interesting, but very important in the study for leadership. I agree with my classmate that just because man and woman are ‘wired’ differently does not mean that alone should box them into those categories. It goes along with the idea of ‘nature’ verse ‘nurture’. Men and women are very obviously made differently (biologically, hormonally, neurologically). Those aspects are part of ‘nature’ and on the other side is the family, generation, society we are born into as well as experiences which show the ‘nurture’ aspect. In my personal opinion it is the ‘nurture’ qualities that should demonstrate who is qualified for a position. It should always be the ones who prove they have what it takes and has experience and the ability. BUT, in order to totally understand the bias of women in leadership roles, it is vital to be able to understand the cards we are dealt right from the beginning.

  5. I know nothing about neuroscience, so I just blindly trust the research in this study. However, I still think it is important not to generalize. I have known men who are collaborative and women who are not, but most do fit into the stereotype. I don’t necessarily think that it’s due to biology, though. I think it has a lot to do with how we are raised. Girls are often raised to be kind, caring, and considerate of others (these are important qualities for the little housewives in training…) Because of this, they tend to seek out the opinions of others before they make a decision and they are more careful than boys about preserving relationships when there is disagreement or conflict. They are more collaborative. On the other hand, boys who are raised in a stereotypical way often think that to be wrong is unmanly. This makes them less likely to seek out the approval of others before making decisions. They are also not trained to be as caring or kind towards others. I work a lot with little kids and I’ve noticed that parents and teachers are much more shocked and likely to hand out punishment when a girls fight physically than when boys fight physically. They are giving off the message that it is less acceptable for girls to do this. Boys grow up not worrying as much about their effect on others. They tend to be less collaborative.

  6. I agree this is an important field of study for leadership. It is one that can answer with some degree of certainty the differences between men’s brains and women’s brains overall. I believe that there’s nothing wrong with noting differences between men and women. I think as a general statement men and women have different strengths. This study shows a trend in those differences. I think we only run into problems when we allow ourselves base our decisions about abilities upon these generalizations. I did notice that it showed in the study it showed women having more positive leadership attributes in their neural connections and according the the article, “outperforming” men on several aspects including, social cognition and attention. For the past few weeks, we have been saying that there are not a lot of differences between men and women. This study suggests that there may be more differences than we previously thought.

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