An opinion piece by Nicholas Kristof in today’s Times looks at whether, as some have suggested, the modern workplace is better suited to women than men. Mr. Kristof quotes from a “provocative” article:
With women making far-reaching gains, there’s a larger question. Are women simply better-suited than men to today’s jobs? The Atlantic raised this issue provocatively in this month’s issue with a cover story by Hanna Rosin bluntly entitled, “The End of Men.”
“What if the modern, postindustrial economy is simply more congenial to women than to men?” Ms. Rosin asked. She adds: “The postindustrial economy is indifferent to men’s size and strength. The attributes that are most valuable today — social intelligence, open communication, the ability to sit still and focus — are, at a minimum, not predominately male. In fact, the opposite may be true.”
It’s a fair question, and others also have been wondering aloud if a new age of femininity is dawning.
Leaving aside that anybody who is just now getting around to wondering “if a new age of femininity is dawning” must have spent the last 40 years in a mine-shaft, what is remarkable about this is that the notion of innate cognitive differences between men and women is suddenly “a fair question”. It certainly was not, for example, a “fair question” when Lawrence Summers asked it a few years ago at Harvard, even though he raised exactly the same point about intelligence distribution that Mr. Kristof does in today’s piece, namely that female intelligence is more clustered in the middle, while there are more males at the high and low ends of the scale:
At the very top, boys more than hold their own: 62 percent of kids who earn perfect 2,400 scores on the S.A.T. are boys.
Actually, it goes much further than that: for instance, according to this paper by Danish researcher Helmuth Nyborg, men with IQs of 145 or higher outnumber women 8 to 1. (When Nyborg published this in 2004 it was, of course, a heretical result, and it led to his entering, as Walter Sobchak might have put it, “a world of pain”.)
Are we now going to be able to speak frankly about innate, quantifiable statistical variation in the cognitive faculties of different human populations? Here’s my bet: yes we are, whenever the data appear to cast Vile Oppressors (that is, whites, males, or, vilest of all, white males) in an unfavorable light compared to some oppressed victim-group (everybody else). It’s fine, in other words, for women to have higher “social intelligence”, “ability to sit still and focus”, and so forth; indeed, you are more than welcome to mention any innate differences you like, as long as they indicate some sort of superiority of the Oppressed over the Oppressors. That’s goodspeak.
Otherwise, mind your tongue, if you know what’s good for you. And Mr. Kristof had better watch out with that SAT stuff. He’ll be hearing about that.