3 sexist myths about the brain, debunked

Women are now occupying or vying for some of the most important positions across the world – President of the US, South Korea and Taiwan, Prime Minister of the UK, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Namibia, Chair of the US Federal Reserve, State Bank of India, and Head of the IMF to name a few.

From succeeding in a man’s world, perhaps it is now women who are wired for success? As technology disrupts and levels the playing field, leaders need to be emotionally intelligent, able to handle competing demands and intuitive – traits more traditionally associated with women.

But is there any neuroscientific grounding behind these gender stereotypes?

What is clear from extensive research from institutes such as McMaster University, the University of Pennsylvania and Cambridge University is that there are physical differences between a man and a woman’s brain – in structure and chemicals, as well as function. For example, men and women’s brains respond differently to stress and process emotional memories in a different way.

However, these differences are easy to overstate and can distract from the bigger messages that brain science has for all of us. We take a closer look at some:

1) Women are better at multi-tasking. This theory is based on the fact that the left and right sides of the cerebral cortex (“the higher brain”) are more densely connected in a woman’s brain than a man’s, meaning that information can bridge the two hemispheres more effectively. In contrast, men tend to have more front to back connections within a hemisphere.


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