Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Bigger the Backpack, the Brighter the Babe

Faithful reader Mark came up with three aphorisms about the clues that women's appearance can give men about the potential relationship they might have, such as "the thicker the makeup, the thicker the drama."

Faithful reader Rebecca came up with three excellent replies:

The baggier the sweat pants, the bigger the hugs.
The bigger the backpack, the brighter the babe.
The flatter the footwear, the funner [sic] the date.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Men Like Competing More

One of the reasons men make more is that they like competing more than women do. In particular, men like tournament competition, with clear winners and losers, much more than women do. In adult life, the clearest way to mark winning is with higher pay. Men are more willing to negotiate for pay; women not only don't like to negotiate, they don't like to be negotiated with. One of the reasons for this is that women are more likely to think that they are imposters - see yesterday's post. Women compete for intimate relationships, but they do not like anyone to lose completely - that is, to be utterly excluded.

My favorite piece of evidence that Susan Pinker cites is a study of what happens when boys and girls run alone, compared to when they run with others. Alone, boys and girls run at the same speed. When boys are running with someone else, especially another boy, they run faster. When girls run with someone else, especially another girl, they will slow down to keep pace with the other.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Women Think They Are Imposters

Women are more likely to think that their success is a fluke. Even if they have sustained success, they are more likely to think it is a fluke. When they fail at something, women are more likely to think it is due to their own failings. Women are more than twice as likely to get depressed over their failures - indeed, Susan Pinker calls the connection between women feeling like an imposter and getting depressed "the other problem with no name."

Men are more prone to overestimate their own skills. They are more likely to bluff, and take on responsibilities they are not really ready for. When they fail, they are likely to blame other people or outside conditions.

Reality is still reality, and offers a real bottom line of whether we succeed or not. However, men and women still draw different conclusions from the verdict that reality renders.

Men are more likely to see failures as investments from which they can learn, and to regard challenges ahead as something they can probably overcome. Because of the way women regard their own talents, even their own achievements, they are likely to aim lower than men. This has a cumulative effect. Imposter syndrome, as Pinker calls it, is one of the factors that means there are fewer women at the top of our power hierarchies than there are men.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Most Women Are Happier With a Balanced Life Than With an Absorbing Career

Susan Pinker's book is called The Sexual Paradox as a play on the economists' idea of a "gender paradox": compared to men, women earn less and have lower status, but are happier with their work. But this is only a paradox if you assess the value of your job on its own, not in relation to the rest of your life. Career-oriented women and men are likely to rate their jobs that way. As I noted yesterday, Catherine Hakim estimates that about 20% of women are primarily career-oriented. By contrast, about 55% of men are primarily career-oriented.

Thus the paradox: career-oriented male economists - that is, most economists - are puzzled that women don't count happiness the same career-oriented way that most men do. And some women are like most men. But most women are not like most men. There is only a paradox if you assume that men and women are the same.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Most Women Do Not Follow Planned Careers

One of the most useful ideas that Susan Pinker reports in The Sexual Paradox comes from Catherine Hakim's work on the distribution of women's preferences. Hakim calculates that about 20% of women are career-centered and 20% are home-centered. The 60% in the middle are "adaptive," trying to have it all, tacking between two poles. Hakim’s Preference Theory: not all women want the same thing, and only 20% want what men want.

This also means that in general, women are less likely to have a career plan than men. In particular, women’s plans are more likely to change after children than men’s. Men like to tell the story of their careers as their following a plan, overcoming obstacles. Women are more likely to describe their lives are a natural flow of one event into another, many of the turns not planned but not bad.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Babies Are More Addictive Than Crack

“the nurturing relationship is so rewarding to mothers that when given the choice, new mother rats choose newborn pups over cocaine. Before they had babies or once their pups were older, female rats definitely preferred the drugs.”

Susan Pinker, The Sexual Paradox (174)

However, if women get addicted to crack before they have kids, it disrupts their motherhood brain paths.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Presbyterian Property Rules Are Clear: Accept Them, and Get On With It

I had the honor of speaking in the convocation in Pittsburgh Presbytery this week, "Our Freedom of Religion at Risk: A Presbyterian Crisis." The meeting grew out of disputes in Pittsburgh Presbytery and elsewhere over dissenting congregations trying to leave the denomination with their property. Joe Small gave the big-picture opening address about our church's unity being based on communion. Euan Cameron talked about the British background to our denomination's history of union and dissent. This led directly to my part, to talk about the Adopting Act of 1729, which lets potential officers of the church explain their "scruples" about aspects of the church's constitution.

The most practical addresses were given by two lawyers, Mark Tammen and Jeff Tindall. They demonstrated that the legal standard of who owns church property is crystal-clear: the Presbyterian Church (USA) does. Many presbyteries, with Pittsburgh in the lead, are developing a process for negotiating with congregations that want to leave. In general, the dissenters who are willing to negotiate have gotten a good deal. Some of them, though, want the fight about the denomination's orthodoxy more than they want the property. In some cases, they bring in the civil courts to judge the case. The civil courts, for very good reasons, do not want to get into a religious dispute.

The denomination is getting better at working out ways for dissenting congregations to leave decently and order - if they want to. This convocation gives a clear account of the issues for those who want resolution more than drama.