Nurses on a walk

Being determined

If there are sex differences, how do we respond to them?

One issue is how strongly determined a difference is. For instance, we have to accept that it’s highly unlikely the best female weightlifter will ever outperform the best male – body physiology simply won’t allow it. The origins of behavioural differences, though, are less clear, and we cannot be certain how easy they would be to change.

In terms of the choices we have to make, should we acknowledge such differences that exist and make the most of them, or do more to overcome the differences nature has created? Should we be concerned that most road builders are men? Or most nurses women? Or most top business executives male?

Perhaps the distributions simply reflect genuine sex differences in the abilities and traits most needed in such positions. The biological contributions, though, need to be compared with social influences and attitudes that, for many generations, have been based on the idea of male superiority.

Lead image:

Chris Brown/Flickr CC BY

Questions for discussion

  • What do you think about sex differences and career paths? Does it matter if more men or women end up in a certain profession?
  • Would you consider a career role that was more common for someone of the opposite sex? Do you think you would encounter any difficulties?
  • Some people suggest that gender-neutral CVs could be a good way to remove considerations of gender from assessments of merit. What do you think: is this a good idea? What are the pros and cons?

About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Sex and Gender’ in January 2006 and reviewed and updated in October 2014.

Genetics and genomics, Physiology, Careers
Sex and Gender
Education levels:
14–16, 16–19, Continuing professional development