Peet Brits

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Posts Tagged ‘catherine hakim’

Gender Equality vs. What Women Want

Posted by Peet Brits on January 11, 2011

I recently read an article questioning why there are so few women in tech-related jobs. My current opinion is that tech jobs usually do not attract many women. For example, the logical/abstract way of reasoning required for programming typically make it a white male job in South Africa. This has nothing to with smart/stupid, but the way people are wired.

As I so often do, I also questioned the intention or consequence of the statement. Different people have different talents, so why do we want to force people to be the same in all areas? I say celebrate the achievements without trying to balance everything and thereby forcing people into situations where they do not fit, as this will only lead to frustration and dissatisfaction. For example, I know a woman in the software industry that is brilliant at design specifications, but she hates programming, even though she studied it for many years.

The Problem Runs Deeper

I thought that was it, but then I read a news article (in Afrikaans) expressing that women still want to marry men that are financially independent and more successful than themselves, but the pressure from gender equality makes them unwilling to admit it. It has become politically incorrect to be just a homemaker. The original study was by Dr Catherine Hakim.

In Hakim’s book “Feminist Myths and Magic Medicine” she expressed that although equal opportunity policies regarding women’s access to the labour market (in the UK) were successful, there are still many frustrations and myths that need to be dealt with. Some feminists feel that the change is too slow. I would suggest that anyone interested in this topic consider looking at her well researched e-book on her website.

Just to comment on a few myths, she mentioned that men and women do differ in careerist attitudes, values and goals. Men routinely bargain and negotiate over promotion, responsibilities and pay. When women ask for benefits the nature of the request is much different. Men are also more likely to be careerist in their attitudes and goals. The second interesting fact, which I already mentioned earlier, is that women do not always prefer to earn their own living, and they do not hate financial dependence on men. Women aspire to marry up.

The one myth that caught me completely off guard was that women in fact do not have a different, cooperative managerial style. During my studies on leadership (Masters degree), I found that this is something that is so often assumed to be true, but Hakim found this not to be the case:

Female managers differ from male managers in their personal characteristics and family lives, but not in the way that they do the job. … It is easy to forget that many men employ a ‘soft’ consensual and cooperative style of management that is popular in service sector and knowledge industries. … Very often people self-select themselves into industries and occupations that have a congenial and compatible culture. But most occupations tolerate a huge variety of social styles.


I personally have no problem with women in tech-related jobs. In fact, I sometimes wish there were more women especially in my line of work, but we should never force them into an area where they do not fit. This will only make matters worse. There is a difference between equal opportunity and equal outcome, and it is in this gap where assumptions on equality fall apart. Individual talent and interest must always be the most important factor. There is much unnecessary pressure on women to be, well, to be men, which is really the last thing any of us want.


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