Work-Life Strategies & Solutions

On the Evolution of Work Systems in the Digital Economy

Gender Representation Disparities in Various Career Fields

Why is Human Resources (HR) dominated by women? It’s been difficult to ignore how frequently this topic has been tackled in the past few years. After considering a number of articles (listed below), I’ve decided to add my voice to the discussion on internal drivers behind career decisions while considering the role of brain development. Indeed, when considering why there are vastly different proportions of men and women in various fields, more insight can be gained by looking beyond physical differences and paying attention to internal predispositions instead.

It is natural for different interests to arise due to different temperaments, and it is these diverging interests that lead people to pursue different career paths. I believe that, in citing specific traits commonly found among women and, to a lesser extent, among men, the essays above are onto something. In other words, if one is to compare the women and the minority of men who pursue similar careers in HR (there are less people-oriented HR roles as well), one would likely find that people in this group will be more similar to each other on average than they would be to men and women who are attracted to careers in a more male-dominated field.

It’s important to keep in mind that not all women are attracted to nurturing or people-oriented careers. So, let’s briefly consider the situation in male-dominated fields for the sake of contrast. An acquaintance in the field of Education voiced an observation regarding the conundrum of trying to encourage more women to pursue a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) career. The observation is that women who are attracted to the STEM fields tend to have masculine traits. As a minority of women have a more masculine mindset, a minority of women pursue STEM careers.

US Navy 100727-N-4304M-001 A student at a scie...

US Navy 100727-N-4304M-001 A student at a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) summer camp at Ryken High School in Leonardtown, Md (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To muddy things up just a bit however, different people can wind up working in the same area for different reasons as well. For example, I’ve found that a majority of people who take an interest in social sciences do so out of compassion and humanitarian motives. In contrast, my motive for studying psychology was born out of desire to fix my persistent inability to relate to the other bipedal creatures all around me. Perhaps the social difficulties stemmed from my MBTI personality constellation – INTJ (for all you MBTI aficionados out there), purportedly the least common type among women. Or perhaps I have high-functioning Asperger’s as suggested by my closest friend. He often endearingly teases me about my clinical approach to understanding people… “It’s like you’re holding them with mental forceps and examining them Lynn!”

When considering the rarity of women with masculinized brains (i.e., “tomboys”), the subject of exposure to high levels of pre-natal testosterone provides one of the more compelling, tangible explanations as a digit ratio commonly found among men results. Yes, my fourth finger is longer than my index finger and almost rivals my middle finger in length – both hands but more pronounced on my dominant hand. See Different brain wiring in men, women could explain gender differences for some implications of the impact pre-natal hormones have on brain development also. (Side note: The researchers should’ve modeled brain type after Simon Baron-Cohen’s empathizing-systemizing theory to reflect a continuum instead of a dichotomy as the notable gender differences are often found at the long tail ends of the distributions, not the majority in the middle.)

Whatever it is, I’ve spent a long time trying to find women whose experiences I can relate to. As it so happens, I can relate to about 80% of what the woman in the following video says. (She may have an easier time finding women friends who’re more like herself as she appears more entrenched in the STEM fields. Notice the comments of others who found her video. They appeared to find it just as miraculous as I did that there’s a woman speaking out about the experience of feeling “like a man trapped in a woman’s body”):

Women with high testosterone and longer fourth finger, part 1

In the previous post, I mentioned the potential for encountering maladjusted individuals on the Internet. On the flip-side, when one has uncommon personality traits and/or esoteric interests, the Internet provides a way to connect with hard-to-find individuals who share your experiences or it at least provides the opportunity to see that you are not alone. I don’t know who the woman in the video (above) is, but relief washed over me as I listened to her speak! By writing this post, I hope to “pay it forward” and spread awareness of the diversity that exists among women and men.

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