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Innovation Blog

Science Shows Women Are Superior Innovators to Men

By Shlomo Maital





 I have long believed that in the context of 21st C. business, women make better managers than men – simply because evolution gave women skills at collaboration and communication, while it gave men skills in…well, killing animals and other men.

   Now, science is showing that women are potentially superior to men at innovation.  So, if you want to upgrade your organization’s creativity, add some women to your team of testosterone-soaked R&D engineers.

   Here is some of the evidence, based on a great BBC PrimeTime program, “Secrets of the Sexes”. 

   The BBC did a web-based survey of sex differences, and 500,000 persons responded! They also ran a series of on-camera experiments. 

* Empathy & Emotion Recognition: One of the key skills for innovators is empathy – sensing other people’s feelings and needs, as the foundation of creating innovations that meet unmet needs.  Some 90% of the top scorers in the empathy test were women.  The part of men’s brains used to sense emotions in others tend to be far less used than those of women.  Reason? Evolution. Women had to be sensitive to other people’s emotions, since they survived on this skill, rather than with their muscles.  An MRI scan of the brain of Craig, a man, and Liz, a woman, showed that while the part of Liz’s brain that deals with recognizing other people’s emotions was highly active, the same site in Craig was utterly inactive. Moreover, Liz was 40 per cent more accurate than Craig, in ‘reading’ other people’s emotions.

*  Left-brain/Right-brain:  Words were heard by men and women – a different word for each ear.  For Tim, he heard only one of the two words, because he used mainly his left brain (logic).  But Clair heard both words clearly, because she uses both her right brain (logic) and her left brain (emotion).

* Risk & Testosterone:  In a Go-Kart race, men and women competed, and their testosterone levels were measured during the race. (Women produce testosterone as well as men).  Men in general got a ‘jolt’ or ‘spike’ of testosterone in the competition, which led them to take big risks, which often ended in a spin-out.  Women’s testosterone levels were steady.   They took no big risks, they did not win the race, but finished well up.  Alas, the world is run by testosterone-soaked men whose hormones spike when facing challenges, often leading to unreasonable risks.  Global collapse 2007-9?  Were any women at all involved?   Innovation is ‘taking calculated risks’, as Gen. Patton said; women seem better at this.

  * Caring, affectionate:  Men and women were each asked to change a baby’s diaper.  All the women picked the baby up, after changing it, instinctively.  None of the men did.  If you seek loving, caring, affectionate persons, who demonstrate their feelings, as part of your innovation process – choose women.    

   Men, there is hope.   According to Science Daily, from November 7, 2008,  research by Anne Grethe Solberg, researcher at BI Norwegian School of Management,   finds that leaders with both masculine and feminine traits, are the ones who best succeed at creating a good climate for innovation.  Again, support for adding more women to the R&D team.

[One of the wilder items was this one:  measure the difference in length, in millimeters,  of your second (index) finger and your fourth finger.  The bigger the difference, the more testosterone you got in the womb, and the more male you are – because the same genes that turn on testosterone also drive finger development.]

  To test yourself and your male/female brain:  visit:


Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital
May 2011
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