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the latest research has revealed that women have a higher IQ than men. I’m not surprised, are you? When I consider the broadest meaning of the word intelligence, I should say the females of my acquaintance, ranging from the very old to the very young, were, on the whole, noticeably more intelligent.
I do not mean just clever-clogs abilities to solve puzzles or do maths, but all-round intuitive intelligence, a combination of emotional intelligence, common sense, and general knowledge.
IQ testing began about a century ago, and hitherto, women have lagged some five points behind men on average. The gap between male and female has been narrowing over the years, and this year, it seems women have moved ahead.
All sorts of reasons can be found for this. IQ in general has improved since tests first began. Psychologists think this is because modern life becomes ever more complicated.
Brain power improves by brain use, just as our bodily strength grows with exercise. And there is no doubt a large proportion of the female population, from school days to late middle age, now have very complicated lives indeed. Much more complicated – on the whole – than their brothers, husbands, or sons.
They are expected to compete on an equal level with boys at school and at university. They compete for the same jobs. And then, when partnerships and parenthood begin, all social surveys reveal it is the women who bear most of the responsibility for juggling not only the need to earn money but also the cares of home and the upbringing of the children.
In most households where both parents go out to work, it is still – nearly always – the woman who buys the children’s clothes, arranges their social lives, remembers that on Tuesdays Johnnie goes to Scouts, on Wednesday the dry cleaning needs collecting, and on Friday it is the husband’s mother’s birthday.
It is the woman – nearly always – in spite of all the advances of modern feminism, who still takes responsibility for the bulk of the chores, as well as doing her paid job. This is true even in households where men try to do their share.
Being a modern woman really does exercise the brain.
Remembering many different things in different spheres of life at once, as women have to do, is great training for intelligence. Many women’s lives depend on this intelligence to remember dates, facts, engagements, on top of the ordinary skills required in the workplace.
This IQ survey raises two important questions, however. The first is, why do so many women fail to achieve the highest positions, to break through the so-called glass ceiling, given the number of talented women in the workplace?
And a second very big question is, since women are as intelligent as men, or more so, why did feminism take so long, historically, to get started?
To answer the first question – who do so few women break the glass ceiling? – will be an unpopular answer among many readers. But to my mind it is that there is a difference between the sexes. I think most women lack the killer instinct. Huge numbers of men lack it, too, thank heavens, or life in the workplace would be even more scary than it is already.
But whether it is in the terrifying world of high finance and banking, or the still tougher world of newspaper journalism, or in the slog of commerce and manufacturing, the men who reach the top have usually done so possessing a steely ruthlessness and single-mindedness which is – let us be honest – a masculine quality.
Think of a random sample of 100 women, either in the public eye or known to you personally. It is true, isn’t it? Margaret Thatchers, by which I mean formidable women leaders, are thin on the ground. This is, by and large, because women are less aggressive than their male counterparts. Most women lack that essential killer instinct which produces captains of industry, or political geniuses.
Now for the second question –why, in a world full of intelligent women, did the feminist revolution take so long to take off? Why did they wait centuries before suggesting they should be given the same levels of education as men, before they demanded the vote, entered the professions and began to speak of themselves as needing to have a career outside the home?
Why do we suppose that, throughout history, so many of them have stayed at home and been matriarchs, rather than butchers, bakers and candlestick makers?
The simple feminist answer is that men have ruthlessly kept women down by inventing religious or political systems that demean the female sex.
Women have been deprived of education and kept as semi-prisoners at home, argue the feminists – and this system, which was followed in the West until World War I is still observable in the cultures of Islam and parts of Africa and the Far East.
There is probably a bit of truth in this, and times have certainly changed – none of us in the West today would wish our daughters be brought up in a country dominated by the Taliban.
But I wonder whether one of the great engines behind what we call feminism is not, in fact, economic necessity – and whether truly intelligent women would not, very often, opt out of the doubtful privilege of “juggling” the different responsibilities of children, husband, household management and a paid career.
Why do we live in an age with unparalleled breakdown of relationships between the sexes, and an unprecedented divorce rate? Surely the prime cause is that society is asking too much of women.
In many households, burdened by a mortgage or high rents, it is essential that both parents work. That places an extraordinary strain on the relationship between partners, however fairly they distribute the chores.
Keeping your boss happy at work, while you try to juggle looking after a child who’s off school sick, and the need both to earn money and stay in for the man who is coming to mend the boiler is something that not only requires high organisational skills. It is something that heightens your stress levels – and the instinct to blame the useless male partner in a family is often overwhelming.
When I was researching my book on the Victorians, it struck me that the feminist movement was started by wealthy Victorian women all of whom had servants. And that one reason why emancipation took so long to fly was that poorer women were not so keen on it.
As soon as you tried to give a woman who had no servants the freedom to have a job, a husband and two or three children all at once, it seemed like a very dubious privilege indeed.
Even today, for old-fashioned feminism to really succeed, we should all have to become as rich as those Victorian pioneers who employed maids to do their shopping, their cleaning and their child-minding. That’s not going to happen.
So, maybe the most intelligent thing a highly intelligent woman can do, when she finds herself starting to have children, is to give herself up to the role of mother and housewife.
Of course, no one likes to say that too loudly, since it sounds so reactionary. What? After 100 years of women’s education, women’s suffrage, women’s equality of opportunity in almost all areas of work?
If I had to make a prediction about the next 50 years, however, it would be that there will indeed be a reaction. Women will say enough is enough.
Of course I am not saying that women should be denied opportunities to work if this is what they wish. I do not want to change my doctor, my dentist, the publisher of my books, or my accountant, all of whom are women.
I am merely predicting that many women, who have now been shown to be, on the whole, more intelligent than men, will increasingly opt to exercise that intelligence by spending more time at home, particularly during the years when their children are young. – Daily Mail