Why I would rather a woman fly my 747…


Why I would rather a woman fly my 747…

I know that this has absolutly nothing to do with parking but since I decided that I couldn’t get off the subject in PT, I thought it OK to from time to time hold forth on topics you might find boring here. Its good to be the king…

A few years ago I had a problem with a female salesperson. I would give her a task and then she would go to her office, close her door, and not come out until it was complete. I got no input, and she seemed insulted (I didn’t trust her) when I asked about it. In the end, she did an adequate job, but I simply wasn’t comfortable.

When I spoke to my wife, who had taken at least a hundred management courses in her career, about the problem she laughed and said that what I was experiencing was natural. That women are wired differently than men and she had a theory as to why.

Robyn’s theory:

Back when we were living in caves the men would go out and hunt and the women would stay at home and have kids. Well, it was a bit more complicated than that.

The men would go in a group and hunt the fierce saber tooth tiger or wolly mammoth or some other terrifying beast. They would spot the cat then whisper amongst themselves how to take it down. They would plan an attack and then each one would have a task to perform. They would have signals to keep each other informed as to where the cat was, where they were and when they were ready for the kill. If they worked well together, they would bring home a nice dinner. If they didn’t, or if one decided to go off alone and take down the cat himself, most likely he would become its dinner.

Meanwhile back at the cave, the women were working hard having babies, cooking, tanning hides, cleaning the place, plowing the fields and the like. The successful women were those that could do all the things at once. They were hard working and focused on many tasks (you know, drop the plow, have the baby, pick it up, put the baby on your hip, and finish the south 40 before sundown). They were strong, tough, and didn’t have a lot of time for gossip and talking.

In the mean time, the men, just off the adrelinian high of killing a half ton tiger just as it was about to kill them were reliving the story constantly. They were jazzed by the kill and told and retold the event over and over. They also determinied that some of their group were better with tossing vines and others were better at tracking and then of course there was always the guy with the long arm and great spear throw (doesn’t he always piss you off.) When they got back, they expected the field plowed, the meal cooked, and the baby ready to play.

So what have we got here. The men, by and in the large, were team players and single thread. They were experts in certain skills and worked together. They were gossips and by the very nature of what they had to do to survive, kept each member of the team informed as to what was going on. Those that didn’t, well they most likely didn’t’ survive to return home and make a baby with the wife.

The women on the other hand were just the opposite. They had little time for talking and gossip, after all there was all that work to be done and kids to train. Plus they had to look nice for the guys when they came home. So they learned how to work by themseleves and multi task (remember the plow and the south 40 and the baby). If they didn’t, most likely they would be thrown over when their man returned after his saber tooth cat adventure.

It makes some sense, based on absolutely no research or facts whatsoever, that in general the men who survived over the generations would be a bit more aggressive, team players, and communicative. They would be goal oriented and single thread in their thinking.

The women would be multi tasking. They could keep 10 balls in the air at once. They knew how to keep their focus on all the problems of the day and how to priortize. They didn’t need to keep anyone informed of what was going on since they had to do it all by themselves. Remember, folks in those days lived in family groups but not in large cities.

OK, lets keep me off the couch tonight. Of course there are women who can kill a saber tooth tiger, lead a platoon into battle, or fly and F14. Just as there are men who can keep house and keep a lot of balls in the air at once (Air Traffic Controller comes to mind, although frankly my guess is that women do much better at this task than men).

But consider the problem with my salesperson — She didn’t see the need to gossip a bit over the water cooler about the project she was working on. She saw no upside in reaching out for help, or asking if one of the group could offer any ideas. She knew her job, had been given an assignment, and by golly, she was going to complete it. She had all the skills necessary — she could do the research, write the paper, create the powerpoint, do the mailing list, meet with the client, and close the deal. She would bring in the bacon, so why did she need to keep her boss appraised.

In the mean time, I was a nervous wreck. I had no input. I didn’t know what was going on. I had to give updates to my boss, but I had no idea what to tell him. I also had a couple of decades of experience that might add to her knowledge base.

Get the idea. She was doing a good job but frankly she wasn’t going to get the promotion quite as quickly as one of the group that thought they were part of the team. Think about the areas in which women excel — Human Resources, finance, administration, marketing, support services, navigation, targeting, traffic management, information technology, software.

All these have multiple disciplines at which you must succeed to get ahead. Women are drawn to them because they are wired to do a better job than men.

Men seem to do better in the "team" type of activities. Or those that require single thread focus. Sales, construction, (some are painters, some framers, some do drywall), manufacturing, trouble shooting, law enforcement, (women do better in calming volitale situations, men in the gunfight after a bank robbery.)

Wait, you say, women are now in all disciplines. They are successful in virtually every field. Sure, but they have learned the skills they needed to succeed. And it deosn’t come easily. Larry Summers at Harvard was crucified when he had the audicity to suggest that perhaps women and men were wired differently and that’s why we didn’t see so many women in the leadership of the hard sciences. I know many women who have led the way in biology and medicine, but may have struggled in an engineering course. Remember that wiring, and the south 40.

Men live in a black and white world — you kill it or it will kill you. Women see things more in shades. They had to to be able to keep going when they dropped one ball. They knew through experience how to deal with multiple problems and find clever solutions. Men focus on one issue at a time and deal with it with all their energy. Women handle many issues and spread their energy around for their successes.

What’s any of this have to do with 747s and F14s. Well when the 747 is having engine problems the woman will have all the skills necessary consider a hundred different things to bring us in safely. In the F14, the man will focus on his target to the exclusion of all else.

Things have blurred a lot over the past, well lets say 100 years. However I still think the wiring is different.

I watch my PhD scientist wife run the project that brings in a new building for her firm, or design a kitchen, or sing in a choir, or draw with great feeling, all on the same day. However I feel best when I am meeting my deadline and getting the magazine out on schedule, to the exclusion of all else. Can I design or sing or draw or run a project? Sure. However I’m not sure you would really want to see the result.


John Van Horn

John Van Horn

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