Leading neurobiologists are discovering how our environment changes our brains. Every day our jobs, hobbies, friendships, social conditioning, and continued learning create new connections between the neuronal networks in our brain.
Throughout our childhoods, we are taught the norms of gender. Stuff as simple as long hair for little girls and short hair for boys, and more complex stuff like telling little girls to play nicely and allowing boys to play rough. This kind of teaching becomes ingrained, influencing the creation of neural pathways that develop certain sets of skills that are seen as masculine and feminine brains.
Of course, all brains are different and really, there’s no such thing as a “male” or “female” brain. However, frequently, differences exist in the way males and females approach certain tasks, which has led some researchers to argue that there may be small neurological differences in structure and circuitry between males and females, as a complementary explanation to social conditioning.
In the world of business, the benefits of equality and diversity are vast, and can be harnessed to achieve success. Working alongside each other, masculine and feminine neurological traits create a combination of strengths, bringing diversity in ideas and ways of thinking to the office. This is a consideration that everyone, not just in the world of business should have an awareness of.
Traits of the “Female” Brain
Research has found some female brains to have a larger volume of grey matter in their hippocampus. This area is famously acknowledged to be involved with memory processing. Researchers have explained that this could be responsible for brain traits which allow an individual to notice more sensorial and emotive information and retain it. In a business setting, this could be beneficial for interactions and negotiations where an individual wants to suss out the standing of an associate.
Additionally, it has been found that frontal and temporal areas of the cortex, which are heavily involved in language processing, may be slightly larger in females. This may suggest that more pathways exist for areas involved in social cognition in these individuals, which could be why females are typically perceived as being better at understanding and communicating emotions than males. This again, may prove advantageous in negotiation based interactions where social awareness and sensitivity are crucial.
Additionally, imaging studies have found significantly more neural connections between the right and left hemispheres in females. This could explain why females are often said to be better at multitasking than males, as there is greater ‘communication’ between the two hemispheres, activating areas which are responsible for different tasks.
Traits of the “Male” brain
Studies have found the parietal lobes to generally be larger in males than females. These areas are thought to be responsible for spatial awareness, logical, and mathematical ability. This may explain why males tend to have a greater interest in, and understanding of mathematics and systemising processes such as engineering, than females.
Additionally, males have been found to have greater neural connectivity between the front and back of their brains compared to females. Researchers suggested that this may mean that their brains are organised to facilitate connectivity between perception and co-ordinated action. For example, allowing them to perform better at single tasks like navigation, rather than multiple tasks at one time.
Of course, these studies are certainly not exclusive and much more research is needed before definitive conclusions can be made. But there is no doubt that this is an exciting and progressive area of research.
Benefits of a neurologically diverse workforce
It isn’t just masculine and feminine brains that create new benefits, hiring people with diverse skills, talents, and hobbies encourage neurodiversity in the office because hobbies and career paths can change the way your brain works too!
For example, London taxi drivers have been found to have greater grey matter volume in the mid-posterior hippocampi and less volume in the anterior hippocampi. This is thought to result from the need for spatial knowledge and awareness. These cab drivers “were better at memory tasks involving London landmarks than the non-cabbies, but this advantage appeared to come at a price, as the non-cabbies outperformed them in other memory tasks, such as recalling complex visual information.”
Having a neurologically diverse workforce allows you to approach problems in new ways and from different angles. It also means you have an abundance of different skill sets contained within one workforce. Certain characteristics from members in a team can be used to complement and enhance others, highlighting the case for collaboration and teamwork.
If you’re starting up a business and need some advice when thinking about hiring your workforce, recognise the array of advantages which can be delivered through a diverse team. Maintaining equality and inclusion should be top of your agenda. With this in mind, you are setting yourself up for success.