Are men smarter than women?
Marilyn vos Savant (born Marilyn Mach on 11 August 1946) is an American magazine columnist, author, lecturer, and playwright who rose to fame through her listing in the Guinness Book of World Records under "Highest IQ".
Does the disparity between men and women in the sciences say something about their relative intelligence? Marilyn weighs in on this controversial debate.
Are Men Smarter Than Women?
Published: July 17, 2005
By Marilyn vos Savant
Dear Marilyn: How do you view the idea that the gender disparity in the sciences might be due to differences in the inherent aptitudes of women? I’m curious to hear a thoughtful and objective opinion on this controversial subject.—Melissa Hardison, Tallahassee, Fla.
A gender gap exists in many occupations, but the disparity in the sciences hits close to one of the scariest marks of all, which is the reason a controversy erupted: Are men smarter than women?
The concern unfolds in two questions: 1) Are women handicapped by their upbringing, social pressures, discrimination from men, and more—not just in science but also in other areas? 2) Or are women less bright than men?
The answer to the first question is too obvious for argument: Yes, and in my opinion, upbringing is the No. 1 cause—not discrimination, conscious or not, from men. Just as significant is the fact (not the problem) that many women are far more interested in their families than outside work, and society clearly approves. Top positions do require time, energy and dedication to goals that may even be selfish.The second question is the hot spot. The average IQ of females is equal to the average IQ of males. But averages can be misleading. In the case of intelligence tests, many more males score at the top and the bottom of the intelligence scale. This could account for the greater number of men in the sciences and—on the other end—in the prison population. So: Does the gender disparity in science give credence to the idea that men are more intelligent than women? My answer is “no,” and these are my reasons:
•No evidence indicates that the sciences attract the brightest people. The unspoken assumption that science attracts the smartest people is the foundation upon which we have built the conclusion: “If the sciences are filled with men, men must be smarter, unless women have a good excuse for being absent.” I believe that science—like chess— attracts bright people, but only the ones with certain personality characteristics. Those traits might be more common in men. In the case of chess, the game was developed by males for intellectual sparring with other males. Maybe females simply don’t find the game as fascinating. And note that dictators—who aren’t any stronger than other men—are never women. Maybe females just don’t have whatever it takes to bulldoze their way to this dubious sort of “success.” No one thinks the paucity of women in the field of ruthless domination is because they aren’t smart enough! So why should anyone be shocked to find that most bright people—including women—would flee from the sight of a microscope?!To me, it is clear that the brightest people are spread over all sorts of other occupations. Motherhood is likely among them, and why not? I was a stay-at-home mom while my children were small, and I loved it.
•Even professionally administered IQ tests are primitive measures of intelligence. Intelligence tests are fine for practical purposes, but not for analytical ones. Too much unavoidable bias (not prejudice) is present: Any test-maker (not just IQ test-creators) must first develop standards upon which the test-takers will be judged. In other words, to test intelligence, the designer must formulate a definition of intelligence. Now, who could possibly do this?
Can Intelligence Be Defined?In my opinion, defining intelligence is much like defining beauty, and I don’t mean that it’s in the eye of the beholder. To illustrate, let’s say that you are the only beholder, and your word is final. Would you be able to choose the 1000 most beautiful women in the country? And if that sounds impossible, consider this: Say you’re now looking at your picks. Could you compare them to each other and say which one is more beautiful? For example, who is more beautiful— Katie Holmes or Angelina Jolie? How about Angelina Jolie or Catherine Zeta-Jones? I think intelligence is like this. So many factors are involved that attempts to measure it are useless. Not that IQ tests are useless. Far from it. Good tests work: They measure a variety of mental abilities, and the best tests do it well. But they don’t measure intelligence itself.Perhaps most convincing of all are these facts from other outposts in the animal kingdom:
•Female chimpanzees learn complex tasks as easily as males.
•Female gorillas can be taught sign language as well as males.•Female guide dogs are as capable at their work as males.
•Female dolphins perform practical jokes as often as males.•Female parrots are able to mime and talk as well as males.
•Female rats and mice run mazes just as efficiently as males.
Would you prefer to adopt a male puppy because you thought you could teach him more tricks? No, you know better. (And we don’t find more female moths in our light fixtures!) Why should anyone think that human females are an exception?!
Who's Smarter?When asked that question, PARADE columnist Marilyn vos Savant and her husband, Dr. Robert Jarvik, instinctively point to each other. Marilyn, of course, was in the Guinness Book for having the highest IQ ever recorded. But Dr. Jarvik—inventor of the Jarvik-7 and Jarvik-2000 artificial hearts, used to support patients with congestive heart failure—is no intellectual lightweight either. What do they talk about over dinner? “Medicine and world affairs are the main topics of discussion,” says Marilyn. “For entertainment, we love music, dance and going to movies.” Both are avid runners but don’t enjoy sports and never play games. Marilyn adds, “Rob is more competitive than I am—but, then again, everybody is!”
The infinite variety of our mindsJust a glance at these bright high-achievers—men and women who have made their mark in an array of fields—tells us that intelligence is complex and multi-dimensional. Comparing one to the other is like comparing apples and oranges.
Maya Lin Architect
Frank Gehry Architect
Annie Duke Poker champion
Albert Einstein Physicist
Annika Sorenstam Golfer
Quincy Jones Producer
Bette Davis Actress
Bill Gates Computer mogul
Katharine Graham Newspaper publisher
Mike Nichols Director
Toni Morrison Author
Johnny Carson Talk-show host
Marie Curie Chemist
Sergey Brin Google co-founder
Rosalyn Yalow Nobel laureate/medicine
Hayao Miyazaki Animator
Antonia Novello Physician
Edward Albee Playwright
Mary Matalin Political consultant
James Carville Political consultant
Martha Graham Choreographer
Yo-Yo Ma Cellist
Dr. Ruth (Westheimer) Sex therapist
Dr. Phil (McGraw) TV therapist
Allison Fisher Pool champion
George S. Patton Jr. Army general