Best man for a job in finance is a woman?

Brian Lucey writes on this topic on his blog. Given the serious discussions around gender quotas in politics, and around female labour force participation more generally, the post is timely and worth a read.

By the way, are there any women who read this blog here today?

By Stephen Kinsella

Senior Lecturer in Economics at the University of Limerick.

89 replies on “Best man for a job in finance is a woman?”

Well I’m not a woman.. but to be honest I’v grown tired of being lectured to this past decade by a collection of middle aged white men (i thought this would end after adolescence) with graduate degrees in economics, and so allow me to add my support to the filling of all posts, everywhere by the anyone that doesnt fit the above description..and, FWIW, the end of Pat Kennys TV career (he can see out his contract on radio)

I disagree – the main problem with western society is that man has become too feminized , he is not prepared to bang tables , to take risks (Not credit risk I mean real risks involving his life & limb)

You have to be good enough – thats the quota baby.

Longtime lurker first-time poster – and female.

Brian’s post is obviously well-informed and certainly interesting in and of itself. However, as a supporter of gender quotas (with a sunset clause – perhaps for a two-term period) I’d personally be wary of any article that seeks to advocate the equal participation of women in politics (or on corporate boards) on the basis of specific perceived gains due to essentialist characteristics deemed to belong to women or men. In politics, there is a basic democratic representative need for more women to be involved. It’s just not relevant whether studies show we’d run the country into the ground or not. I’d be of the same view when it comes to boards and higher-level management – as women are 50% of the human species a board without women is fundamentally unbalanced, and what follows from that is, as Brian demonstrates, unbalanced behaviors and unbalanced outcomes. Just my tuppenceworth.

Yes – woman reader here Stephen.

Very interesting article – supports a few read over past few months about success of companies where woman are controlling or influencing financial performance.

Interestingly, ‘good men’ seem to be pushing this information ‘out there’.


It was criminal enterprises and crony capitalism that broke the banks and the economy.

If you want to put a women (with balls) in charge anywhere, put her in Justice.

Jail the bankers, the developers and politicians.

Problem fixed.

I read Brian Lucey’s blog every now and then. He writes well, he’s very entertaining and his perspective on a whole range of things is often refreshing.

On male/female differences, I find most of those frequently quoted studies a complete turn off. They remind me of the ‘butter is good for you/butter is bad for you’ debate. One assumes that the key difference between male and female risk perception relates to biological function – women give birth and are ‘wired’ to protect and nurture their offspring, so naturally would tend to be more risk averse than men. The real issue is power, in my opinion, and how people, whether male or female, use it.

As for quotas to place more women in powerful positions in business, industry or politics, beware of what you wish for. There are as many Maggie Thatchers as there are Mother Teresas. Anyway, I don’t think quota systems work. Increasingly, a public life entails sacrificing a private one. Who in their right mind would want to face daily dissection of the minutiae of their appearance, character, foibles and general persona for the fleeting illusion of so-called powerful positions? Most of us (women) can think of better things to do with our time.

Showed that Indo article to an actual high-flying senior exec female type and this was the response.

“Oh for feck’s sake!”

That’s a direct quote.

As well as differences in risk aversion, there may be differences in time preferences. Liam Delaney & Orla Doyle have a recent paper in the Journal of Economic Psychology which looks at the determinants of self-control (which can be interpreted as a proxy for time preference) & find that females (at age 3 say) are more self-controlled (there is also a significant socio-economic gradient). Boys will be boys indeed.
Veronica: it would be most unfortunate if we had to think of women having to lie somewhere on a continuum between Mrs Thatcher & Mother Teresa.

I’ve got two sisters doing research about gender equality. Can be a sensitive subject…

In general I do not like quotas (I see it as discrimination) but my view is that anything that forces recruitment to be done outside of the regular pool (or rather regular club) has the potential to introduce better outcomes (less cronyism). Potential is not always realised so I’m undecided whether or not I think it is a good idea.

When it comes to recruitment I think it should be noted that individuals are hired – not genders. There might be (I’d say there probably are) statistical differences regarding gender personality attributes but anyone making the (lazy) assumption that the gender defines personality to 100% and is therefore not looking at the individual is likely to make mistakes.

Google ”The Gender Equality Paradox” and one view from a Norwegian documentary maker can be found. It is subtitled in English.

A question for those that argue for gender quotas: Should women benefit from gender quotas because they’re the same as men or because they’re different than men?

In the theatre in Ireland there is a clear bias of about 70/30 in favour of men when it comes to producing new plays. This is even more extreme in movies, but much less so in in writing for soap operas where it is around 50/50.

The same amount, or slightly more, women wish to write plays, so it is not a case of women not being as interested.

But in the new play area, it is notable that women writers tend to write proportionally more roles for women and male writers tend to write more roles for men. This is whether or not they self-identify as playwrights concerned with gender. So, if the public want the whole of life experiences represented and actors want equal possibilities at work, then more female playwrights offer this.

On the ‘but it’s the best plays we want’ counter-argument, I note that in a recent study of commercial productions on Broadway, the same bias was there, but the plays by women make more money on average. This suggests that the bar is indeed set higher for women, as they can only get over it if their play is more of a sure thing. As the majority of ticket buyers for the theatre are women I would suggest that the same is probably true here.

On the quality argument, I would note that a very good case could be made for Carol Churchill being the current greatest living playwright in the English language.

In general, on the ‘it’s best person for the job’ argument, this does not take into account a culture and set of networks that favours one gender over the other. Sean Fitzpatrick, let us remember, got his best information on the 19th hole.

My mother, now retired, was a very successful business-woman / accountant in Chester. When running her own business she found that her networking possibilities were severely curtailed by not being in with the golf/rugby/cricket crowd. She solved this by becoming a member of the Chester Races, which was one of the few sporting places where men and women met on fairly equal terms. Similarly, she owned a better car than most of her male peers, because otherwise she was seen as ‘the nice woman who did the books’.

There are endless reports of clients and workers being treated to ‘hostesses’ and lapdancing clubs, which suggests business see themselves as a boys club with gender specific ‘rewards’.

I support a move towards greater equality in gender representation not because ‘it makes more money’ but because the playing field is still not level, for reasons of social inclusivity, personal possibility and a general sense that variety of representation makes for more rounded decision making.

In the city the lapdancing thing started as lunchtime parking about by the dealers mainly. It would be the dealers! It was viewed generally as equivalent to kids being a bit adventurous and a source of amusement that they were doing so for most. On the other hand, I have heard some examples of sexual discrimination in such bad taste that I have never felt comfortable relaying the exact wording. No surprise, IDBs in this case. On yet another hand many women who get on do so by happening to be or deciding go be at least as callous and self-serving as the men, so I think gender is too clumsy a yardstick.

lunchtime parking about sounds more interesting than lunchtime larking about, but that was a predictive text thing, and much less common anyway 🙂

Bloomberg says women who want to earn more on Wall Street than their male colleagues have one reliable option. They can set up a shoe-shine stand in Lower Manhattan.

The New York Times reported in 1999 that it took just six months for Viagra to win approval in Japan “from the Ministry of Health and Welfare, which has six women among its 204 bureaucrats.”

Meanwhile, it took about 30 years for the low-dose birth control pill, the most common form of nonsurgical contraception in the United States, to win approval in Japan.

Brian’s article covers a lot of ground.

The DoF job centres on advising on risk not taking it.

Ideally quotas shouldn’t be necessary but how many positions are filled solely on ability and achievement.

Company board quotas for female directors are regarded as a success in Norway but that country is already a very progressive one compared with for example Japan.

There are far worse problems in the financial services sector. I see lots of women sitting at desks in banks and insurance companies (they are often in the majority) in Ireland and the UK ….. but I rarely see a black face.

Equally, some of the female execs/managers I have worked with have been highly talented – just as some of the male execs/managers I have worked with have been. The other side of the coin is I observe that being a complete dickhead doesn’t seem to be restricted only to the male of the species.

I find that article from Brian Lucey quite depressing as I see it as an attempt to explain that men and women are fundamentally different. That line of reasoning can then be used to justify why men are better are some things (leadership roles etc) and women better at others (caring, baking! etc).

Taking a very broad top-down view of society, and acknowledging that we are all individuals, I think it is true that men and women will tend to act differently in different situations. However is this due to truly innate biological differences or is it social construction? In my opinion the former view is wrong and should now be seen as anachronistic. Professor Lucey’s views such as ‘we all know boys will be boys’ have no place in serious academic discussion and should be left in the extremities of this debate along with 19th century phrenology citing men’s bigger brains.

If we accept gender differences are social constructions, we can the see traits perceived as masculine and feminine as being attributable to all people regardless of their physiological sex. Thus women can make good leaders and men can make good carers.

I would like to see equal opportunities for all children regardless of gender, family wealth, skin color or any other such factor.

By exploring reasons why men and women are fundamentally and innately different, in my opinion this article attempts to justify why that should not be the case and I think that is wrong.

Contrary to Carson I see this as an uplifting piece. There’s a wealth of research listed, and the abstracts of these seem to suggest a seat of innate differences hat can if properly understood and operationalised result in better financial outcomes for all.
Carson response seem to be along the lines of “don’t investigate”, and all but accuses the prof of eugenics.

Carson, I think you need to leave ideology at the door when you discuss serious and complex topics like this. Brian Lucey’s piece was a very useful description of behavioural differences between the sexes in finance no more & no less. I don’t think he was attempting to justify anything – perhaps he can speak for himself on this? The comparison with phrenology, which is about bumps in the skull, is trite. Incidentally it is well established that brain size is correlated with cognitive ability both within and between species.
The idea that all “gender differences” are social constructions is absurd (there are clear biological differences) as is the idea that none of them are. The “nature vs. nurture” dichotomy is known to be overly simple.
Your last sentence is, to my mind, quite chilling. Brian, in exploring some empirical differences ( which may be wrong and which may be innate or otherwise) is apparently guilty of the thought-crime of *justifying* some outcomes?

First time poster here too.

What I have noticed since the Great Financial Crisis broke in the US, is that while there are much fewer women in positions of power or influence in the financial industry, a disporportionate number were on the side of the Light so to speak…

The article below details some of the more significant, Brooksley Born,, and two other stymied US regulators.

Elizabeth Warren also jumps to mind.

(I don’t think they were ignored or targetted solely or even significantly, because they were women per se, merely that what they were saying was/is not in accordance with the prevailing zeitgeist.)

This would seem to indicate that women are inherently ‘straighter’ than guys, more ethical and more appalled at the goings-on… also more inclined to want to ‘do their job’ a la the job description, rather than see the job as a vehicle to future power and riches..

I might have written my last sentence badly but my meaning was that arguing that all children should not have equal opportunities is wrong – not exploring or discussing the issue.

Well if you take the position that men are innately better at certain activities and women better than others, then create a situation whereby boys are more likely to fill certain roles in society and girls others. This is the current position.

Men, as you know, fill the large majority of positions of power and privilege in Irish society and most societies around the world. This has long been true historically.

I would like to see a society where young boys and girls are equally likely to become leaders in our society.

And yes my reference to phrenology may have been trite but there is an image on Professor Lucey’s blog of the side profile of two brains which I thinks alludes to that topic. At one time similar arguments were used to justify the enslavement of negros. Of course those views are now seen as anachronistic – a relic of a bygone era. I think in time so will opinions that seek to justify the dominance of men in positions of power on physiological/biological grounds.

Hey, let’s face it: we’d still be living in the trees if women ruled the world.

Only men have the urge to explore, to look at things to see if they can be improved, to measure and quantify things (as Yeats said: ‘Measurement began our might’), to philosophise (can anyone think of a great female philosopher outside of Simone De Beauvoir (my favourite quote of hers from The Second Sex: “Why travel? You can never get away from yourself”))?. Did a woman invent the microwave oven, dishwasher, washing machine, or automobile? I suspect the answer is ‘no’.

On the other hand, well … in an indefinable way (at least for this man) life would be intolerable without the ‘input’ of women in so many ways.

Would the Celtic Tiger years have not happened if women were in charge? Watch TV3’s ‘Expose’ any evening to see why it would not have been any different. To misquote Rihanna: “If you like it then you better put a new bag from Prada/Jimmy Choo’s/Louboutins/Hermes scarf/Louis Vuitton bag on it”, i.e. women embraced the Celtic Tiger years with gusto. As one well-known economist might say, “Follow the money”.

Quotas can work but only by this:
The people who seek power are the ones who are least suited to it.

Ruthless ambition typifies those who succeed more than ability. Sometimes those with ruthless ambition promote those with ability to assist them but that’s the only time that merit actually succeeds in the system

Power should be bestowed by lottery on all those with an IQ in the above average range. Monarchies are so popular because they don’t seek power either. It is bestowed upon them.

“Only men have the urge to explore, to look at things to see if they can be improved”

Theres a whole lot of generalised speculation going on around here, perhaps we should start whipping out credentials and areas of expertise?

@ rf

Oh I see, … if only those with ‘credentials’ and ‘areas of expertise’ were allowed make decisions then the financial crisis would be over by now.


I know, I surprised myself by making such a demand, but such was the cliched incoherence of your post….


Im always sceptical of cocksure Americans making confident assertions


What odds would you give me that where the Brixton pound is greeted with relaxed ambivalence in the UK, a Phibsborough Euro would have the Irish establishment all hot and bothered?

I think there is at least an argument for domestic transactions (including Croke Park ‘obligations’) being discharged in the Irish equivalent of Brixton Pounds that rivals that for repaying all those dumb investments in Irish bank senior bonds.

No come-back on the call-out over the ECB letter then. What a surprise! Lets be clear about this, I’m on the Irish side over the bank bonds, but they are presenting their case with a whiff of bullshit.

John Young and George JnR were slightly different fellows RF………

If we had the John Youngs of this world in the top echelons of executive power the world would be perhaps a slightly different place.
Coolness under pressure + extreme intelligence + Honour is a rare commodity.

Day late to the post, but I’m here as always. Interesting that a couple of women lurkers have fessed up.

Of course men and women are different and I’ve seen unbelievably stupid decisions made in business and politics with nothing but testosterone being the driving force. But then if men are leading all the great business, they must be able to do something right 😉

But quotas – no way. It’s hard enough to be taken seriously without having the dreaded quota flung at you. Men resent women enough as it is without that to put up with.

btw on Mother Teresa – isn’t there a bit of revisionism going on now so that her place on that continuum isn’t guaranteed anymore? I wouldn’t go so far as Hitchens’ thieving Albanian dwarf comment, but only because I don’t really know that much about her. (Though my 6 year old came home from school to tell me she was the Goodest Person in the World. Hitchens’ hasn’t reached the primary curriculum yet).

There are many implicit beliefs being thrown around in this article and in the thread.

1) Power is wielded through formal channels – it is not. Formal institutions are our ways of organising the public face of the decision-making process, they are not where the decisions are made. That is not to say that politicians do not wield power, it is that it is not their formal political position that gives them power. Women have always had power and influence, but all power is wielded in private in real terms, therefore the private power in observing the world around them and influencing the “decision-makers” – or more accurately, the people announcing the decisions – has always been perfectly accessible to women, or as asseccible to them as any man. The problem is that these influencers only represent a small fraction of the population, and most women do not come to wield it, just as most men don’t. The feminist movement has seemed to disappoint women because of the lack of additional influence they have achieved, but behind the scenes real independent women are making influential decisions every day, as they always have done, without the glare of optics, which is what politics is.

This is all perfectly obvious when reading proper analytical European History, in which individuals such as Cardinal Richeliu are shown to wield far more power and influence than the monarchs of Europe. Many of the monarchs were dopy puppets, but proximity & control over the dope with the crown was real power, because then you had the public expression in the institution with the private capacity to make real binding and consequential decisions through the King/Queen.

Individuals like this can rise up through institutions or without, depending upon where they see the power of the optics residing. In the past it was the church, now its the media.

2) Determinism – if you decide that women have particular inate traits that make them act, in a general sense, in a certain way then, even if you are correct, society will view all women through that deterministic prism. So then, if I am one of the odd women who does not carry those traits then society will treat me as though I am more likely to, so my freedoms will be restricted by the expectations of others.

Carson’s point, if I may give my interpretation, is not that there are not natural physiological differences, in a very general & statistical sense, between men and women (we all know women have vaginas and men have penises, but also that the act of pregnancy has a deeply and fundamentally different neurological and emotional affect on the relationship between mother and child which is not statistical but scientifically verifiable, through thorough research – the child recognises the mothers voice much more because in the womb it reverberates differently around the body to external voices).

The real point is that if you deterministically say that I am a woman and then I can be expected to act like “this” or “that” in that situation then you will put me in positions in which you will expect one response, and get another, i.e. you will be surprised by my actions in any given situation, by failing to take into account my individual characteristics and putting me in a pre-defined simplistic box. And you will do this even when you don’t even know you are, so all attempts to deterministically define ME & MY nature should be stomped out and pulled out at the root like the failed eugenics experiments of the late 19th and early 20th century.

Yes, this is like eugenics, maybe not as evil, but in principle you are trying to do the same things and push the same control agenda.

3) (This is not a point about the article, but one about the broader general debate)

The start of feminism comes at a point where women stand up and say “I do not want to be forced to conform to a pre-defined role”, and it ends with the corrupted psuedo-feministic (anti-feminist) idea that:

“there is a ‘female perspective’ on society that should be represented equally”.

Gender quotas are supposed to fulfill this need for “representation” of this supposed distinct “perspective” on society. But feminist started with the idea that women could be as individual as men, with traits and freedoms and influence equal to those of men, treated as human beings as opposed to ‘tool’ or ‘vessels’.

The whole point of this movement was to say that the tools and skills and difference among women is much greater when considered in respect to the whole of the human population than their “sameness”.

But the “sameness” or this idea of a “female” perspective, can be applied to any demograhic you like,

i) Young People – take in media in a fundamentally different way, fully independent voters with ideas, different developmental history than older generations due to technology and media as well as cultural shifts in demographics during development – strong argument that young people, under thirty for example, should be proportionally represented so that people will stop feeling that young people are less competent than older people, especially in respect to the amazing successes of young people in the tech industry.

ii) Foreign born people – doesn’t matter where you come from, in relation to living in the Irish political sphere you have a distinct perspective on the world and should be represented in Irelands top legislative bodies with quotas.

iii) Disabled people – people with visual impairments, physical disabilities, etc… distinct perspective on how Irish bureaucratic organisations should be run

iv) Irish people who have lived abroad for more than five years – distinct “perspective” on Irish life relative to others

v) people who live in council estates – distinct perspective

If you want demograhically driven politics then you have to take it to its logical conclusion, you can’t have one rule for one group and another for a different group.

Ultimitely its an unworkable system.

Can someone please enlighten me as to what the credible argument for gender quotas actually is?

I realise after reading most of the other posts that some of yee will not have the cognitive ability to stay on a linear argument unless it is a well worn story with clear beginning-middle-end that you’ve already heard a thousand times. Real rational thought is indeed hard, it doesn’t come natural to anyone, its a strain. I just hope you’ll give these words as much though and circumspection as possible. Don’t just believe me, really way them up against your views and be self-critical. With complex and important issues its important that people in a serious debate are self-critical.

In countries that use “The Merit Principle” as a firm policy in hiring, promoting and firing women do quite well. Particularly in the soft sciences, legal, accounting and many other areas.

Ireland and a couple of dozen other countries are firmly wedded to nepotism, cronyism and political pull in general. I expect that women would not fare as well in those circumstances. In general women do a good job and tend not to go off on tangents as much as men do. Having said that I have met women that I would not look forward to meeting in a dark alley. My theory is that when Ireland attempted to introduce merit into hiring in the PS the politicians started up Quangos so as the nepotism and cronyism could continue unabated. All these behaviours are deeply embedded in the culture, the electorate expects them and the politicians deliver.

@ Sarah,

What are ‘women lurkers’?

As for Mam Theresa, nobody’s perfect which is really the point. It’s the end to which power is used that’s important as well as having some sound principles to back it up like honesty and integrity, respect for yourself and others, recognising what a moral choice is and knowing how to make one. If people don’t try to put those principles to work in their public and private lives and are more wedded to grasping the beneftis of cronyism, as Mickey describes it above, then gender is irrelevant.

I can understand the appeal of quotas as a ‘quick fix’ to gender imbalances or equality of opportunity. But they never work and just give those who want to ringfence their own hold on power and privilege a great excuse : ‘ Well, we intorduced a quota system to encourage these people and they couldn’t even manage to take advantage of it…’

@ Veronica

“I can understand the appeal of quotas as a ‘quick fix’ to gender imbalances or equality of opportunity. But they never work…”

The Arts Council has written into it that it must have a gender balance in the 12 members – six men and six women. It seems to work.

But before quotas are resorted to, the trick is, I would suggest, is to start from the position that there is such a thing as society and if the desire is that all persons in society should be able to fully participate and have a voice without barrier then it may be necesary to set standards, identify and set about removing those barriers: as well as being aware that there are cultural/historical/economic pressures which are still in play. Not all barriers are obvious. After all, Ireland is only 40 years from the Marriage Bar, and the last Magdelene Laundry closed in 1996.

Instead of saying ‘minimum representation of women is…’ I would rather phrase it as, ‘each gender must be represented to a minimum level of…’ I suspect equality of ma/paternity leave for men and women would be effective in influencing career choices by couples.

There is, of course, employment equality legislation. The 1998 act, which was revised in 2004, offers the following:

“6.—(1) For the purposes of this Act, discrimination shall be taken to occur where, on any of the grounds in subsection (2) (in this Act referred to as “the discriminatory grounds”), one person is treated less favourably than another is, has been or would be treated.

“(2) As between any 2 persons, the discriminatory grounds (and the descriptions of those grounds for the purposes of this Act) are—

“(a) that one is a woman and the other is a man (in this Act referred to as “the gender ground”),

“(b) that they are of different marital status (in this Act referred to as “the marital status ground”),

“(c) that one has family status and the other does not (in this Act referred to as “the family status ground”),

“(d) that they are of different sexual orientation (in this Act referred to as “the sexual orientation ground”),

“(e) that one has a different religious belief from the other, or that one has a religious belief and the other has not (in this Act referred to as “the religion ground”),

“(f) that they are of different ages, but subject to subsection (3) (in this Act referred to as “the age ground”),

“(g) that one is a person with a disability and the other either is not or is a person with a different disability (in this Act referred to as “the disability ground”),

“(h) that they are of different race, colour, nationality or ethnic or national origins (in this Act referred to as “the ground of race”),

“(i) that one is a member of the traveller community and the other is not (in this Act referred to as “the traveller community ground”).”

If you think about (d) for a moment, you realise what a big leap this is, as homosexuality was only decriminalised in 1993.

The act is, for me, a classic of attempting to name common forms of discrimination and thus offer the possibility of removing barriers created on these grounds.

In practice it means things like buses are accessible by wheelchair users and have space for children’s buggies.

All of these had to be campaigned for of course – none of them came purely from a some kind of benign ‘working of history’.

Apologies for long reply – using the chance to think aloud.

@ Gavin Kostick

I think we’re in much the same place. Over time legislation such as the Equality Act works to change attitudes in society as well as redressing unfair imbalances in the system. Among their other defects, as Sarah points out above, quotas may generate resentment among those groups that are not the beneficiaries of them. If they have any positive impact at all – and I have my doubts – it’s likely to be short term bumping up of representative allocations that will slip back once the novelty value or policing of quota implementation dies back.

Anyone watching the ‘she-wolves’ of Britian’s history series on BBC 4?


Lurker – person who reads but never comments so we don’t know they’re there


“2) Determinism – if you decide that women have particular inate traits that make them act, in a general sense, in a certain way then, even if you are correct, society will view all women through that deterministic prism. ”

Well, it’s not that one “decides”, it’s that one recognises the reality. The implication of the “decide” is that even if one accepts the reality of difference, then we should never admit it, because it might have a potentially negative effect. That hardly stands up.

I’d recommend Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate. Just because one recognises that some groups have particular traits it doesn’t mean that all members of that group possess those traits. e.g The best long distance runners tend to be Kenyans, but not all Kenyans are great long distance runners.

@ Sarah

Actually it does stand up, perfectly easily. Society and individuals don’t make many assertions which may be true because their truth is irrelevant, its their effects that are important. If you think of yourself as having certain traits innately you will tend towards confirming those traits, moving into those fields, regardless of their validity.

Your last point is just obvious, and you seem to miss the point. Its thee social affect on those Kenyans who are not fast runners and how we treat them that is at issue. You can’t control or define individuals based upon their demographics because that has social effects. Its not about the science its about rationally being aware of the moral implications.

Iain Gilchrist, a famous neuroscientist and psycho-analyst is showing many of the neurological structures that exist in our minds. When asked about men and women he skirts over it. Why, because of the public effects of him, a credible scientist, making general comments on the differences between the brains of men and women. Not because, I suspect, he and other neuro-scientists have discovered some inferiority, but he has an understanding of difference which can be extrapolated by scientific cultures or any human institution or people who are particularly susceptible to confirmation bias, through pre-existing latent beliefs. These scientific studies can become abused and corrupted, especially by media institutions, who generally aven’t a clue about science and use it to confirm their own “stories” when ever they like.

This is a moral issue more than a scientific one. Scientistic (as opposed to scientific) people with determinist attitudes are delusional and utterly insane.

@ Sarah

We are using “decide” in different ways. We do decide to believe who we believe based upon the credibility of any given institution or individual from our own rational perspectives. We don’t just accept what people tell us based upon some narrow sphere of expertise, unless you actively “decide” to.

If you believe I mean “decide”, as in there is a world that is static and determined by science and I am “deciding” to believe it or not, then that is naive in the extreme, and not what I meant.

Brian Lucey states that “The news, gentlemen, is not good: women, qua women, exhibit traits which whether due to the subtleties of the female brain or due to culture, might well make them better financial operatives.”

This is not borne out by research with respect to gender difference as this summary of meta-analytic studies from the journal American Psychologist shows

Brian has made the classical mistake of stereotyping women and relying on research that uses biased samples. Women who have the necessary psychological traits and abilities to perform equally well when compared with men too often fall foul of being deemed to be too ‘manly’ in their approach. It is not by accident that the descriptor ‘man’ager is in wide spread use in organisations

There is a glass ceiling effect that operates and prevents women reaching senior positions in organisations and studies such as those that Brian quotes are biased with respect to the samples used samples. The selection of women into organisations is inherently biased towards ‘femine’ women ie. women who meet the cultural stereotypes of what a women manager or executive should be. For example the article entitled “Feminized management and backlash toward agentic women: The hidden costs to women of a kinder, gentler image of middle managers” is worth reading on how this operates .

As the American Psychologist article points out “Women who violate the stereotype of being nurturant and nice can be penalized in hiring and evaluations.” When Brian states in his blog piece “Thus we find that women in financial situations exhibit a greater aversion to taking risk than do men” he makes the classical mistake of ignoring the inherent biases in the comparison samples in the research he refers to. The females who match males on risky behaviours may well have been selected out. As the AP article concludes “It is time to consider the costs of overinflated claims of gender differences. ……. Most important, these claims are not consistent with the scientific data”.

The issue that has to be dealt with is the stereotyping of women managers and executives in the hiring and selection processes, and the cultural stereotyping of what women should be.

@ Ciarán Carroll

That is some tortuously difficult logic that you are using — if you need to make it that complicated, your argument probably has shaky foundations and just obscures things rather than making them clearer.

Ciarán Carroll
I really don’t think your long argument is as self-evidently correct as the line “some of yee will not have the cognitive ability to stay on a linear argument” implies you think it is. The nature of our politics is geographic diversity, very similar populations divided arbitrarily so that different ‘communities’ can have some access to the political process. Why can’t this be done to fit any number of criteria (And yes gender, certainly class, and if we come to have a large community in a generation that self identifies as Nigerian/Irish then them to. That doesn’t mean “any demograhic you like”, ie the Cuban gay community or whatever strawman we choose to use at a given moment.) This used to happen in western countries to some extent, Unions providing representation for the working class, and it is my personal opinion that it is indeed a good thing. Whether it’s done through quotas I don’t know, but it should be done.
Your points on the manner in which power is wielded, although interesting in its own right, doesn’t have a huge amount of relevance to the argument at hand. Paul Hunt has written about this recently, how power is wielded in Ireland and policy formed, and informal networks of women capturing the political process doesn’t appear a common phenomenon. Likewise ‘biological determinism’, the point isn’t that certain groups fall into easily defined scientifically indisputable sub groups, but, as you acknowledge, that there are social differences between and commonalities within groups that should be represented politically. I think the burden of proof is on you to show why we shouldn’t have a political system that better represents this diversity.
Men resent women enough as it is without that to put up with.
Perhaps, although certain men will resent women regardless of a quota system, and will try and hide that resentment by making the target ‘feminism’ or ‘political correctness’. As far as I’m aware, and I might be wrong, most research shows that those that succeed in large businesses or politics don’t do so due to talent, but because they learn how to network and take advantage of internal politics. If I for a moment thought that we lived in anything approaching a meritocracy, and that the most important factor wasn’t still, possibly more than ever, who you were born to, then I would probably agree with you.
(And this isn’t due to some romantic notion of the benefits of having women in politics, but because the purpose of domestic, democratic politics should be to represent as much of the population as possible)

Just to add that while it’s important, for the sake of discovering the truth, to study genetic differences between different groups of people, the science itself will be so complex, unsettled and open to disagreement that to use it for political purposes could only have negative consequences. (What possible positives, for example, could a consensus on ‘race IQ’ have anywhere outside of academia. And could anyone really imagine the complexity of the positions being intelligently tackled by our media, let alone our politics)


Well, that’s me fingered – more a ‘lurker’ than a ‘commenter’ most of the time.

Still it’s nice to see more women commenting than is the general norm on irisheconomy.


on rf’s comment ” Just to add that while it’s important, for the sake of discovering the truth, to study genetic differences between different groups of people, the science itself will be so complex, unsettled and open to disagreement that to use it for political purposes could only have negative consequences. ‘

This is what I was picking up on before on “decide”.

I understood Ciaran to suggest that because discussion of the data would have a negative social effect, we should ignore it, which is what Gilchrist seems to say too.

But I totally disagree with this as a matter of principle. You shouldn’t discover the truth and promptly bury it just in case some people use it to pressure others into conforming to the norm. Because remember, the opposite applies too.

Post-3rd wave feminism has succeeded in pressuring most women to believe that unless they are productive in an economic sense – then they are worthless to society. And the cost of THAT is huge in monetary terms.

The chief example being that because women realised that economic independence was the only thing that society valued, they left the home and went out to work for money, leaving the care of the young and the old behind them. Governments/states still can’t figure out how to pay the massive nominal cost of work that was previously done for “free”.

And because this problem of care hasn’t been “solved”, feminism, which achieved so much (right to work after marriage, equal pay etc) just became high jacked by middle class women whining about the glass ceiling and how much they have to pay poorer working class women to mind their children.

So these debates continue to run from the essential truth that the deeply important work of providing a primary carer for small children which falls to women who are the bearer of those children – holds those same women back from the long hours of work and networking that enable them to achieve high office.
But no one ever says that the work done at home is valuable, least of all by the women themselves.

It’s a fascinating area for economists – all that huge productivity and output, that could never be measured or a monetary value put on it. Yet when it is outsourced and paid for in hard cash, who should pay and how much?

Says she, on maternity leave!


I’m determined when I do get back to my programme, to try and discuss more of these ideas with experts. I’m off to ask The Google about Orla Doyle…

I think folks ye have finally found a topic to discuss that is even more subjective and resistant to honest analysis than economics. Well done 🙂

“Post-3rd wave feminism has succeeded in pressuring most women to believe that unless they are productive in an economic sense – then they are worthless to society. And the cost of THAT is huge in monetary terms.”

That’s a very interesting perspective, one I’ve heard articulated frequently enough, and I couldn’t claim to have any-thing intelligent to add to it.
I do think though, in some ways, it backs up the argument that our political system needs to become more representative (not just on gender, but the whole sweep of ‘identities’ that are going to evolve over the coming decades) as the pool our political class tends to be drawn from is so narrow that it excludes a whole number of perspectives and life experiences from the legislative process.
How you go about that I haven’t a notion. (And I’m largely ignorant on how, or if, to tackle the ‘glass ceiling’ phenomenon)

“I’m determined when I do get back to my programme, to try and discuss more of these ideas with experts.”

I look forward to that! (I just hope the Sunday Indo hasn’t destroyed all non-Independent owned media by then….Okay I’m putting away that hobby horse)


That leads to another question I’ve heard framed like this:

Does someone have to look like me in order to represent me?

My answer is No.

For example – the commentariat is fond of criticising our legislators for spending too much time with their constituents but I think that being close to the voters makes our TDs deeply aware of the problems that individuals have. I think there’s a strong argument that the time spent in clinics and local events makes them better legislators not worse.

As for the glass ceiling, whatever about under-valuing domestic labour, I think we also over-value paid work. The recent Guardian feature on 5 Death Beds Regrets had no surprises when the NO. 1 regret was that people had spent too much at work and not enough with their families.

So feck the glass ceiling. Maybe women have made the right call and aren’t victims at all.

I agree on responsiveness to constituents. It never made much sense to me that this was identified as the problem with our political process. (That it was too concerned with dealing with voters) At the executive level perhaps, but it struck me more as a smokescreen to obscure the deeper problems with our political institutions.

I certainly don’t think that someone has to look like you to represent you, but it generally helps. I mean there’s certain things that I can make an effort in good faith to understand or empathise with (such as the desire to marry someone of the same sex, or what issues are important in a closed immigrant community) but there’s only so far that good faith will get me, and there’s no political incentive to expend political capital responding to the concerns of a tiny subset of my general constituents. It’s like trying to make childcare policy with a Parliament full of childless Yuppies. It makes no sense to me why that should be our goal.

As I said though, I really don’t know how you resolve that.

“Maybe women have made the right call”

Absolutely. And perhaps in time we’ll find a better compromise to all the issues you highlighted. I remember a friend of mine whose aspiration from pretty young was to be a ‘house husband’. (He had a very simplistic and romantic notion of what that life would be like, but none the less) Needless to say he had that idea beaten out of him quite quickly, but he still bangs on about it every now and again. There exists, I think, a significant amount of men that would happily take up that role, and I think that’s being shown in countries more advanced along this route than us.

In some respects I think this recession that sees so many men at home is good for family life and providing men with an opportunity they’d miss otherwise.


Talking to a marriage guidance counsellor I know the other day (out of interest, not for any other reason!!), I’m not sure she would agree with you. But I get your ‘some respects.’

It’s causing a huge number of problems and their services are totally maxed out…. and it ain’t going away any time soon.


I know – there are the twin pressures of finance and having to hang around each other all day. It is really hard for men to adjust to the new life, even without the money problems. BUT it does mean they are a) spending more time with their children b) realising how much domestic labour is required and so when/if they return to full time employment they’ll understand more and c) realising that maybe, they don’t have to define themselves by paid work, even when/if they return to the job.

after the debacle in twickenham i think gender quota’s should be brought in to the front row of the scrum…couldn’t be any worse.

Can I just say the quality of the posts increased massively in the second half of this thread

@Garry “I think folks ye have finally found a topic to discuss that is even more subjective and resistant to honest analysis than economics”.

The issue of gender bias is amenable to scientific analysis, in spite of subjectivity and resistance to honest analysis.

Brian states in his blog “Thus we find that women in financial situations exhibit a greater aversion to taking risk than do men. This finding is not just evident from these ‘top down’ studies, but is also evident when we survey individuals. Again my own research on Irish adults is in line with international findings.”

I am not an economist but I am a behavioural scientist. So I decided to investigate a little further as Brian’s comment above is not consistent with the large body of soundly based empirical research on gender differences from the field of behavioural science.

Some of the research that Brian appears to be relying on uses a measure of financial risk developed by Grable and Lytton in 1999. This measure was developed using “A convenience sample of faculty and staff from a US southern state university. The majority of respondents (63%) possessed a four year college degree or higher, and all were working.”

Grable and Lytton suggested that future research using the items (questions) and their instrument should incorporate different sample frames and populations to confirm the generalisability of their findings. I have found no evidence of testing of the measure using samples that are more representative of the population, which is normal practice in developing robust psychometric instruments that are capable of scientifically answering questions regarding human behaviour.

In addition Grable and Lytton relied solely on Exploratory Factor Analysis in developing their measure. Psychometrics today uses Confirmatory Factor Analysis as the gold standard factor analytic technique in determining whether a putative measure is a reliable and valid one or not.

Brian’s own research showed that, unlike the sample used by Grable and Lytton, 24% of the sample used in Brian’s research in Ireland was ‘not working’, even though 64% did have a degree or higher. It may well be hat there were more ‘not working’ than ‘working’ females in the sample used in Brian’s research, and his published research did not control for this in making gender comparisons.

In addition there may well be a problem of ‘differential item functioning’ (DIF) or item bias with respect to differences between the working/not-working/postgraduate groups in the Irish sample. The effect of DIF was not evaluated by Grable and Lytton. The questions in the Grable and Lytton instrument are complex and would not meet the criteria for good item (question) properties in a psychometrically sound measurement instrument designed to scientifically access human behaviours.

What constitutes a good item in a psychometric instrument? First, the language should be simple, straightforward, and appropriate for the reading level of the scale’s target population. For instance, scales intended for use in general samples need to be readily understandable by respondents with only a modest education. In addition, one should avoid using trendy expressions, as well as colloquialisms and other language for which the familiarity (and thus utility) will vary widely with age, ethnicity, gender, and so forth. Item writers also should be careful to avoid complex or “double-barrelled” items that actually assess more than one characteristic. At best, such items are ambiguous; at worst, they may leave respondents with no viable response alternative.

With the guidelines for item writing in psychometric instruments in mind have a look at the Appendix to Brian’s research for the Grable and Lytton measurement instrument used and judge for yourself whether the items used meet the criteria for good item writing in psychometrically sound measures.

The generalisations Brian makes about gender differences can not be accepted without question. His blog on gender differences is very flawed from a scientific perspective.

“His blog on gender differences is very flawed from a scientific perspective.”
and you have of course contacted him to open this debate up?

@Gerry Im an engineer so I know nothing about either economics or behavioural science 🙂 I found the article thought provoking but flawed.

It’s funny, I thought on reading the title Mr Lucey was commenting on the vacancy created by Mr Cardiffs departure to Brussels. That role was definitely ‘a job in finance’… its been filled since I believe

I accept that Brian is talking about finance jobs in general, probably with the assumption that the person is managing funds in a trading environment, though he does make references to Chief Financial Officers… So I would point out the collapse of the countrys finances was not due to risk taking by those in leadership positions in the Department of Finance. Rather the reverse occured, the low risk option was chosen every time.

Mr. Luceys argument seems to be lower short term returns is strongly correlated with better long term results. To me that is a little simplistic, business is littered with the bodies of once great corporations that were managed into bankruptcy, with the low risk option taken every time.

I agree with you that the gender differences made in the article cant be accepted without question, but neither can the assumptions about what is ‘good’ financial management.


I am both an engineer and a behavioural scientist. As an engineer you know that if the design is flawed the bridge will collapse or the chemical reactor will explode. Economists get off very lightly in this regard and Brian’s blog takes advantage of this on two points.

Firstly because women get a very raw deal in organisational settings where they have to trade off competence for stereotypic behaviour in order to gain acceptance in what is a men’s club:

Julie E. Phelan, Corinne A. Moss-Racusin, and Laurie A. Rudman Psychology of Women Quarterly, 32 (2008), 406–413.
Abstract “We present evidence that shifting hiring criteria reflects backlash toward agentic (“masterful”) women (Rudman, 1998). Participants (N = 428) evaluated male or female agentic or communal managerial applicants on dimensions of competence, social skills, and hireability. Consistent with past research, agentic women were perceived as highly competent but deficient in social skills, compared with agentic men. New to the present research, social skills predicted hiring decisions more than competence for agentic women; for all other applicants, competence received more weight than social skills. Thus, evaluators shifted the job criteria away from agentic women’s strong suit (competence) and toward their perceived deficit (social skills) to justify hiring discrimination. The implications of these findings for women’s professional success are discussed.”

Brian’s views on short term gains and long term concerns in the context of gender differences are very flawed. Look at what Anglo achieved for Ireland by ignoring long term issues. The problems in Anglo had much more to do with the narcissism of its senior executives than testosterone. Narcissism is a personality rather than a gender issue.

Secondly some economists use measures of human behaviour that are psychometrically flawed. The Grable and Lytton measure is very flawed from a technical psychometric point of view. In addition to what I have already pointed out the measure mixes up dichotomous questions (2 in number) with interval type questions. The scoring for interval type questions used are not really interval scales and this is very problematic with respect to the use of factor analysis. Additionally dichotomous questions can not be factor analysed unless tetrachoric correlations are used, and even then factor analysis applied to dichotomous variables leads to artificial results. It’s a bit like an engineer ignoring the difference in height in designing a pumping station to lift a liquid from point A to point B.

Job performance is best predicted by a linear combination of general cognitive ability and one’s standing on personality traits. At a practical level the evidence is very robust that men and women do not really differ on these psychological attributes

@ Sarah Carey

“Does someone have to look like me in order to represent me?

My answer is No. ”

I tried to argue ealier in this thread that I see gender quotas as desirable on the grounds of equality and fairness rather than representation. So I agree with your point above even though we hold the opposite view on quotas generally.

On the question of innate versus socialised gender differences, I thought it was interesting see you write about female lurkers. It has been my experience in life that from the class room to the board room, women are much less likely to feel comfortable speaking their mind or out of turn. In my opinion that is because qualities such as demureness and meekness are traditionally thought of as feminine and young girls socialised as such. To put it simply, boys are allowed and even encouraged to be much more loud and brash.

So it is no wonder that women are much less likely to seek a raise or promotion or put themselves forward as candidates for election. The qualities required to do those things are from a very young age discouraged amongst the female (second?) sex.

So for me this comes down to an issue of fairness. Is it fair that the child you are currently raising is much less likely to hold political office, become a board member or generally hold a position of power in our society if it is a girl rather than a boy?

Does it not frustrate you that men similarly talented as yourself and your female peers are much more likely to hold positions of influence in Irish society over the next 20 years?

Gender quotas may be crude, but they can be an effective force for change where otherwise it might take generations for the same effects to occur.

@Gerry Fahey

‘I am both an engineer and a behavioural scientist …’

We could do with more of these interdisciplinary combinations around here ….

The bias against women in positions of power does not relate to either competence or personality … it relates to the social construction of power … in which males presently have the advantage.

@David O’Donnell

I am normally a reader of posts on this site rather than a poster. I find the site informative and worth following. I only got involved in this thread because I know from research on the topic that Brian Lucey’s assertions are false.

The more I investigate the Grable and Lytton ‘measure’ of financial risk propensity that Brian used in his own research the more sceptical I become of the contents of his blog piece.

I have just come across a very recent study looking at the predictive validity of the Grable and Lytton measure. The research used the Iowa Gambling Task and a measurement of Skin Conductance Response in 440 subjects. . The IGT is used by clinical psychologists to assess frontal lobe deficits in patients, and the SCR measurement is the anticipatory somatic response developed by individuals during the IGT risk-taking activity,

Using this methodology the researchers showed that the Grable and Lytton measure used by Brian and others misclassified risk tolerance. Quote “Our findings show that misclassifications resulting from the risk tolerance questionnaire are massive: individuals asked to self-assess their risk tolerance reveal a relevant probability of failing in their judgment (between 35 and 65 per cent of probability of risk tolerance misclassification).”

This does not surprise me given the very poor psychometric properties of the measure that I mentioned in previous posts.

As Daniel Kahneman, the 2002 Nobel Prize winner in Economics might say – economists need to be very careful when straying outside their domain of expertise

@Gerry Fahey

Doubt that anyone could claim reasonable or ‘plausible’ on any measure of ‘financial risk propensity’ considering how ‘fixed’ and ‘odious’ the whole ‘financial system’ has emerged in recent years.

optimal financial management, globally speaking, has nothing to do with whether you are risk averse or a risk taker, it is about having people in place whose perception of the risk and reward ratio of their decisions, that is most closely aligned to actual ratio. Furthermore, Carey’s analysis completely ignores that it is investors appetite or not for risk that drives their investment making decisions. If an industry systematically adopts a more risk averse approach to operations through for example, hiring highly risk averse CEO/CFOs, this will undoubtedly drive risk seeking captial elsewhere…as such it is the market, through investor decisions, that determines the extent to which it wants its CFOs etc being risk takers or not.

The problems in Anglo had much more to do with the narcissism of its senior executives than testosterone. Narcissism is a personality rather than a gender issue.

Nicely put Gerry


“Still it’s nice to see more women commenting than is the general norm on irisheconomy.”


Someone querying the veracity of Prof Luceys Irish Times op-eds? Hmmm. Interesting. That is all.

“Does it not frustrate you that men similarly talented as yourself and your female peers are much more likely to hold positions of influence in Irish society over the next 20 years?”

Like it frustrates me that men are more likely to end up homeless or to commit suicide. I think feminist campaigners and debates like this largely skirt over these uncomfortable facts – that indicate clearly that the pressures upon men to be successful, to “be a man”, to be “strong” – both physically and in every other way -, to be tall – women generally fancy men “taller than [them] in heels” -, to “win”, etc, etc…

A woman can easily say to men that they want to stay home and look after the children and the man will not give it a second thought. Can anyone seriously deny that a woman would accept a similar ambition from a man?

Am I stereotyping women? Maybe, but its a stereotype that women, in my experience, try really hard to live up to.

This all means that throughout a mans life there is a chasm opening beneath him, a bottomless pit of insecurity, from everyone in society, in case he should ever fall short. This is especially acute for young men. Nobody needs a young man – unless they lay their life out completely to interests above his own, or else he exudes some confidence that says he’ll be powerful in the future. But a young woman will always be desirable, and fertile. However much she may not want this gift of security, however much she may pour scorn upon it and demand equality from society – equality of insecurity as much as rights – if she is fertile and reasonably sound-minded (or just extremely attractive) she will always be desirable to society – and thus have more security than men.

There is too sides to this coin.

This is why so many women (not all) are less (or differently) ambitious than men, and also why men commit suicide & become homeless more often than women.

And the most pressure on men comes from women, especially the women closest to him – mothers, wives, daughters

@Bond.Eoin Bond

When Brian’s op ed piece in the Examiner is carefully examined it turns out to be a very flawed opinion piece, as does his own research which he referred to.

1. Meta analysis deals with the problem of capitalising on chance with a single study in the behavioural sciences. Brian’s links to studies in his blog piece does not deal with the limitations of single studies.
2. Care needs to be exercised in looking at effects between different groups in research studies. Even a statistically significant result does not necessarily imply any practical significance. Within group differences in gender studies are usually far more important that between group difference, even when statistically significant.
3. Tests of statistical significance need always to be handled with a grain of salt because, as any competent statistician will tell, all you can really conclude is that the sample wasn’t big enough to detect a statistically significant difference!
4. His own study is very flawed. The methodology used (Grable and Lytton’s financial risk measure) is bluntly speaking – from a psychometric perspective – a measure that is seriously flawed with respect to issues of reliability and validity.
5. His op ed piece does a disservice to women by perpetuating the stereotypical myth that women with ‘soft social skills’ perform better than women who are equal to men with respect to cognitive ability and relevant personality traits.
6. He strayed into the area of human behaviour, which is outside his domain of expertise, and got it very badly wrong when judged against objective scientific criteria from the fields of psychometric measurement and behavioural science.
7. All in all both the op ed piece and the blog reflect very badly on Brian as an academic.

Ciaran, would you not like to see something changed about the issues you describe?

If gender quotas can help bring about a more balanced society generally then that benefits everyone – men and women.

You are pitting feminist campaigners as being against men whereas the opposite is the case as I would see it.

For instance at present men are regarded as second class parents by law. There is no statutory paternity leave in Ireland and mothers are much more likely to win custody of children when it is contested. I think it is a valid and feminist argument to say that both of those issues are unfair for both men and women. Clearly they leave fathers frustrated, but also they are indicative of a culture generally which sees a woman’s place in society as primarily a caregiver.

So the issues you have raised are by their very nature feminist and I would argue that if you would like to see them changed then you are yourself a feminist (or at least fighting on the same side!).

“Does it not frustrate you that men similarly talented as yourself and your female peers are much more likely to hold positions of influence in Irish society over the next 20 years?”

Oooh there’s a LOT that frustrates me about those who positions of influence! Fortunately I have 3 sons now and providing they avoid being kicked to death outside a nightclub, killed in a high speed car crash or diving into an empty pool whilst drunk on holiday I’m hoping they’ll all be rich lawyers who’ll keep me in my old age.

And see this is the bottom line. From the moment they are born, whether they are male or female, my peers and I will do everything to make sure our children are successful members of the professional middle classes.
Male or female, if you’re born into the underclass, you’re screwed.
Class not gender really dictates your future.
Gender quotas is a row only the privileged conduct amongst themselves…

@Brian Lucey

This blog remains open.

@Sarah Carey

Your conversion to lite_blue feline Marxism is touching …

@Gerry Fahey

Who do you recommend reading on ‘financial risk propensity’ …. beyond neo-positivism or even within its limits?

@Sarah Carey

“Class not gender really dictates your future.”

That’s fighting talk where I come from 😉

@ Sarah Carey

I don’t understand your response. Class/wealth absolutely is a huge determinant of future success in life but so clearly is gender as a very small % of senior businesspeople and politicians are either women or from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Do you not think it is worth trying to change that situation? Are we prepared to say as a society that such injustices should last into perpetuity?

Taking action to discourage one form of discrimination, in this case through gender quotas, can only help the effort to discourage other forms such as those based on class.

If someone was proposing measures to help people in disadvantaged areas get increased access to higher education say, would you scoff and ask why they aren’t doing something about gender imbalance?

@ Carson

“would you not like to see something changed about the issues you describe? ”

Providing one example of paternity leave doesn’t create balance. Yes, of course there should be paternity leave. Coming from a family where the father did largely stay at home and cook, and collect us from school – in y family the father was a fitter parent. If it was down to my mother we’d have grown up on Big Als chicken burgers.

But until young men are able to give birth they will never be as valuable as women, and thus the problem is intractable. The average woman will never feel the kind of pressure to succeed that a man does if they are deemed fit to give birth. Women will always have that foundation, even if they chose not to depend upon it. What an upper class woman fears in dependency on one other person and being trapped or restricted. What a man feels is being completely removed from society and cut off from sexual intercourse. A woman has a cage, but a man has a chasm and that won’t change, it won’t be “solved” by paternity leave, because very few people understand the nature of the problem. Those are two different subconscious implicit drivers.

We protect young mothers from the harshness of financial destitution for the sake of their children, thereby making the men that made the children superfluous.

You also can’t “put” people into powerful dominant positions, either in politics, or bureaucracy (corporate or governmental) through quotas. Even if they acquire the formal position power acts locally and implicitly, not through formal channels. That was my first point and it was dismissed as irrelevant, but it is the nail in the coffin of quotas. Ultimately power is not granted its taken, but if women don’t have the same drivers and motivations to take the power then they won’t grab as fast or hard as men. Then the powerful people will find a way to manipulate the formal system by placing pliable females into the positions and manipulating the circumstances to get them elected, just so they can sit in the backbench and keep shtum. But then if women don’t support their local communities by handing out local political favours then they won’t get elected in Ireland either.

This is speaking from the perspective of someone who voted for two women out of four votes in the last election.

I just don’t think the broader feminist movement really comprehends the complexity of the problem, they just see it as inequality produced by men and society keeping them down. But the men up their have beaten back a lot of other men to get there because the cost of not doing so is greater for him than for a woman.

@David O’Donnel

“Who do you recommend reading on ‘financial risk propensity’ …. beyond neo-positivism or even within its limits?”

Maz Bazerman’s ‘Judgment in Managerial Decision Making’ is well worth reading.

Bazerman takes a wide range of findings from cognitive psychology and puts them in the context of financial decision making.

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