Gender segregation could lead to better results, psychologist claims

Segregating male and female students could lead to better results for both sexes, a psychologist at Manchester Business School has claimed.

January 12, 2012

Paul Irwing, reader in organisational psychology, said he had reached the "reluctant conclusion" after conducting research into gender differences.

He argues in a paper, "The Distance Between Mars and Venus: Measuring Global Sex Differences in Personality", that character traits are more divergent than is commonly supposed.

Although he conceded that there were benefits to educating men and women together, he said that segregation should be considered because of the different approaches male and female students take to learning. "I am increasingly convinced that what may be right for a large group of males is different from what is good for the vast majority of females," he told Times Higher Education.

Dr Irwing said it was good that women were achieving more educationally, but that this had come at a cost to men because the difference between the genders was not widely acknowledged.

The paper contends that there is only a 10 per cent overlap in the personality traits of the sexes.

"In order to achieve better equality, people are trying to distort reality. Not recognising the differences between the genders could mean that people miss what is actually happening," he said.

Dr Irwing said his paper, published in PLoS ONE and co-authored by Marco Del Giudice, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Turin, and Tom Booth, a doctoral researcher at Manchester Business School, offers an explanation for imbalances such as the relative dearth of women in some science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects.

However, he said that this did not mean women had less aptitude for scientific subjects, noting that in some disciplines, such as biology, women outnumber men.

"Personality differences aren't aptitude, they're just differences in...the way you behave," he said. "It's not that one personality is better than the other, it just tends to fit people better to certain situations."

sarah.cunnane@tsleducation.com.

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