regular-article-logo Wednesday, 22 May 2024

The eyes have it: Editorial on women, not men, being masters of empathy

Research by the Pew Research Center finds that women make better leaders, especially during crises

The Editorial Board Published 31.12.22, 04:06 AM
Research by the Pew Research Center found that women make better leaders, especially during crises.

Research by the Pew Research Center found that women make better leaders, especially during crises. File Photo.

Eve plucked the fruit of knowledge and Adam partook of it. While it may seem like the Biblical progenitors of the human race were collaborators, Milton’s Paradise Lost reveals that there may be more to the story. In it, Eve is tempted to eat the forbidden fruit because she dreams of equality with Adam and god — one mortal, the other divine, men. This transgression, Milton deduced, cost her dearly and pit future men and women in a constant battle to best each other. Of course, the competition — cultural and economic — has always been loaded in favour of the former. Study after study has been conducted — with little to no female representation — to prove that men are the winners in the battles of mind and body. Some scraps were left for the second sex: women were expected to find solace in having a higher emotional quotient.

But things are changing, and science is providing evidence that these longheld beliefs may be hollow. A study by the University of Cambridge has found that women — Ms Marple must be chuckling — best men when it comes to reading the expressions of the eye. As masters of cognitive empathy, they thus have the ability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and, hence, comprehend the way they feel. This is far from being the only study where women topple men from their pole position. Research by the Pew Research Center found that women make better leaders, especially during crises. The Centre for Economic Policy Research and the World Economic Forum backed up this claim when they analysed the responses of governments to the Covid-19 pandemic — countries with women leaders had fared far better than those helmed by men. Productivity, learning, and organising — why are they called soft skills? — science shows, are women’s forte. But even the skilled need opportunity to prove their mettle. This is where menfolk have got the game rigged. According to the Global Gender Gap Index, even in the Nordic countries that rank as the most equal in the world, women earn less than men and are not adequately represented in positions of power. This disparity begins early — male children have better access to nutrition and education worldwide — and continues late into life — the healthcare needs of elderly women are twice as likely to be ignored as those of men, according to AGE Platform Europe. The outcome of the competition between men and women would have been different had it been a level playing field.

There is a strong case to upend this status quo. The International Monetary Fund predicts tangible and substantial improvements in economic and social robustness if women are given equal opportunities. Leadership skills and enhanced cognitive abilities — women have these qualities in abundance, says science — make them perfectly equipped to address such global concerns as conflict, climate change and embedded inequity. The seeds of great transition, history has shown, can sprout if only they are watered with empathy. Women — their eyes have it — should be made to mind the gardens of change.

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