Gender differences

Subject: Gender differences
From: Sue Ellen Adkins <sea -at- NETCOM -dot- COM>
Date: Sat, 18 Nov 1995 15:42:07 -0800

I have two contributions on gender differences in processing
information. The first is anecdotal; the second is a
scientific study.

I was the only female in my second accounting class. Our
homework problems provided enough data to allow more than
one approach resulting in the correct answer. The critical
first step was to recognize the relationships between the data
and identify a starting point.

Students wrote their solutions on the blackboard.
I approached the problems from a direction that
none of the 30 men considered although though
they may have had two or three solutions.

After several weeks of this, the instructor always
wanted me to display my solution to show that problems can
be solved in various ways. It became a joke, "Okay, Sue,
how did YOU do it?" I usually saw more than one way
to approach the problem and selected the one that, to me,
provided the fastest, easiest solution. I could never
understand why the guys couldn't see the relationship that
was perfectly clear to me.<g>

My study partner and I discussed the different ways we
approached problems. We decided that it was a male/female
thing because none of the men used my approach. Would
another woman have had the same approach? I don't know.
btw, my study partner and I both got As in the class;
he became a CPA.

Within the last two years, a study examined the differences
between how males and females processed directions.
The researchers constructed a maze whicch had "landmarks"
at the correct instersections. After the rats learned the maze,
the researchers modified it. When they moved the landmarks but
kept the distances constant, the male rats negotiated it but the
females became lost. When the landmarks were at the correct
intersections even though the distance had changed, the female
rats were successful while the males became lost. The researchers
were able to duplicate the results using men and women. (I know
that I navigate by landmarks rather than distances.)

How does this relate to tech writing? If nothing else,
I believe it illustrates the benefit of teamwork which
encourages various points of view. I also wonder whether
I had problems understanding manuals because they were
poorly written or because they were written by/for men.
(Twenty years ago, women weren't expected to use car
repair manuals.)

Sue Ellen Adkins
sea -at- netcom -dot- com

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