By Dr. Kwame R. Charles
Director, Quality Consultants Limited
A cursory glance at today’s world leaders will show very clearly that they are mostly men. Whether it’s in politics, the military, religion or the corporation, men rule.
Within the G8, for example, the most powerful nations of the world, the countries that, to a large extent, control the world’s economy, Angela Merkel is the only female head of state. She is joined by Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina in the G20, the league of developed and emerging nations. The rest of the leaders are all male.
If we look at the G77 developing countries, again, most of the leaders are male. And in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting recently held in Trinidad & Tobago, only one of the 53 heads was a woman.
The religions of the world are no different, nor are our corporations. And, of course, the military is the bastion of male leadership.
The result of all of this is that men are in control of our world.
So what? You ask. Well the male of the species, as in all animal species, brings with him an abundant amount of the so-called “male” hormone, testosterone. Testosterone is produced primarily by the testicles, from which we get the term “testicular fortitude” to mean strength and courage. Women also produce testosterone, but Wikipedia tells us that on the average, the human male produces about forty to sixty times more testosterone than the human female.
Testosterone has been found to be associated with a range of behaviours that, although functional in the animal kingdom, may be less functional or even dysfunctional in modern human society. Biological science has found testosterone to be associated with aggressive behaviour, violent behaviour, anger, conflict and competition. One researcher states that “There’s evidence in humans that, just as in animals, testosterone is responsive to male-male competition.” He goes on to say that, “From what we can tell now, testosterone is generated to prepare the body to respond to competition and/or challenges to one’s status. Any stimulus or event which signals either of these things can trigger an increase in testosterone levels.”
What does this have to do with how men rule? It may have everything to do with how men rule and why they rule how they rule. As the research suggests, men may be wired to respond to challenges to their status and power with aggressive behaviour. They tend to move more quickly to competition and confrontation than to collaboration and compromise. Like the males of their animal counterparts, men tend to be more territorial, seeking dominance and control over their territory and those within it; whether that territory is their desk, their parking space, their home, their position, or their power.
Have you ever noticed how two male dogs growl and snarl at each other before a fight? Some of our world – and local – leaders behave in the same way. Just as the higher levels of testosterone drive the male dogs to fight to protect their territory, their food or their mate; our male leaders are driven to command and control, to dominate, to be in charge. Is it any wonder, therefore, that leaders don’t give up power easily, normally, not without a fight?
This is not to say that all men are driven by testosterone, or that women, who produce smaller amounts of testosterone, can’t act like men. In fact, it’s very easy to see women acting like men in the political and corporate worlds, where they understand the rules to be male rules, and, therefore, learn to play the male game, rather than trying to change the rules of the game.
Similarly, not all countries of the world exhibit what I call “testosterone behaviour.” The Nordic countries of Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Iceland, have been classified by some anthropologists as being more “feminine” than “masculine”. You don’t hear about too much conflict in those countries, and several of them have elected female heads of state over the years. But these tend to be the exception, rather than the rule.
So how do we address the problem of testosterone behaviour in our male leaders? We know what is done to curb aggressive behaviour in animals like dogs, for example. Male dogs are neutered or castrated to reduce the production of testosterone. I don’t think too many of our male leaders would voluntarily subject themselves to this procedure!
Another, perhaps more palatable option would be to let women rule! Think about it. How many women would send their sons and the sons of other women off to wars in foreign lands? If Bin Laden was a woman, do you think she would even consider killing innocent women and children? Do you think a group of over 130 female world leaders would spend two weeks trying to figure out how to save the planet for their children and their children’s children and come away with a half-baked agreement? Or that women leaders would spend billions of dollars developing weapons of mass destruction or exploring the universe, rather than finding cures for diseases and improving health care in general?
In 2008, Dee Dee Myers, Bill Clinton’s press secretary published a book called “Why Women Should Rue the World.” She says that, if women ruled the world, it would be a very different place. Politics would be more collaborative, businesses would be more productive, and communities would be healthier. Some analysts – mostly female – argue that if women ruled Wall Street, there would be no global financial crisis, because they would not have been as driven by greed and accumulation as the male captains of industry who put us in this mess.
Perhaps because women have less testosterone than men, they tend to be more collaborative more inclusive, more democratic, and less prone to aggressive behaviour, conflict, anger and negative emotions in general.
And for those of you who say that woman rule would lead to chaos, confusion and mayhem, I say just take a look at the world we live in today!
Dr. Charles is a Director of Quality Consultants Limited a business research
and management consulting firm