Women are just different

Men-vs-women-funny-imageThanks to Jessica's smarts, all three of us have moved to a woman internist who specializes in women.  She is an impressive human being.  I had sent her all my medical docs over the past umpteen years and so needless to say our first appointment was an overview discussion about me.  Not only my medical history but also my career history.  After all this is why we chose her as our primary care doctor.

I talked to her about my connection to promoting women, investing in women and the Womens Entrepreneur Festival.  We began to talk about how women are different.  Is it learned or is it innate? What she said was beyond interesting.  Her belief is that women are fundamentally different from men from the get go because womens bodies are meant to have children.  That makes us very pliable and that physiology shows itself to the outside world in other forms.  We are multi-taskers, we are right brain/left brain thinkers, we tend to be more emotional, we look at things differently, etc.

I asked her if she had written on this very topic because I am fascinated with what she said.  She has been doing this research for a long time.  She had written a book called Our Health, Our Lives in 1996 which is really like the second edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves that came out in 1973.  I went home and bought it on Amazon.  I am looking forward to reading her research.

She left me with these thoughts and a big smile on her face.  When women hit their pre-teens around 13 they begin to shrink into themselves.  I actually knew that as I had read a slew of sociology books about this years ago.  Then women start to come back into themselves in their mid-30's and really hit their stride when they turn 50.  What is interesting is that I could easily fall into this category. 

There are so many conversations about women and my guess is there always will be.  Women aren't on enough boards, women aren't getting as much funding as men, women who go to the best schools in the country opt to stay home and be a mom, women always say I'm sorry, etc., etc., etc.  I could go on forever. 

I remembered that Emily McKhann from the Motherhood send me a note after the festival congratulating us on the success and linked to something my husband had written on his blog in March of 2007.  It was titled:  The Sex Question.  He wrote about this particular comment on one of his posts around that time.  It was this:

I am a first time entrepreneur, I am a mother in my 40s and I have four
children. My business partner, whom I have known and worked with for 20
years is also a mother in her 40s. We are as young, and new and open to
ideas as anyone, without ANYTHING holding us back. We came to be
“founding mothers” of our internet company after years of a combination
of high level corporate America and the motherhood place of infinite
possibility where we are now. I feel like my business partner and I
operate on an exciting, healthy, smart, fresh slate. There is nothing
that will get in our way, except, maybe – from what it sounds like –
the fact that we aren’t guys in our 20s and everyone thinks we should

That certainly sums up what my doctor is talking about.  Yet Fred summed up his post with this and I believe that is what make women truly different. 

But sex has nothing to do with how good an entrepreneur is, what kind of entrepreneur they'll be, and whether they'll get funded. It certainly also has to do with the life decisions women are forced to
make. Stop working and raise a family versus give it all to the career
and find another way to raise a family, or possibly don't raise a family
at all. These are agonizing choices and I've watched the Gotham Gal
go through them, a number of times. She's going through this family and
lifestyle versus career thing again right now. I think it's just one of
many burdens a woman must bear. It's frankly a lot easier to be a man
in the business world.

It might be easier to be a man in the business world but I do believe that is getting much easier.  Remember this post was written in 2007 and alot has changed since then.  I saw the excitement, the conversations, the mentorship, the connections about women and business and women and balance being made this past week at the Womens Entrepreneur Festival

Yet, as my doctor pointed out, women are just different because we are physically made of a different cloth.  You know what I say to that, thank god. 


Comments (Archived):

  1. Ijeoma

    13 is so young to start limiting oneself! There are differences between men and women, especially in the workplace. I look forward to reading more on this issue. In the meantime, check out a Harvard Business Review story that is in a similar realm – http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/201

  2. bsoist

    Interesting. I see 100s of comments on posts about very complex subjects – religion, politics, etc. – but I guess only a few are confident enough to comment on their understanding of women.

    1. Gotham Gal

      the conversation could go a million places.

  3. Wendy Read

    So insightful 🙂 Sorry I had to miss the festival this year–hoping for next year!

  4. Marjan Ghara

    I love this post.The beginning of your post reminded me of the play “Defending the Caveman”. It is a very funny one man play about the differences between men and women. It starts with the premise that “men are hunters and women are gatherers” and goes on to highlight how we look at things so differently, how we communicate and process information …Here is a link to a two minute snip bits of it on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watc…I was at the festival and it was amazing to be in a room full of women who were motivated, focused and who were inspired and were working on projects and businesses, probably against many odds. I have been telling all my friends with daughters, that they should start instilling entrepreneurship in their young minds. There are many ways to be an entrepreneur and maybe not all women can run companies that need VC money to grow, but by being entrepreneurs and running their own businesses, they could actually have more control over their lives.

  5. falicon

    I’m fascinated by this topic as well…one thing I would say from my own (limited) observations is that I also think the ‘idea’ of business is changing a bit…I think many of the smartest/best businesses out there now are starting to build themselves and operate a bit more like a family than ever before…and, if the research is correct that women are just wired different because of the connection to family, then this shift is def. to the advantage of women a little…

    1. awaldstein

      Gender discussion aside, let’s be clear…businesses are not families.Work is more dynamic, more humane, more flexible. More out front Work ain’t family no matter what anyone says. Jobs are jobs and that’s just life.

      1. falicon

        …mostly agree, but I do feel like more and more companies are working towards instilling a more ‘family’ like feel to how they operate and everything they do…

        1. awaldstein

          There is a difference in being civil, being humane which we should all be to everyone.And for the most part the world is moreso.I’m not cynical but companies are businesses. There are family businesses but families are a grouping apart.

    2. Gotham Gal

      could be to the advantage of women

  6. JamesHRH

    I agree that there are inherent differences between the sexes: physical & cultural. I also think that someone’s inherent personality & family background is, as much as – if not more, important in shaping who we become.i think the issue of interrupting work aspirations to raise children is becoming less gender based & I really think this statement is losing relevance: ‘It’s frankly a lot easier to be a man in the business world.’Knowing who you are & want to be – that’s still the hardest trick. Making choices that fit that knowledge is the next toughest trick.

  7. Wavelengths

    For some reason, that I think most women can identify, I thought of Stepin Fetchit — stage name for the first Black actor to become a millionaire in Hollywood.His persona is highly controversial, but he made a huge career, especially for that time, out of playing the bumbling Black (disenfranchised, discriminated against) fool. Some people say his character was subversive, and he may well have been playing that role as a way to slyly get back at the dominant players in US society.At age 13, suddenly girls start to be looked at differently, with a huge subtext of social expectation that they cannot begin to comprehend. Meanwhile, their bodies are changing.In this day and age, with hormones in milk, etc., some girls have developed bosoms that could get them jobs at XXX clubs, yet they are only age 10. (I know, I’ve seen it.) How can a girl concentrate on realizing a great future with her inner talents when the external world is staring 5 inches below her chin?At the same time, Thank God (in all respect) that we have at least half of the population, both by gender and by inclination, who look at tiny, fragile things and want to cuddle and nurture them, and feed them, and clean them, and empty the trash, and do the laundry, and fight to get the income to keep things going, and …uh, er, aren’t a lot of those elemental desires a lot like what drives an entrepreneur? Isn’t an entrepreneur starting a tiny, baby company?Is mentoring part of the answer? Encouraging those girls who are smart but who look too “mature” for their age to not get trapped in the web of playing to outside expectations?Nice blog. Thank you.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I believe that is one of the biggest reasons for all-girl schools. Separate the brains from everything else.

  8. Jean

    Hi Joanne, I always find this topic fascinating. How different are women innately vs societally? As an Asian woman, I’ve always identified by race vs gender. I assume more commonality with Asian men than white women, but that is just one person’s experience. In terms of stereotypes, a woman is supposed to be bad at math and science, but I am expected to be pretty good at both since I am Asian. My innate math/science ability isn’t that great, but I’ve probably overachieved in that area due to expectations.I find that when people look at me on the street, they see race first, so that environmental expectation has definitely had an impact.

    1. Gotham Gal

      You have a very interesting perspective. I’d love to hear what other Asian women or even African American women feel in regards to what comes first. Is it being a woman?

  9. JLM

    .This issue of women this and women that is simple to figure outAs a guy, let me tell you exactly what is going on here………………………..To which I might add…………………………………………….The inability of guys to actually figure out women is as it is supposed to be. Never lift the veil. Why let guys in on the secrets?At the risk of being a traitor to my gender. Guys are so stupid. It is one of our only redeeming characteristics. You can still have a lot of fun and be stupid. I should know.JLM.