Are Women Natural Leaders?

Written by Father Bill 3 Comments

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People don’t seem to think so.

This is old news (from the summer of 2011), but I stumbled across it last week and tossed it in the blog-on-this file. And, after a week in which “the days are just packed” (Calvin’s way of putting it), I’m pulling it out before unpacking today’s suitcase.

First, the report

A new meta-analysis (an integration of a large number of studies addressing the same question) shows that “even today leadership continues to be viewed as culturally masculine. The research was done at Northwestern University.” As you might expect, this report put some folks in high dudgeon indeed .

But, here’s what everyone seems to have missed: in the quote above (found in most of the stories accessible on the internet on this report) there is this two-word phrase “even today …”

That little phrase “even today” is where the real news lies.

What the Northwestern University meta-analysis shows is not news. People have – so far as I can tell – never thought that women were natural leaders. To think such a thing says absolutely nothing about this or that woman’s capacity or talents for leadership, of course. To say that “men are taller than women” is completely compatible with the well-known fact that there are women who are taller than most men, and that there are men who are shorter than most women. So, if people don’t think women are natural leaders (something “people” have always believed, it would seem), why is it news that such an opinion is so wide spread “even today” that one may attach this opinion to “people today?”

The answer is expressed most pointedly by Walter R. Newell in his book What is a Man? Published in 2000, the introduction to Newell’s work has this to say about why “even today” something ought to be different than the meta-study reveals:

 … the last three decades [have] witnessed one of the most remarkable efforts at social engineering in human history — a state-sponsored campaign, organized throughout the education system and in all major public institutions, to eradicate the psychological and emotional differences between men and women. Two generations have been brought up as the products of this vast experiment. From the moment they enter kindergarten to their final courses in university, they are required to subscribe to a new doctrine of human relations without precedent in known experience: that there are no inherent differences in character between men and women.

Newell’s observation echoes from the abyss of understatement. By today (2011) it is more like three generations of North Americans (not to mention Europeans), have been reared and educated in this novel doctrine, so that to find living people who have a living memory of when relations between men and women were different, one must go to the earliest of the Boomers. But, of course, it is the Boomers who in North America enlisted in the feminist vanguard that swept over America beginning in the mid-Fifties, achieving cultural, economic, and political supremacy by the mid-Seventies, and consolidating its sovereignty ever since.

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So why has this vast state-sponsored campaign failed? That would seem to be the obvious import of this meta-study at Northwestern (not, of course, that this is what they sought to deiscover!). With so much political, economic, and cultural power focused on teaching men and women how and why they are interchangeable in all but the most elementary biological enterprises, why do most people think that women are not natural leaders?

It would be too easy an answer (though, possibly, a sufficient answer) to say that 20th Century theories and methods of education are ineffective. The default materialist metaphysics of modernism encourages us to believe that if you apply the right technique with sufficient intensity for sufficient length of time, you will get the desired result. From this perspective, it may take another few generations to beat the old patriarchalism out of the human psyche.

The Christian faith, however, tells us that what the feminist educators seek is nothing less than the abolition of man, because the intrinsic nature of men and women is that they are not interchangeable, that one of the sexes was designed by God expressly for the sake of the other sex, that there is an ordered relationship between them and the society composed of them. And, if the Christian faith is true, then it would follow that “even today” people (both men and women) would find women not to be natural leaders, particularly of men.

Where women do, indeed, function productively as leaders of men, this happens because either the men or the women (or both) are less than who they are created to be as gendered creatures. If people (even today!) think that women are not natural leaders, then the women who function as leaders will be perceived as unnatural ones.


  1. Michael McMillan   |  Wednesday, 09 November 2011 at 8:29 pm

    ” If people (even today!) think that women are not natural leaders, then the women who function as leaders will be perceived as unnatural ones.’

    Nowhere is this “unnaturalness” more evident than in the military. With two sons now in the Air Force, I attend some of their events where I see all the women pretending they are tough and no different than men: female drill sergeants, etc. The military is unrecognizable from when I left it almost 30 years ago. I don’t know how the men stand it. Imagine going through boot camp with a female DI. This is reality today.

    We were at a large regional JROTC competition last Saturday where my drill instructor son was one of the judges. There were about 30 high schools represented. They had an obstacle course event. All the relay races I observed had a pair running the course at one time: a male and female. The male would finish an obstacle, then go back and help the female complete the same obstacle. This happened in every case, as if it was a requirement. I never saw a female that didn’t need the assistance of the male. Even an obstacle that had nothing to do with strength — walking along a telephone pole parallel to the ground — the guy would finish it, run back and hold the girl’s hand from the ground. Yet, these same helpless girls become leaders of men in the real military!

  2. Fr. Bill   |  Friday, 11 November 2011 at 5:51 pm

    I’m afraid to even ask about female drill segeants in the Marine Corps! I have a pretty good idea what my drill instructor at MCRD San Diego (yes, I’m a “Hollywood Marine!”) would think. And, do.

    Good for him he likely never saw that day. It kept him out of the penitentiary. Or, the electric chair.

  3. Audra Rudnik   |  Friday, 18 November 2011 at 4:46 am

    I am glad to see the high school guys were being gentlemen and helping the high school girls even when the girls were not trying to be ladies.

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