Gender Wars: Women's IQ's Now Slightly Higher than Men's in Certain Countries
Outdated Gender Misconceptions
In high school, I somehow managed to absorb the belief that men are naturally smarter than women. Even now, when I hear of a man receiving recognition for an invention or winning an award for literature, I tend to think, “Well, yeah, men are smart, so that’s no surprise.” On the other hand, when I hear of a woman earning similar recognition, I often think, “Wow, she must be absolutely brilliant to have beaten out all of the competition.”
A New Reality
How is it that we as a society collectively assume men are smarter than women? I have no idea, but here’s some new information that may finally and irrevocably put this misconception to bed: a study released in July 2012 reveals that women now score higher on IQ tests than men.
The author of the study, New Zealand-based researcher James Flynn, said that over the past century, women have lagged slightly behind men in IQ testing scores, at times by as much as five points. Now, however, women have closed that gap and even inched ahead in this battle of the sexes. There are many possible explanations why, after a century of lagging, females are finally leading the way.
One theory is that women have always been capable of scoring higher, but, because of discriminatory gender socializing, they've never been allowed to fully realize their potential. Gender-based differences in education, upbringing, and social roles have historically set the bar lower for women. Moreover, the expectations of women have generally been less intellectually demanding than those of men, who were expected to support their families with respectable, high-paying jobs.
But the changes can also be explained by new emphases on education. Rather than demanding rote memorization of students, teachers now strive to improve logic and analytic skills. This scholastic structure can improve IQ by helping people become better problem solvers and equip students with higher perception and observation skills.
IQ – or intelligence quotient – is the most widely used measure of intelligence and is based on one’s deviation from the average IQ scores of a certain age group. It’s thought to be a product of both environmental and hereditary factors and is a statistically reliable predictor of future educational achievement, job performance, and income. But the reasons for demographic differences in IQ – for example, between races or genders – have long been widely debated.
According to Flynn, people in the developing world have gained about three IQ points over the last 100 years. Women, however, have gained more quickly. To reach this conclusion, he collected data from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Estonia, and Argentina on a standard IQ test, called the Raven Test. Each country tested at least 500 men and 500 women, most between the ages of 15 and 18. As Flynn explains, women were equal to men in all of those samples, with some scoring nearly a full point higher.
Given this development, coupled with the fact that women outnumber men on college campuses and statistically hold higher degrees than their male counterparts, there is no reason why women shouldn’t find equal success in the occupational and professional sphere. But much debate surrounds the accuracy of IQ tests and whether they truly measure how smart a person is. For instance, research has found that some people can raise their scores if paid to do so. Moreover, those who score high tend to believe in the results, while those who don’t perform as well suggest that it doesn’t measure “street smarts” or other forms of brilliance, such as that of excellence in the arts.
Biological Differences and the Ongoing Debate
It’s safe to say that deciding the smarter sex is an ever-controversial topic of conversation and scientific research. It may, in fact, be that men and women are equally intelligent, with skills that differ from each other because of inherent biological differences. To illustrate, studies of animals and humans have found definite variations between males and females in things like brain size, verbal and spatial abilities, and brain disorders, such as depression and schizophrenia. All things considered, then, the debate will likely continue to rage.