The Myth of a Male vs Female Brain

I came across some interesting data to close Women’s History Month out.

A study by the Boston Consulting Group found that women are accumulating wealth at a faster pace than ever before and now hold nearly one-third of global wealth.

However, according to data from the World Economic Forum, at the current rate of progress women are still 169 years away from having economic parity with men and 162 years away from having political parity with men.

The year of expected parity: 2154.

In education, enrollment in professional STEM classes sits well below 50% parity and the gender gaps tend to widen as proficiency levels increase. However, data suggests that when women do enroll, they tend to attain most proficiency levels in skill categories studied in less time compared to men, according to Coursera.

In business, women enter the labor force at higher rates than men globally, but the share of women in senior leadership positions (director, vice-president or C-suite) is nearly 10 percentage points lower at 32.2%. 

Intrigued, I decided to take a look at some other gender-related differences, and thus behaviors and outcomes in the business environment and beyond.

Gender Differences in Cognitive Styles and the Business World:

  1. Baron-Cohen (who also popularized the extreme male brain theory in 2002) proposed that males tend to have a stronger inclination towards “systemizing,” or analyzing and understanding systems, while females tend to have a stronger inclination towards “empathizing,” or understanding and responding to the emotions of others.
  2. It is believed that differences in brain regions and neural connectivity patterns between males and females may contribute to variations in cognitive abilities, emotional processing, and social behaviors.
  3. It’s important to recognize that these differences are influenced by a complex interplay of genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors, and individual variation within genders is significant.

Analytical vs. Empathetic Thinking

Males and females may approach problem-solving tasks differently. Males may prefer a more direct and action-oriented approach, whereas females may be more inclined to consider multiple perspectives and seek consensus.

Spatial vs. Verbal Abilities

Males tend to outperform females in spatial tasks, such as mental rotation and navigation.

On the other hand, females typically excel in verbal tasks, including language acquisition, reading comprehension, and verbal fluency.

Memory and Learning Styles

Females may have an advantage in certain memory tasks, particularly those involving verbal or episodic memory.

In contrast, males may excel in tasks requiring spatial memory or procedural learning.

Emotional Processing and Empathy

Females are often reported to be more emotionally attuned and empathetic compared to males. They may be more sensitive to emotional cues and better able to understand and express emotions.

Males, on the other hand, may struggle more with recognizing and articulating emotions.


In business context, males may exhibit a more assertive and risk-taking approach, whereas females may be more cautious and deliberative.

Leadership Styles

Studies show leadership style differences between genders in business: while males may be more likely to adopt a directive and task-oriented leadership approach, females may emphasize collaboration, consensus-building, and relationship-building.

Women leaders can drive performance and demand excellence while also being supportive and understanding.

Communication, Negotiation, Conflict Resolution Strategies

In workplace communication and negotiation, males typically employ assertive and competitive strategies, emphasizing status and individual gains, focusing on dominance.

Females prioritize empathy, active listening, and relationship-building and tend towards collaborative and affiliative communication, seeking win-win solutions and emphasizing rapport.

Networking and Relationship Building

Females benefit more from building strong interpersonal connections, leveraging relationships, and cultivating trust over time.

In contrast, males may focus more on expanding professional networks, pursuing strategic alliances, and seeking opportunities for advancement through networking events and professional associations.

Creativity and Innovation

The stereotype that men tend to be more creative than women is dying. Studies now suggest that males and females may exhibit different approaches to creativity and innovation instead.

While males may be more likely to take risks and pursue disruptive innovation, females may excel in collaborative problem-solving, lateral thinking, and incorporating diverse perspectives into the innovation process.

Response to Stress and Coping Mechanism

Females may be more likely to seek social support and engage in emotion-focused coping strategies, while males tend to use problem-focused coping or engage in solitary activities.

Takeaways for Leaders

  • The latest research (2021) debunks the urban legend surrounding the Male Brain versus the Female Brain to be the reason for observable behavioral disparities. There are no inherent, universally distinctive sex-related differences in brain composition.
  • Variances in male and female behavior are attributed to factors like social-environmental gender learning, shaped by lifelong neuroplasticity influenced by societal and cultural gender roles.
  • In business, effective leadership entails a diverse mix of skills such as assertiveness, empathy, collaboration, and strategic thinking.
  • Success isn’t defined by gender but by the ability to inspire and empower others.

Despite what all these studies say, life is full of limitless opportunities and we are free to pick the statistic we want to be.

Keep climbing.


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About the author: 

Olga Koroleva is a founder and CEO of Capital Brain, a company that builds AI-powered products. She is also a high-altitude mountaineer who likes to climb mountains with double-digit death rates, University lecturer, and a public speaker on leadership and risk taking. Sign up to her self-leadership newsletter at