Why women really are better at almost everything: Q&A with author Dan Abrams editor
by Piper Weiss, Shine Staff, on Tue Mar 1, 2011 8:41am PST 1088 Comments Post a Comment Read More from This Author » Report Abuse ShareretweetEmailPrint Contrary to jokes and one-liners, women are better drivers than men. They’re also better at getting the joke. And better with hammers. And video games. And social networking. And did we mention, they get dressed faster than guys? This isn’t opinion, it’s fact, and Dan Abrams can prove it.
In his new book, Man Down: Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt That Women Are Better Cops, Drivers, Gamblers, Spies, World Leaders, Beer Tasters, Hedge Fund Managers, and Just About Everything Else, Abrams collects research from leading studies over the past few years to make the case for the ‘fairer’ sex. A legal analyst for ABC News and former lawyer, he approached the topic as a defense attorney, using evidence that already exists to debunk popular myths about women.
“In nearly every field, statistics and studies show that women are better collaborators, are more cautious and more adept at navigating treacherous terrain,” writes Abrams in his book’s opening statement. “I am not convinced that women as a group play basketball or read maps better than men. The evidence here will show, however, that women are living longer and evolving better than men.” It takes a lot for a man to admit his own weaknesses (there’s a chapter on how women tolerate pain better), so we wondered why Abrams would make the case for women. Turns out, it’s a man’s job.
Shine: How did you decide to do this book?
Dan Abrams: I was hired to write a light article for a magazine about certain areas that women are better in than men. Some of the evidence surprised me, so I went and looked into the underlying research. Most of it was true, some was exaggerated, some anecdotal. But I kept finding more and more real studies and the evidence is compelling when you look at it all together. I couldn’t believe there’s been no major book about it.
Shine: Why now?
D.A.: There’s a lot more evidence now. A lot of the studies from the book are from the last three years. It’s only been in the last twenty or so years, that women have been on a relatively even playing field in terms of work to do many of these studies. We weren’t able to make fair comparisons before, because women were a fraction of the working world. Now we’re see women taking over the majority in many professions. But only recently has there been enough time to look back to compare men versus women and only recently has there been real interest.
Shine: Which gender is leading these studies?
D.A.: Of the studies I looked at, a vast majority of lead researchers are men, but the broad trend trackers are women.
Shine: What finding surprised you the most?
D.A.: I was most surprised at how conclusive the evidence was for the fact that women tolerate pain better. They endure more pain throughout their lives, in more bodily areas and with greater frequency, according to researchers at the University of Bath. According to the medical journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, women have an average of 34 more nerve fibers per square centimeter of facial skin, while men have an average of 17. New research is suggesting the fact that women tend to endure pain more makes them more immune to it. It’s the old aphorism, “That which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”
Shine: Are women really better at tasting beer?
D.A.: The evidence is clear that women have a better sense of smell. In one study, researchers questioned whether men or women be better able to smell sweat behind fragrances, and women were fooled far less. But also they have a better sense of taste, and can apply it to just about anything. Taste is based on smell, as well as the number of taste buds a person has, and women are more likely to have a greater number of more-sensitive taste buds. And it’s not just beer that they’re better at tasting, but wine as well.
Shine: What about sports—men are better at sports, right?
D.A.: There’s no question that men have larger muscles, so they tend to be better at most sports. But there are certain areas—particularly endurance sports—where women are better. Studies show that estrogen is a disadvantage for muscle development but an advantage when it comes to endurance. Another advantage for women is that their bodies more efficiently process oxygen. When it comes to ultra-marathons—say, a 135 mile race without sleep—women can beat men. It’s reflective of something we see throughout the book— when it comes to race of life, women won’t sprint but they'll run longer. In baseball terms, men may hit the home run but women hit the singles and doubles more often and end up with a better average. This is true in financial fields as well: women are better long-term investors.
Shine: It makes sense that women are hard-wired for endurance, considering another chapter in the book entitled, “Women Live Longer.”
D.A.: Women live an average of five years longer than men. The reasons for this are both genetic and behavior-based. First of all, women have stronger immune systems, again due to estrogen which aids the fight against disease-inducing enzymes. But women are also less likely to engage in risky behavior. For example, I found that women are hit by lightning less often than men. That’s because the guy may not get off the roof when there’s a thunderstorm coming.
Shine: Does the same theory apply to women being safer drivers?
D.A.: Men are more likely to engage in reckless behavior, like driving drunk. One study found male drivers have 77 percent higher risk of dying in a car accident than women. It’s translated to insurance rates, women have 7 percent lower rates on the whole because they’re less careless drivers. In Australia, they actually petitioned to have more women bus drivers, because they found they’re more likely to treat buses better and have fewer accidents.
Shine: Bus drivers aren’t the only jobs women excel at, according to your research. What other jobs are women better at than men?
D.A.: Women were found to be less corruptible as cops. In both Lima, Peru and Volgograd, Russia where police corruption was a major issue, the governments campaigned to hire more women cops. There’s another study that women are more effective as political leaders than men. It suggests, we’d be a better country if there were more women in the highest echelons of politics.
Shine: In the field of medicine, the findings are also in favor of women.
D.A.: One of the most definitive studies in the book was done in 2009 by the British government. They collected a database of information on all the investigations of medical misconduct or incompetence over a period of eight years. It was the largest study of medical performance ever. They found that while forty percent of doctors were women, 80 percent of those under investigation were men. In the U.S., there were similar findings. Male physicians were twice as likely to be sued as women.
Shine: With all this counter-evidence, why are women still subjected to the same old stereotypes?
D.A.: Women weren’t allowed to vote in this country 100 years ago. We’re still in the period of catch up. We still haven’t had a female president, or that many women running Fortune 500 companies. When we get to point of seeing just as many women in the top levels of every profession, that's when we'll see a sea change at lower levels.
Shine: How is the internet giving women more of an advantage?
D.A.: One of the clichés about women is that they’re more communicative—those who want to demean women say they like to gossip more. That’s a pejorative way of commenting on the fact that women are more involved in social media. A 2010 study found women were six percent more exposed to social networking sites and spent more time on them. Other research found women were less likely to be victims of internet fraud.
Shine: Are you worried about backlash from men?
D.A.: I already had one men’s rights group send a petition to get me fired from my job. They wrote, “Dan Abrams is penning a sexist book claiming male inferiority.” But this book is not about my musings or opinions. This is me approaching the topic like a lawyer. Is there some hyperbole in the headline? Sure, but the reality is the trends here are significant and important. The goal of this book is not be viewed as a feminist book but an objective book. Someone with no bias is examining the evidence and coming forth to say it’s compelling. I’ll get mocked by many men, but a woman who made the same findings would be discounted for writing this book because of her bias.
Shine: You've provided a lot of evidence that women are better at some of life's most important tasks. What are men better at?
D.A.: Men are better at parking, they’re better dieters, they have better distance vision, they read maps better. One study suggests they even treat their friends better. But my next book won’t be about making the case for men. Overall I found that men’s biggest problem is that they’re too confident and women’s biggest problem is that they’re not confident enough. Truth is, I think the evidence is overwhelming in favor of women.