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Snobs: Are women more or less cooperative than men and who supports one another?

Picture this (really happened) scenario (not in the new study): A recent college graduate in her twenties with a liberal arts master's degree walks into an employment agency in Sacramento, New York City, or any other urban setting. Everyone seems to be out to lunch except one female interviewer. The job applicant discusses her qualifications, computer literacy, and experience in journalism with the young woman interviewer in "human resources staffing," and asks for any office job with chances for advancement. This is in a situation where there's no video camera recording the words spoken between applicant and staffing employee when the other 'counselors' are on their break or out to lunch.

Snobs: Are women more or less cooperative than men and who supports one another more?
Anne Hart, book and photography.

She mentions to the interviewer that she has a master's degree in English, but would rather write than teach face-to-face in academia. In reply, the woman working for the employment agency replies loudly, "Don't slap me in the face with your college degree." Would the woman working in staffing say the same words to a young man who comes to the employment office seeking a job, with the same qualifications, and mentions his similar college degree?

Or picture this scenario. A middle-aged woman walks into a California employment agency asking to be sent to interview for a job as an administrative assistant. But the female interviewer follows her male manager's instructions and writes "not front office material" on the woman's application, followed by a color code denoting the woman is over age 34, and therefore, too old to be sent to that company for a 'secretarial' job, since the employer usually prefers to hire women in their twenties.

One colored dot means too old, another colored dot means too ugly, and another colored dot (no, it doesn't mean she doesn't defer to men) but other secret meanings where not to send her, such as back office instead of having youthful, very attractive front office appearance for a receptionist job where she'd greet the public like a flower girl/comfort girl, just looking pretty, smiling, and answering a buzzing array of phones as foot traffic shuffled by in an office. Another colored dot meant outgoing rather than introverted and bookkeeper-ish. Those secret codes used to happen where females evaluated other females. All this happened decades ago in the early 1970s, but does it still happen this era in another space, such as academia or among some women's professional associations, or when one woman recommends another woman for a job?

In academia, men more likely to cooperate with lower-ranked colleagues, says a new study published in a biology journal. In academic circles at least, women tend to cooperate with same-sex individuals of higher or lower rank less often than men do. So say Harvard researchers who report evidence, "Rank Influences Human Sex Differences in Dyadic Cooperation" published on March 3, 2014 in the Cell Press journal Current Biology. Authors are Benenson et al. The findings are based on a study of the publication records of professors working at 50 North American universities.

"People are often upset to hear evidence of sex differences in behavior," says Joyce Benenson of Harvard University, according to the March 3, 2014 news release, In academia, men more likely to cooperate with lower-ranked colleagues. "But the more we know, the more easily we can promote a fair society."

Have you ever moved into an apartment building, were friendly to the neighbors, only to have some tenant scribble the word 'snob' on your mailbox after you told one married young female tenant (in an occupation that doesn't require training beyond high school) that you were going to a meeting of any given club that gathered together women who were college graduates or other professionals with the same intellectual interests that you had, whether it was a book club, an archaeology interest group, or a club of people usually with the same educational achievements that you had?

The findings might seem somewhat counterintuitive

People often expect that women are more cooperative than men. But then again, in humans, as in our chimpanzee ancestors, it is males that more frequently band together with other males to support one another in rivalries against other groups. Think of informal street gangs or armies.

"The explicit hierarchies that form within a male community based on overt competition therefore must be continually negotiated so that individuals who end up higher or lower ranked nevertheless feel strong enough ties to their group that they are willing to cooperate to defeat another group," Benenson explains, according to the news release. "This tendency in human males extends to groups formed for reasons other than fighting." Females, on the other hand, may be more likely to interact with smaller groups or even a single individual.

To explore these dynamics in our modern world, Benenson and her colleagues looked to academia

Actually, they didn't start there, but they found rather quickly that the basic information they needed—individual rank, evidence of mutual investment, and a baseline number of males and females—couldn't be found in the military, government, or business. The number of women professors was unfortunately also too low in disciplines including biology, chemistry, and physics. It was within psychology departments that the researchers finally found the data they were looking for.

Using numbers of coauthored peer-reviewed publications as an objective measure of cooperation and professorial status as a measure of rank, the researchers calculated the likelihood of coauthorship with respect to the number of available professors in the same department. Their calculations showed no difference between men and women at all among individuals of equal rank. But male full professors were much more likely than female full professors to coauthor publications with a same-gender assistant professor. In other words, differences in rank didn't get in the way of cooperation amongst men in the way that they apparently did for women.

Do or don't men somehow prevent women from cooperating more in school, at work, or at play at all ages, even after retirement?

Benenson says the researchers are planning a number of follow-up studies to answer lingering questions: Do men somehow prevent women from cooperating more? Do women attempt cooperation across rank and fail for one reason or another? Is the reluctance to cooperate driven from above or below? And what would encourage women to reach out and cooperate more?

The bottom line for now is this: "In ordinary life we often think of women as being more cooperative and friendly with each other than men are, but this is not true when hierarchy enters the picture," Benenson says. So is the real problem having a hieracrchy in the first place rather than a democracy of people first? Or should you have a meritocracy if you want more cooperation?

Unrelated human males regularly interact in groups which can include higher and lower ranked individuals.

On the opposite corner of this ring of gender, females may often reduce group size in order to interact with only one individual of equal rank. That's if you're not a graduate poor student living in a low-rent apartment house next to a person who thinks you're slapping her in the face with your degree if you mention you have it in general conversation.

Have you ever wondered why so many women feel threatened if they're relatively not educated, perhaps having had to work early in life to support themselves with no money for school beyond free public school, or had to marry young to get away from poverty, and let out their resentment on women fortunate enough to have had a graduate education (even if the woman worked her way through college and graduate school coming from a similar background?

Researchers mention in their study's summary that in many species, when either sex maintains a group structure, unrelated individuals must cooperate with those differing in rank

Given that human males interact more than females in groups, what the researchers in this new study hypothesized noted that dyadic cooperation between individuals of differing rank should occur more frequently between human males than females.

Numbers of co-authored peer-reviewed publications were used as an objective measure of cooperation, and professorial status as a measure of rank. The researchers compiled all publications co-authored by full professors with same-sex departmental colleagues over four years in 50 North American universities, and calculated the likelihood of co-authorship in relation to the number of available professors in the same department (Supplemental information).

So the researchers examined this hypothesis in academic psychology

What the researchers found was that among those of equal status (full professors) there was no gender difference for likelihood of co-authorship. Women and men were equally likely to co-author publications with another full professor of the same gender.

In contrast, male full professors were more likely than female full professors to co-author publications with a same-gender assistant professor. This is consistent with a tendency for men to cooperate more than women with same-sex individuals of differing rank, says the study's abstract.

In another example (not in the study) is a different problem for numerous women is if they associate with women of different ranks of the socio-economic or even purely educational levels, those who feel 'hurt' in some way by hearing about the achievement of other women living near them, such as in the apartment next door, have in the past scribbled the word 'snob' on the mailbox of the college graduate female just for mentioning the club she belonged to, of other women who had graduated colleges.

The angry scribble, the defacing of the mailbox had been one way to say one women is diminished just by hearing about the achievements of another women just because she lived close by in the same apartment complex, well, at least in one person's case (not in the study)....but a reality when women of different educational levels meet, greet, and live close by. Not all women who graduated college can live in gated communities, especially if they're married to spouses in blue-collar occupations. The goal is that everyone could get along.