It’s well known that women have an exceptional ability to intuit non-verbal emotional cues. They’re highly sensitized to the feelings of others which profoundly affects their perceptions. In a masculine-modeled world driven by productivity, profits, and winning, sensitivity to others is more a distraction than an advantage. A single-minded focus on accomplishing tasks with fewer variables to consider is more efficient and preferred. To varying degrees, out of necessity, women have adapted to these masculine model requirements. But now it’s time to unadapt.
Situated between the right and left hemispheres of the brain, responsible for communication between the two is the Corpus Callosum. In women, this area is 23% larger than in men. It accounts for the fact that intuition and empathy inform our thoughts and actions, that we find group consensus to be important, that we value a balanced approach, and that creative solutions are more readily available to us as we problem-solve. It’s what makes it more difficult for us to accept that the end justifies the means.
Women respond to stress by attempting to “tend and “befriend.” The response is biologically based in a hormonal response that enhances the effects of oxytocin, sensitizing her to nurturance and bonding. For men, the hormonal cascade under stress raises testosterone levels, diminishing the effects of oxytocin, and stimulating a “fight or flight” response. When decisions must be made under stress, it’s easy to see why women, at this moment in time, need to be at the table. International Relations could benefit from strong voices for befriending rather than fighting. So could most community, work, and family environments.
Women have larger deeper limbic systems allowing them to be more in touch with their feelings, better able to express them, and better able to bond. It intrinsically motivates them to care for others. The down side is that during times of hormonal fluctuation it can open them up to depression.
Women are more sensitive to pain because during the pain response the left amygdala is activated. (In men it’s the right amygdala). Sensitivity to our own pain enables us to empathize with other’s pain making us more motivated to eliminate it whenever possible. The world could use less pain. While the old ways are being exposed as ineffective and unkind, it’s time to acknowledge our innate strengths, to set the agenda, and lead.