4 min read

Definitive Proof That Women Are Smarter Than Men

We still believe that women today are disadvantaged compared to men
Large group of graduates wearing caps from behind
Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

Greetings friends!

The fact your mind is brimming with countless examples of women’s maltreatment only proves my point.

  • You think women have less access to education — not so.
  • You believe women are paid less than men for the same work — no, at least not for the reasons you may think.
  • You feel women have fewer advancement opportunities at work — also no, and not for decades.

More than half of you are hopping mad right now, wondering if you should read any further. I promise you this is no misogynistic rant.

I have nothing but admiration for women. You are crushing it! So well, in fact, that men are hopelessly outdone.

I’ll explain why with objective data, so you can decide for yourself.

DISCLAIMER: This discussion applies to the progress women have made in developed nations, which are mainly in Europe and North America. A lot of people live in other places, to whom much of this discussion won’t necessarily apply.

Ways Women Are Decidedly Advantaged Over Men

Here are some important ways women have it better than men.

1. Women are much less likely to take dangerous jobs

Men are ten times more likely to be killed on the job than women. Men make up almost all the employees in the most dangerous professions, such as logging workers, fishing workers, and roofers.

2. Women don’t get conscripted into military service or volunteer to serve as frequently

Except for Israel, Norway, and Sweden, women are not obligated to perform military service. See CIA World Factbook.

Although women can volunteer to serve in several countries, men serve at higher ratios than women in every country. In the United States, women make up around 20% of the military (except for the Marines, where they represent under 10%).

3. Women are more social and have more friends than men

Social connectedness is one of the biggest areas of difference between men and women. Women find social interactions to be more rewarding than men.

Perhaps as a consequence, women have “larger and more varied social networks with more friends and more social support than men.” Source, see the section Gender, social connectedness, and health.

Women are particularly blessed because it turns out that social connectedness is also the key driver of health and happiness. According to the directors of the Harvard Study of Adult Development,

“If you want to make one decision to ensure your own health and happiness, it should be to cultivate warm relationships of all kinds.” — WSJ Essay, The Lifelong Power of Close Relationships

4. Women work fewer hours than men

In every OECD country, women work fewer hours per week than men. Source, see Usual working hours per week by gender.

That said, there is also good evidence that women are spending significant time in unpaid work, particularly relating to caring for children and parents. See also Unpaid Care Work.

5. Women enjoy a lower retirement age than men

Across the OECD, the average normal retirement age for women is almost a year less than it is for men.

6. Women live significantly longer than men

Women can expect to enjoy their period of retirement significantly longer than their male counterparts.

That’s because in every country in the world, women live longer than men on average. How much longer? Five or six years is common, or around 7%–8%.

Bubble chart showing women living longer than men in every country
Our World in Data

Now A Word About Education, Pay, and Promotion

Let’s come back to the items I opened with, which I know can arouse strong emotions. Here’s what the data shows us.

7. Women have more than caught up to men in years of education

Already by 2010, women obtained more education than men in parts of Europe and Latin America, and are at parity across all advanced economies.

Our World in Data

8. The gender pay gap largely disappears when we make honest comparisons

You will see outraged headlines suggesting women are paid something like 80% of what men are paid. This is in fact true, but also terribly misleading, at least if the suggestion is the cause of the gap is discrimination.

Women are paid less than men because they, among other things, work fewer hours than men, work in different jobs than men, and prioritize flexibility more than men.

Now that women have caught up to men in education, the primary factors determining a woman’s earnings are age, marital status, children, and hours worked.

Sources: Why is there a gender pay gap? and Details in BLS Report.

9. Women have plentiful advancement opportunities at work

Women make up between 30% and 45% of management positions in most countries. This is actually impressive when we consider the choices women make regarding hours worked, choice of jobs, and flexibility.

Although this post is all about data, let me add this first-hand experience. In 25 years of observing thousands of hiring and promotion decisions at many companies, I never once heard the words “We need to hire a man into this role.” But I heard over and over that the company wished to see a woman in the role.

The plain fact is that public companies are desperate to increase the proportion of women in management roles. See their many sustainability reports for their public commitment to do so.

What Does It All Mean, James?

Just what I said in the title. Women are winning and winning big.

Women work fewer hours in safer jobs, retire earlier and die later, and have more friends that they enjoy more, contributing to better health and happiness.

Notwithstanding this clear success, most of us still believe we live in a dismal patriarchal society that oppresses women. Society thus devotes extraordinary efforts to making life yet better for women.

If that doesn’t convince you that women are smarter than men, I don’t know what will.*

Be well.

* If you’re still doubtful, perhaps the fact that I thought it was a good idea to write this article will push you over the edge.

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I posted a version of this article on Medium originally.