The “Glass Ceiling” is too crude and over-simplified an explanation as to why most executive power is still in the hands of men, why men are usually at the head of large corporations and why women still do not always have equal pay with men.

Consider: there is no society in the world in which men and women have an equal share of public leadership and power.

From Fidel’s Cuba to Putin’s Russia, from progressive Scandinavia to booming India — there is no cultural example of males and females sharing an equal level of power.

Is this because there is a worldwide “glass ceiling”? Or is it because of a number of complex factors, ranging from the fact that women may not always choose to have a single-track, work-dominated life, to the scientific research demonstrating that male and female brains are hard-wired in different ways, and that women, on the whole, are less aggressive and competitive than men?

Testosterone, the male sex hormone, is also the hormone for aggression. To get to the top in any field — from medicine, be it ever so “caring”, to business — you have to have that competitive and aggressive drive.

The proof is in the criminal world. There is no society in which there are an equal number of male and female criminals. There are always at least 10 times more violent male criminals behind bars than female criminals. (The reason why courts seem sometimes to be softer on female homicides is that it is much more unusual for a woman to be a violent killer.)

This isn’t to say that women shouldn’t be given equal opportunities and choices, at every point in their lives, to fulfil their professional and vocational potential.

And in Ireland today, I would have said there were many examples of extremely successful females in positions of leadership, from the President downwards. There are many examples of women in positions of leadership in the law, business, the media and marketing. Women are also prominent in the many creative fields of literature and the arts.

And certainly, women (and men) should be supported in their family lives — be it childcare, or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, elderly parent care — as they struggle to achieve the work-life balance that many ardently desire.

But it ain’t that simple. Childcare is not just a question of warehousing children in state, or privatised, nurseries for as long as possible.

Children also need love, time, attention, development, and sometimes a full focus on their needs. “Childcare is expensive,” is indeed a common cry: it’s a damn sight more expensive if the child ends up on anti-depressants at the age of 22 convinced that he or she suffers from Maternal Deprivation Syndrome.

Parenting is a demanding job, and arguably mothering even more demanding — at least in the initial stages — than fathering. Many, many women come to the conclusion that they do not want to give their all to the corporation while they have young children who need and require their care and attention.

And that’s the simple conundrum. Rarely can you get to the top unless you give your all to the corporation. Men are better hard-wired to compartmentalise their lives in this respect: they can more easily separate their family claims from those of their career.

A professional recruitment officer said to me a few years ago: “You’re not allowed to admit this any more, but many women only want a part-time job. They want time for other things – family and friends, hobbies, culture, a social life.

Instead of admitting that lots of women didn’t want a full-on, career-driven life, the officially correct line is that there is a Glass Ceiling impeding women’s advancement.

I don’t believe it. I believe there is a range of complex biological and social factors which continue to influence the differences between the sexes.

Of course, I think that women should have an entitlement to equality in the workplace; but it is a category error to mistake equality of opportunity with equality of outcome.

Many women find ways around these complexities, by boxing clever — like Hillary Clinton. In aiming for the top, though, she has taken the route that has benefited women since the great queens and chatelaines of the Middle Ages — first, marry the right man!

Source: Irish Independent, Ireland