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A sex-neutral skill or trait is one that is relatively independent of a sex difference biologically or physiologically associated with either females or males. People need a broad range of skills in order to contribute to a modern economy and a technological society. Most general skills are likely to be sex-neutral skills, including well-learned tasks and those requiring a mixture of different abilities.


A skill is a learned capacity to carry out a pre-determined result often with the minimum outlay of time, energy, or both. For example, in the domain of work, some general skills would include time management, teamwork and leadership, self motivation and others, whereas domain-specific skills would be useful only for a certain job. Skill usually requires certain environmental stimuli and situations to assess the level of skill being shown and used.

Sex differencesEdit

Quantitative differences are based on a gradient and involve different averages. For example, males are taller than females on average,[1] but an individual female may be taller than an individual male. Sex differences usually describe differences which clearly represent a binary male/female split, such as human reproduction. Though some sex differences are controversial, they are not to be confused with sexist stereotypes. For example, where performance is strength-related (such as upper-body weight-lifting), men on average are stronger than women.

Studies have shown that well-learned tasks and tasks that require a mixture of different abilities do not vary systematically with variations in estrogen and progesterone over the menstrual cycle.[2] A two-dimensional rotation task and a disembedding task are less sensitive to sex differences and often show a lack of effect of hormone therapy.[2]

Boys from middle- and high-socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds outperform their female counterparts on spatial tasks requiring mental transformations, particularly those involving mental rotation, per the perceived male spatial advantage.[3] But, boys and girls from a low SES group did not differ in their performance level on these tasks.[3] "Prior studies have generally been based on the assumption that the male spatial advantage reflects ability differences in the population as a whole."[3]

Icelandic high school girls outperform their male counterparts on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) mathematics test, even on the highly spatial section, possibly because of their interest in math and motivational factors.[3][4] Here the population is relatively isolated so this pattern may reflect genetic rather than experiential factors.[3]

Mental skillEdit

Self-monitoring is the ability and willingness to read verbal and nonverbal social cues and alter one's behavior accordingly.[5] This seems to be a sex-neutral skill.[5] Other traits that differentiate between women managers and nonmanagers: first-born children, either an only child or the eldest of no more than three children, happy childhood in a traditional, warm and loving, upwardly mobile middle-class family, identify more with father than mother and received support and encouragement from father to succeed.[5]

Career development of successful women managers was homogenous: each had gone to college, started career in a secretarial position, spent whole career in one firm, none married before age 35, none had children of her own, and each had gone through a "midlife crisis" in her thirties.[5] Trait studies suggest that effective women managers differ very little from effective men managers in terms of attitudes, motivation, and behavior, but women managers differ considerably from women nonmanagers.[5] Traits that are perceived as being related to managerial success are ones also perceived as masculine.[5]

Tasks on which there are no sex differences include general intelligence measures such as vocabulary tests and verbal and nonverbal reasoning tests.[2] The Advanced Vocabulary, Inferences, and a modified Raven's Progressive Matrices are considered sex-neutral tests.[2] No sex differences even among children from different SES backgrounds are found on the verbal comprehension task.[3]

Sex-linked taskEdit

Often the successful performance of a task is a matter of perception rather than objective appraisal of skill. In 1974 the performance by a male on a masculine task was more often attributed to skill, whereas an equivalent performance by a female on the same task was considered to be more influenced by luck.[6] But, the reverse did not always hold true for the performance on a feminine task.[6] In a study of 55 male and 75 female undergraduates, overall, males were seen as more skillful than females.[6]

In the 1980s the decline in average real weekly wages among low-skill male production workers was usually attributed to technological advancements resulting in increased demand for skilled workers, leaving the less-skilled with fewer job opportunities.[7] While the demand for jobs requiring problem solving skills rose during the 1980s, the increase was not radically different from changes in the demand for these workers in past decades.[7] The shift appears to have been not so much a decline in demand for low-skill workers as a rise in the share of low-wage jobs across the skills spectrum.[7] Wage restructuring may have been more likely linked to labor relations factors (such as changes in the terms of trade and declining union strength) rather than a function of production technology.[7] The shift in wage norms may have had more to do with

  1. lower wage offers to the same or similar workers, including women, for the same or similar work, and
  2. displacement of higher wage workers.[7]

Prior to 1980, the apparent classification of women's jobs as unskilled and men's jobs as skilled or semi-skilled usually bore little relation to the actual amount of training or ability required.[8] Skill definitions were often saturated with sexual bias so that far from being an objective economic fact, skill was often an ideological category imposed on certain types of work by virtue of the sex and power of the workers who performed it.[8]

Eastern Canadian Eskimos from the Baffin Islands do not show a sex difference on a variety of spatial reasoning tasks, possibly because in their culture both males and females hunt, which involves navigating across land and sea environments sparse in landmarks.[3][9] As this population is relatively isolated, these patterns may reflect genetic rather than experiential factors.[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. Gustafsson A, Lindenfors P (2004). "Human size evolution: no allometric relationship between male and female stature". J Human Evol. 47 (4): 253–66. doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2004.07.004. PMID 15454336.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Kimura D, Hampson E (Apr 1994). "Cognitive pattern in men and women is influenced by fluctuations in sex hormones". Curr Dir Psychol Sci. 3 (2): 57–61. doi:10.1111/1467-8721.ep10769964.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Levine SC, Vasilyeva M, Lourenco SF, Newcombe NS, Huttenlocher J (2005). "Socioeconomic Status Modifies the Sex Difference in Spatial Skill". Psychol Sci. 16 (11): 841–5. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2005.01623.x. PMID 16262766.
  4. Template:Cite report
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Harriman A (1996). Women/men/management Second Edition. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 260. ISBN 0-275-94684-3.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Deaux K, Emswiller T (Jan 1974). "Explanations of successful performance on sex-linked tasks: What is skill for the male is luck for the female". J Personality Soc Psychol. 29 (1): 80–5. doi:10.1037/h0035733.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Howell D (Mar 1994). "The Collapse of Low-Skill Male Earnings in the 1980s: Skill Mismatch or Shifting Wage Norms?".
  8. 8.0 8.1 Phillips A, Taylor B (1980). "Sex and Skill: Notes towards a Feminist economics". Fem Rev. 6: 79–88.
  9. Berry JW (1966). "Emne and Eskimo perceptual skills". Intl J Psychol. 1: 207–29. doi:10.1080/00207596608247156.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

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