I admit, I haven’t read The Female Brain, the book the article’s author uses to support her claims, though I did enough internet research to discover that other scientists are seriously questioning the book’s conclusions.
The biggest problem for me is the suggestion that because boys and girls generally tend to be born with certain traits, that when they grow up, these traits (aggression in boys, relationship-seeking in girls) inevitably translate to marked behavior differences in careers. To be fair, the article concedes that differences in leadership styles do not necessarily mean that one gender leads better than another or that either male or female traits are more or less valuable in the workplace.
But I think it’s dangerous to draw these types of conclusions because it causes people to generalize. It creates artificial gender-based expectations, and when a man or a woman doesn’t behave in what others consider to be a “typical” (in other words, male or female) manner, that individual gets penalized for not following the unwritten rules.
So, if a woman is aggressive about pursuing her career interests, men might see her as not feminine enough. Or if a man cuts back on his hours to spend more time with family, his co-workers might see him as less committed to his job, or in other words, less masculine.
It’s easy to say that it doesn’t matter what people think, but when those expectations translate to the workplace, they create consequences. For example, women are much less likely to be hired and promoted once they become mothers, in part because of people’s expectations of how women should behave once they have children.
I don’t like it when workplaces make gender-based assumptions, and I think it creates all kinds of inequities. But I also think family matters, and that workplaces that accommodate their employees’ other responsibilities are investing both in their employees and in the future. It’s a fine line. A truly fair employer needs to respect employees’ needs and make sure the company’s family-friendly policies are communicated to everyone without making gendered assumptions or forcing people to use those policies.