Heed Annika's lesson

Posted: May 30, 2003 12:00 AM

Ernest Hemingway famously wrote, "The very rich are different from you and me -- they have more money." When considering the genders, Hemingway's line might be paraphrased, "Women are different from men -- they are women." This should be the epithet of the Annika Sorenstam episode.

The pre-eminent women's golfer famously finished 96th when she played with the men. For curmudgeons about women's sports, her performance should be cause to abandon their disdain: Here was a prodigiously talented athlete, performing with impressive poise. For believers in gender sameness, her performance should be a crashing exercise in reality.

Sorenstam's play demonstrates, of course, the physical differences between men and women. But the differences reach much deeper, into temperament and psychology. This is a fact that feminists resist, since it means that "gender inequality" is not entirely a product of discrimination or government policy.

Kingsley Browne, a professor of law at Wayne State University, has relentlessly cataloged the differences in his recent book Biology at Work.  He makes an unassailable case that workplace inequality is not the doing of an evil "patriarchy," but mostly that impressive female icon -- Mother Nature.

All generalizations, of course, have exceptions. And women have made great strides in the work force since 1970. The number of women employed as lawyers, doctors and business managers has jumped. This trend will continue but will probably never eclipse the "wage gap" or shatter the "glass ceiling."

This is because males tend to be more competitive, take more risks and strive for dominance more than females -- tendencies that show up at an early age and across all cultures.

Research shows that boys engage in more competitive play than girls. Boys have a greater thrust toward dominance, hogging classroom discussions even in preschool. Browne writes, "Among unfamiliar pairs of 33-month-old children, boys are less likely to pay attention to instructions from girls than girls were to those from boys."

Boys are more active than girls and have less impulse control. A World Health Organization study found that boys are almost two times as likely as girls to die in accidents.

Men are more likely to engage in sky diving, car racing and hang gliding. Men dominate all the risky occupations. In 2000, only 36 New York City firefighters, out of 11,000, were women. More than 90 percent of workplace deaths occur among men.

All around the world, women predominate in caring for the young, the sick and the old. One psychologist said of studies of empathy, "In every case, regardless of the age of the subjects or the measures used, the females obtained higher scores than did the males."

Feminists want to pick and choose their gender differences. No one gets offended by the fact that around the globe, murder tends to be committed by unmarried young males. What causes apoplexy is the notion that the same qualities that can make men so brutish -- competitiveness, risk-taking, etc. -- make them more likely to climb to the top of the business world.

Men are more willing to take career risks that result in higher compensation. They tend to be more driven -- men in full-time jobs work 8 percent to 10 percent more hours than women. They also consider the bottom line more important.

According to Browne, "Women attach greater importance than men to nonwage aspects of work, such as relations with co-workers and supervisors, freedom to take time off, shorter commute time, opportunities to work part time and pleasant physical surroundings."

Even socialism can't erase these differences. Sorenstam's Sweden has created supports to help both working mothers and fathers take time off for child care. Still, only 10 percent of men work less hours after childbirth, compared with 60 percent of women.

Back to golf: None of this is to minimize Sorenstam's achievement. And if her performance prompts a more honest acknowledgment of the differences between men and women -- each wonderful in their own way -- she deserves more than applause from the gallery, she deserves a Nobel Prize.