Women Leaders

October 7, 2014

Although the brains of men and women are much more similar than different, the hormonal influences on the female brain seem to tend toward verbal agility and deeper relationships.

PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE NEWS

A small story in the October 6, 2014 edition of the Wall Street Journal caught my attention: Two Women Win Spots Atop Big Law Firms. We all tend to read what interests us.

For me, perhaps it caught my attention because we are waiting to see whether a woman lawyer, and now grandparent, Hillary Clinton, runs for President. Perhaps it was because my lawyer sister is the executive vice president and general counsel of the Chicago Board Options exchange. Perhaps it is because of the most competent women in leadership of this publication.

In recently researching theories about leadership for a book chapter on Ethical Leadership in Psychiatry, for which I received much valuable feedback from women leaders in psychiatry, some potentially important differences became apparent. Although the brains of men and women are much more similar than different, the hormonal influences on the female brain seem to tend toward verbal agility and deeper relationships. Consequently, women tend to resolve ethical dilemmas based on the ethics of care relationships, versus men on principles of justice.

However, the major influence on opportunities for leadership are cultural values. Until recently in some countries, that meant women leadership mainly took place in families and in parenting.

In psychiatry, the opportunities for women leaders have been relatively more numerous. Perhaps the field of psychiatry, with its emphasis on interpersonal communication and care ethics, dovetails so nicely with those general brain differences.

In law as well as in the world, we’ll have to see if women leaders make any difference. Will women leaders model after men leaders or be significantly different? Given the state of those areas, I hope there will be beneficial differences.