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Saturday, April 30, 2005

Women in Leadership II – the Non-Theological View

On a previous Theology Tuesday, I had presented the theological case against women in the pastorate/priesthood. In response to some comments, I had mentioned that there are practical reason for the prohibition of women in some leadership positions even without theology.

Hypothesis: There are positions of leadership in society for which most women will be detrimental to the organization.

Logical Support:

1) Men and women are physically different.

2) As a function of these physical differences, the average woman is physically weaker than the average man.

3) Men universally judge others by their physical prowess.

4) Also as a function of these physical differences, men view a woman as a woman first, and anything else, second.

5) Due to these two factors of men’s reasoning, a woman in a leadership position will be distracting. This can often be overcome, but if it is an organization that regularly requires physical performance, it cannot.

Conclusion: Women, as a group, should not be permitted to be leaders in ‘physical’ organizations.


1) While watching an episode of the Greta Van something-or-other show at a hotel, the discussion was about the Atlanta Courtroom shooter. There was some feminist-type who objected when one of the other guests mentioned that the jailer who was overpowered was a “50-year-old grandmother”. Her position was that it could have been a 50-year-old grandfather – why does it matter?

On the one hand she has a valid point – the guard was not overpowered because she was a woman (or a granny, for that matter). She was overpowered due to a combination of inadequate physical strength (primarily) and an inability to use proper techniques against an attacker (secondary). We can all agree that the average woman has less physical strength than the average man, right? Therefore, it is more likely that a female guard would be overpowered than a male guard. As I mentioned above, clearly the position was not awarded based upon physical merit (and never will be), thus it was foolhardy to open this position to women.

2) What kinds of occupations are we referring to here? This list is not all-inclusive, but should be close, and gives you the general idea: soldier, sailor, airman, marine, firefighter, corrections officer, construction worker, security guard, police officer.

The need for physical performance is easy to discern in these occupations. I should address the first argument against my case here. There are positions within those types of organizations that do not require the same level of physical fitness.

I agree 100% with that statement. Neither administrative clerk, nor flagman, nor desk sergeant require the level of physical fitness that the majority of jobs within those occupations often do. Now, I speak from some ignorance on this sentence, but don’t those jobs normally go to those who have spent some time toiling in the others? That is, a police officer certainly does some line time before they can become a desk sergeant. Similarly, I doubt the brand new construction worker gets to do the minimal effort required to be the flagman before putting in his time doing some hard work (construction guys feel free to contradict me if this is not so). The administrative clerk in the prison, police station, fire station or construction office does not “fit” into the occupation I am describing – they would never call themselves “corrections officers/police officers/firefighters/construction workers”. They do not fit under this umbrella.

What do fit under the umbrella are the administrative clerk, cook, supply specialist, and medic in the military. Military members receive the same pay, advancement and citation considerations regardless of occupational specialty. All soldiers are required to perform physical fitness training and basic skills from the manual of common tasks. Performance in both of these areas is important to performance and advancement.

The military recognizes the deficiency of females in the area of physical fitness (strength and endurance, not dexterity and flexibility) and “compensates” by significantly lowering standards in nearly every area for females. Thus, the minimum number of push-ups a 21-year-old male soldier must do to pass his physical fitness test is 42. A female the same age? 18. While we can agree that if a relative level of fitness is what is desired (compared to the population as a whole of that gender), then this is a good idea. However, if a guarantor of physical performance is what is desired, this is a huge mistake. The Army expects an acceptable level of physical strength of it female soldiers to be less than half that of males.

Aside: does anyone know if firefighters and police officers have similar relative scales for tests of physical ability? I would assume the answer is yes.

Why is it a mistake? Think of the kinds of things requiring physical performance in these professions: lifting ammunition, hauling wounded comrades and non-combatants/civilians away from danger, pulling back the charging handle on a .50 caliber machine gun (I have seen female soldiers fail this task), running for long distances, at high speeds, or both, and moving continuously with a significant amount of professional gear (helmets, armored/fireproof clothing, Packs, hoses, axes, etc). Why do we want to put those who have a higher chance of not performing in the positions where lives are at stake?

What still remains is the type of tasks that spurred the discussion – hand-to-hand combat. Physical strength and training are the two primary influences upon a victory in armed and unarmed combat. Simply put, a female with the same level of training as a male will get pulverized almost every time.

Are there exceptions? Certainly. This woman would destroy me, in all likelihood. But how many of these are there in the female population? Furthermore, she has more training than I do. If we were at equivalent levels of training, common sense tells us that, statistically, I would win in a combat with her nine times out of ten. If she were a he, it is five of ten.

Due to the length of this post, I’ll come to a quick semi-conclusion. Women are statistically much physically weaker then men. Unless an organization is prepared to award positions only after a demonstration of the strength level required to attain the positions, women should be prohibited from careers in these fields.

Part III will discuss the views of men about women, and why this makes leadership in any organization more difficult for women.


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