About Boys and Girls (and Men and Women): one difference counts

June 14th, 2018

Time was, it took real strength to operate the controls in the cabs of heavy equipment. But with everything computerized these days, anyone with two hands and two feet (and eyes and ears) can do just fine, male or female, big or small.

Still, a recent article [2] presented the following “observations” about men and women:

  • women pay more attention to instruction (because they listen better)
  • women treat their equipment better (because they’re not competing with other operators)

Well as the father of two daughters, I don’t like these kinds of generalizations. And growing up, we never talked about “this is something for boys” (or “this is something for girls”). Not when it came to interests, or talents, or toys. And certainly not careers.

Now consider these comments shared with me by the director of a training program at a Canadian high school:

  • boys think that they know more than they do
  • girls think that they know less than they do

The consequence is the same: boys and girls can struggle “equally” (at the controls of heavy equipment) but for different reasons:

  • boys need to learn to slow down
  • girls need to learn to speed up

(Such slowing down / speeding up is best done at a simulator, but that’s a topic for another blog Category.)

The fact remains, women are few and far between in construction, mining, and forestry, And in my part of the world, just 2% of heavy equipment operators are women. (Over the 25 construction industry trades surveyed, the average is 3%.)

And that’s because there are lots of cultural “barriers” to overcome [2].

Still, whether or not you believe that this warrants “affirmative action”, given the choice between training a group of young men or young women, you should always choose women!

And that’s because, even today, there is ONE biological difference that counts: the relative frequency of colour blindness.

Think about it: for someone (red/green) colour blind, reds and greens all look “brown-ish”. And that makes it hard to distinguish between a green light blinking on the dashboard telling you that something’s good, and a red light blinking on the same dashboard telling you that something’s bad.

And here are the numbers about the relative frequencies of colour blindness [3]:

  • among men, 1 in 8, or 12%
  • among women, 1 in 200, or 0.5%

Something to remember the next time you’re looking to train someone’s daughter (or son).

 

References

[1] “Men vs. Women: who are the better heavy equipment operators ?”, Aggregates Manager, August 6, 2014. All rights reserved. https://www.equipmentworld.com/men-vs-women-who-are-the-better-heavy-equipment-operators/

[2] “Hiring Women Can Ease the Labor Shortage”, Construction Dive, March 23, 2018. All rights reserved.

[3] (USA) National Eye Institute: Facts About Color Blindness. https://nei.nih.gov/health/color_blindness/facts_about