Difficult Conversations – Glass Ceilings
On 19 April 2022, the President of the Institution of Structural Engineers visited Barbados on official business. She completed her work and left Barbados without fanfare. To my knowledge, there were no news article in the Barbados media about her or her visit. Ms Jane Entwistle was elected to lead over 30,000 members in over 105 countries – in a profession where the majority are male.
Over my 30-year structural engineering career, I have employed, trained, and promoted engineers of both genders. I have not found a difference in the competence of either. Both adequately performed the mental and physical requirements of their assignments.
MEN AND WOMEN ARE DIFFERENT.
Men and women are obviously physiologically different. It is a fact that men are generally stronger and faster than women. To allow fair competition in strength and speed-based sports, men and women compete separately.
This reveals a glass ceiling that women are yet to break through. Namely, competitive sports where physical speed and strength are not measured. The prime example are chess and draughts games, where gender-segregated competitions are tolerated.
When competing, a person must dig deep, and demand more from themselves than they thought that they had. In preparation for such competitions, wise athletes subject themselves to intense training intended to increase their reserve strength and endurance, from which they can draw during the competitive event.
If a person’s competitors are limited to a weaker group, then their training tends to be limited to the level of their expected competition. For example, an 18-year old secondary school athlete would be expected to train less strenuously, to run a race against 5-year old primary school students, then he would to run against 20-year old athletes.
Women can compete intellectually with men. But limiting women to compete against each other, may reinforce a mental state of inferiority in women, and superiority in men, which should not be enabled. The psychological harm to both men and women, is not offset by the short-term perceived benefits of gender segregated mind-based competitions.
Rather than address the segregation of mind-based competitions, organisers are allowing men to compete in women’s strength and speed-based sports. As expected, the men are dominating. Surprisingly, many women in developed countries are promoting this strangeness.
I believe that women should be allowed to compete with men in strength and speed-based sports, but only if they want to. The obvious exception is contact sports (like boxing) where women risk suffering permanent injuries. I also believe that men should be allowed to compete with women in strength and speed-based sports, but only with the unanimous informed consent of the women in the competitive event.
If the competition is informal, and there are no financial benefits to be gained, then women may welcome the challenge of competing with men. However, if there are direct or indirect financial benefits to the winners, then the women should be informed about what they may lose, before giving their consent.
Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer. He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com