Differences between male and female abilities — from map reading to multi-tasking — can be traced to variations in the hard-wiring of their brains at birth, it is claimed.
Men instinctively like the colour blue and are bad at coping with pain, we are told, while women cannot tell jokes but are superior at empathising with other people. Bestsellers such as John Gray's Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus have helped stress the innate differences between the minds of men and women.
But a growing number of scientists are challenging the pseudo-science of “neurosexism”, as they call it, and raising concerns about its implications.
These researchers argue that by telling parents that boys have poor chances of acquiring good verbal skills and girls have little prospect of developing mathematical prowess, unjustified obstacles are being placed in the paths of children.
In fact, there are no major neurological differences between the sexes, says Cordelia Fine in her book Delusions of Gender. There may be slight variations in the brains of women and men, added Fine, but the wiring is soft, not hard.
In short, our intellects are not prisoners of our genders or our genes and those who claim otherwise are merely coating old-fashioned stereotypes.