Why Is Collaboration Easier for Women Than for Men?

08 March 2017

According to recent advances in brain imaging reported by Barbara Annis, Shelley E. Taylor, and Leonard Schlain, our knowledge of the differences in men’s and women’s brains, and the role that hormones play, has revolutionized our understanding of human behavior. Advances in brain imaging now allow us to literally see the dramatically different ways that men and women communicate, listen, solve problems, make decisions, handle emotions, deal with conflict, and manage stress. The following discoveries indicate that women, in general, have a collaborative edge.

• A woman’s corpus callosum is larger on average. It is also shaped differently and contains more nerve fibers that enable women to travel back and forth between the left and right sides of the brain more easily. This means that women tend to engage logical and creative thinking at the same time. Their logic flow doesn’t necessarily stop their creativity.

• The size and shape of a woman’s corpus callosum also enable her to decode unspoken components of a meeting or exchange, such as body language, tone of voice, and facial expression, while at the same time staying engaged in the content of the discussion. Women often take a more inclusive perspective of situations and typically view the various elements of a problem or task as interconnected.

• Women typically have a larger anterior cortex than men do. Many scientists attribute women’s superior ability to integrate memories and emotions into more--complex patterns of thought to this finding. They tend to weigh more variables, consider more options, and visualize a wider array of solutions.

• The prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that controls judgment, decision--making, and “executive function,” is larger in women and develops earlier. It biologically steers women toward win–-win solutions to conflict. As a result, they tend to look for ways to compromise and serve the needs of others.

• Oxytocin, known as the social--attachment hormone, is produced in greater quantities in women. It affects social recognition and bonding as well as the formation of trust between people.

While it may be true that collaboration is more natural to most women, the four strategies of this book foster and nurture it in all of us.


This is an excerpt from the book “Collaborative Intelligence” by Dawna Markova and Angie McArthur. Copyright © 2015 by Dawna Markova and Angie McArthur. Reprinted by arrangement with Spiegel & Grau, an imprint of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.