Rand famously said she would not want female president, a claim that has brought charges of sexism and a false accusation that Rand thought a woman wasn’t capable of being president. Whether or not your agree with the statement, she said nothing about ability. She was talking about a woman wanting to be president. Her statement (a psychological statement, not one of philosophy) was about inclination and interest alone. This difference and mixing up of ability and interest is the one thing I wish I could get through to people.
Philosophy and psychology are related, but not the same and this Google memo has brought up a question of what is a proper psychological system that fits with and follows from a philosophy of rational egoism. Modern psychology is a mess dominated by radical behaviorism and determinism with no small dash of Freudian influence stating your actions come from your desires. We are told we are either merely complex animals or complex machines, nothing more.
One reaction I’ve seen in the Objectivist reactions has been a wholesale rejection of all psychology and an attempt to replace it with a sort of Übermensch or Überkinder where children are brought into this world as creatures of pure will. Free will is being used as a catchall. Some people prefer chocolate to vanilla ice cream? They must have willed it! This is being mixed with a deterministic view. In reaction to the claim that men and woman’s biology are different we hear that their brains are the same so their minds must be the same. It’s just the other side of the same faulty reasoning.
This rejection of psychology is a surrender. If the only answer to differences between people is “free will” and a complete denial of differences in personality and interests, a rational view of psychological differences will never be accepted. The “men are better than women at programming” nonsense can be shot down by counterexample after counterexample, but one would suffice. If biology is all that matters we wouldn’t have a sizable minority of female programmers who are equal in every way to men. These women are not acting against their nature but with it. Obviously there is more at play here than simple biology.
My answer is temperament. A favorite quote of mine is “Nature to be commanded, must be obeyed.” and it applies in psychology as well. We all have free will, Ayn Rand could have decided to be a used car salesperson and given her abilities and intelligence she likely could have done well. But she also likely would have been miserable. Instead she choose to pursue a life that interested her and thankfully so. She was never forced to be an author, but in choosing to be one she acted in line with her personality, with her temperament, and both she and the rest of the world were better for it.
It is obvious there is a wide range of personalities and temperaments in the world. It is also apparent that that distribution does not fall evenly across the genders. Whether the cause is nature, nurture, or both there will be more women than men in nursing and more men than women in waste management. When hiring/firing none of this matters, you should go for the person best suited for the job. When this natural difference becomes a justification for affirmative action and quotas, it becomes important. As usual, the only real solution is individualism.
If I come across big on temperament and personality, it is because it is the only psychological system that I have found that is consistent with reality. It can explain differences in people, not of morality, but of preference. The rampant egalitarianism in our society wants to excuse away these differences, but we are all lucky they exist. We need gruff construction workers and empathetic first grade teachers of whatever gender. The fact that every job is not 50/50 is a feature of a free society, not a bug. People are using their free will to choose jobs that they actually are interested in and that is a whole lot better than some central planned forced “equality” of misery.