I'm always a little leery when I see an article that claims scientists have "proven" something, especially when the evidence is a single test that involved only 50 male and 50 female students. That's the way I felt when I read "Scientists prove that women are better at multitasking than men."
But then I started looking at some other tests that talked about the differences in brain structure (and my own experiences with people who multitask, and those who don't) and I've decided that this may be a true statement after all.
For example, Neurologist Robert Gorski at the University of California confirmed that the corpus callosum (the nerve connections between the right and left hemispheres of the brain) is 30 percent more highly developed in the female brain than the male brain. These nerve connections allow information to flow more easily from one side of the brain to the other, which allows a woman to focus on more than one thing at a time.
Now many men, when they read this will be okay with it because they don't look at multitasking as a good thing. To them, when you spread your concentration around, you get less quality in whatever work you're focused on. I can see that. But with today's workforce adding more responsibilities to workers' plates everyday, at what point does the ability to multitask become a preference? When does just getting some crap done override a perfect outcome?
Some men will say they can multitask, and they probably can. And some women can't multitask. I don't think you can draw the line that clearly between women and men.
Funny aside: One web site I was on that was discussing this topic featured a comment from an earnest teen-aged boy who took issue, saying he could multitask. He could "talk and listen at the same time" or "listen to music and concentrate." That reminds me so much of something my son would say. (For our purposes here, however, let's say "multi" refers to more than two things.)
Now, here comes the part where I get the hate letters: My own experience in several different workplaces seems to indicate to me that women do indeed multitask better than men. I do tend to wait on men to complete duties more than I do women.
What is your experience?
Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.