Are Men from Mars and Women from Venus?
by Patrick Merlevede, jobEQ's leading researcher

Some books and popular magazines stress the differences between genders when it comes to attitudes and motivations or Emotional Intelligence. Finding major differences in the psychological profiles of men and women could have serious implications for the Human Relations industry. This article presents the results after testing these differences (within the work context) using objective data from jobEQ's questionnaires.

Differences in Metaprograms
The first test was to examine gender differences in attitudes and motivations. Results from the iWAM are used, since it measures these patterns within the work context. Using a large sample1 (1233 men and 1159 women) of iWAM data, you can see that the differences between the mean score for the male and female groups were very significant (p < 0.05) for 18 out of the 48 parameters that iWAM measures. However, if one starts to study these differences more in detail, one will notice that in most case the mean difference lies around 2 percent, with one exception for IF8 (the technical name for the metaprogram: filtering for action) where men score 6 percent lower than women. The relativity of these differences becomes fully clear when we compare it with “real” cultural differences. For instance, if we examine the differences between the Americans (482 persons tested) and the Belgians (684 persons), one finds that 36 out of 48 parameters differ significantly, 29 of these differences are even extremely significant (p < 0.001). In other words, differences between men and women pale in comparison to cultural differences. (for more information on cultural differences, you might want to have a look at the standard group overview graphics). That being said, let's look at the differences we found:

  • The women in the jobEQ test database were concerned about the work approach in general: they were more interested in getting things done (WA1) and in structuring the work (WA3) than the male population. They were also more interested in the present, the here and now (TP2), and more of them want to be the person their company needs (N3). They are more concerned with following procedures (OF4M) and getting the details right (OF5M), filtering more for information (IF4) and action (IF8). The stereotype that women have more attention for emotions of others is confirmed, since they pay more attention to non-verbal communication (OF6P) than the male part of the sample.
  • When it comes to men, they are more interested in making things evolve (So2), more indifferent (N2) and tolerant (N4) when it comes to other people following the rules, more often convinced by what they hear (co2), more motivated by money and getting the right compensation (IF5), more interested in getting the big picture (OF5P) and paying attention to the message content, the exact words being used (OF6M) and they prefer more individual responsibility (OF8P).

In conclusion, some stereotypes indeed get confirmed from looking at the iWAM data, but the differences are not as significant as they sound, because there are much greater differences when comparing cultures rather than genders.

Differences in Value Systems
The next examination of gender differences uses data from the VSQ, or Value Systems Questionnaire. The dataset that is currently available for the VSQ test2 is smaller than the iWAM dataset. We compared the scores for 143 men with 142 women and while the differences we found may be confirmed in a larger follow-up study, it may well be possible that we are currently missing some of the differences that such a large study will show. At this point we only found that men are significantly more “orange” (Graves level 5) than women, while women are significantly more “green” (Graves level 6) than men. For the 2 variables the mean difference lies around 5.4 percent.3 Thus we can infer that men are more competitive and interested in improvement while women are more interested in community and consensus, have more empathy, etc. It is also interesting to point out at some stereotypes we couldn’t confirm. For example, our current data show that neither sex gender is more left-brained or right-brained than the other.

Differences in Emotional Intelligence
The next test involves measuring emotional competence using jobEQ’s COMET/EQ questionnaire. This analysis is based on the test results from 210 men and 157 women who filled out the COMET/EQ questionnaire between March 2 and May 2, 20024. Our findings confirm the notion that women have some more emotional intelligence than the male part of the population. Differences were significant (p < 0.05) for 3 of the 11 parameters tested. First, women score much higher than men when it comes to paying attention to their emotions and coping with the message these emotions has for them (mean difference 7.2 percent, p < 0.001). Secondly, women have more awareness for emotions of others (mean difference 4.7 percent, p < 0.005). And finally, women are more flexible in their communication, adapting themselves more to the needs of the situation (mean difference 3.4 percent, p < 0.05).

Yes, to some extent men are from Mars and women are from Venus. But the distance between these 2 planets is an overestimation when it comes to real differences. We have seen that while the differences seem to confirm the stereotypes, the size of these differences is much smaller than the differences found between Americans and Belgians. Further study may even show that the differences between California and New York are bigger than the gender differences, or that a sales manager differs more from an HR manager than the differences found in this comparison between men and women. These differences do not justify making different standard groups for men and women. Of course, if this were an article for the popular press, the differences found may be large enough to make it to the feature section of a typical magazine…


  1. About 90 percent of the data sample was collected through the Internet (test administered on jobEQ Web site). 80 percent of tests were taken on voluntary basis, others were filled out in the context of training or recruiting projects. The sample has no bias for a typical “student population.” The population that used iWAM is more educated than the average population, with 50 percent of participants having studied long enough to obtain the equivalent of a BA level degree (according to OECD data from 1996, during that year at most 44 percent enroll in programs leading to bachelor's degrees, which is significantly higher than 10 to 20 years earlier). The education level of the male and female group is the same, while their age differs 2 years on average (mean for male population: 39 years, mean for female population: 37 years).
  2. Data sample gathered between October 2001 and May 2002 from people who filled out iWAM on a volunteer basis, some
    of them because of specific interest for the Graves test, others after being invited because they previously had filled out
    the iWAM test in jobEQ’s Public Database.
  3. Looking at the 95 percent confidence interval for the difference, we can say that the means differ between 2.2 and 8.6 percent)
  4. Data sample gathered from people who subscribe to the 7EQ newsletter and people who filled out another jobEQ
    questionnaire before in jobEQ’s public database.

Back to Research or to metaprograms
Continue to our Products

Related Pages
Other Articles

Articles on Specific Metaprograms

The Integral Perspectives Group is an associate since 1998
Buy from Amazon:
7 Steps to Emotional Intelligence, Patrick E. Merlevede, Denis Bridoux et al.
7 Steps to Emotional Intelligence
Patrick E. Merlevede, Denis Bridoux
Words that Change Minds, Shelle Rose Charvet
Mastering Mentoring and Coaching with Emotional Intelligence
Patrick E. Merlevede, Denis Bridoux
Privacy Information

Other Pages

Our Research page will teach you the research background of jobEQ, why thorough research is important, and how we use it to your advantage.

Metaprogram Categories
Many of the jobEQ articles discuss specific metaprogram patterns that the iWAM and our other tools measure. Click here to find out more about the patterns.

last modified: 2013/Mar/12 11:12 CET