At the end of the 1990s I took a job working in the Cambridgeshire Fens. I’d been told all sorts of horror stories about the people in that part of the world, all too shocking to repeat here and, as it happens, none of them true. But one observation from a local resident (not an ‘incomer’ as anyone who wasn’t born and bred there is known) was accurate.
I was three days into my new job and he said “Chris, you have the advantage of being male and mature.” At 45 years old, it was the first time I’d been described as mature (I took the identification as male as a given). I wasn’t quite sure what he meant with his comment until a while later when my work colleagues in similar roles would be reduced to tears by the behaviour of retired male councillors (at that time, many councillors in that part of rural Cambridgeshire were older and male…) My colleagues were female, often straight out of university, and those older men thought they had nothing to learn from a younger, female, generation of advisers.
I could only apologies for the behaviour of what I think are called ‘unreconstructed males’ – or male chauvinists as we used to call them – the type who still refer to women under 40 as ‘girls’ thinking (or probably not thinking!) it doesn’t sound derogatory or disrespectful – even though they wouldn’t describe men of the same age as ‘boys’?
So, if age and gender is an explanation for inexcusably bad behaviour at that upper end of the age range, can if explain (but not excuse) bad behaviour of men who may more accurately be described as boys – certainly in terms of their behaviour – being closer to 20 than 30?
I was thinking about this recently when talking to a female colleague about my experience of working with young women in comparison with young men. I advise young would-be entrepreneurs wanting to set up their own businesses and, almost without exception, age-for-age the women progress further and faster than the men.
My colleague, admitting to being something of an amateur psychologist, said that it’s recognised that in general women’s brain’s do mature earlier than men’s, with the male brain maturing on average at around 25 years. She used the example of F1 racing drivers to make her point; and I’m sure it wouldn’t take much to show that most shunts in motor racing involve younger, less mature, drivers.
I know I’m making gross generalisations here and, as the reconstructed father of a 27-year-old daughter I’m probably biased, but I’m not about to take up F1 grand prix racing just to prove my point.