The role of biology in explaining 21st century gender conflicts

Professor Paul Seabright


Monday, 3 February, 2014 -
18:00 to 20:00


Tyree Room, John Niland Scientia Building


Faculty of Science

Type of event: 


In this special public lecture, author and academic Dr Paul Seabright will explore the question "Can modern biology help in understanding gender conflicts in the 21st century home and workplace?"

This lecture will consider whether lessons from evolutionary biology can help to understand the persistence of conflicts between men and women in both employment and domestic life.

It will begin by considering very generally the widespread role of conflict over sexual reproduction throughout the natural world, before considering what is special about the way that conflict plays out in human beings. Surprisingly given the widespread presence of sexual differences in other animals, it finds that differences in talents and competences between men and women cannot explain why women are so under-represented in positions of economic power in advanced economies. It will look at new statistical and experimental evidence suggesting that recruitment to positions of power tends to overlook talented women.

This is partly because of the informal and unscientific way in which such recruitment is conducted, and partly because of the different ways in which men and women tend to build informal networks, leading women to be less conspicuous to recruiters than are equally talented men. Overcoming this handicap will require radical changes in the way in which both domestic and working lives are organized, but these are changes from which both men and women stand to benefit.

About Paul Seabright

Paul teaches Economics at the Toulouse School of Economics, is Director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse (IAST), and is a member of the Institut d’Economie Industrielle.

Paul did undergraduate and doctoral studies at the University of Oxford, where he was a Fellow of All Souls College, then taught at the University of Cambridge where he was a Fellow of Churchill College. Paul has also held part-time teaching positions at the College of Europe in Bruges and at the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris.

Paul’s research lies in three areas of microeconomics: industrial organization and competition policy; the economics of networks and the digital society; and behavioral economics (especially the integration of evolutionary biology and anthropology with an understanding of the development of economic institutions in the very long run).

Paul is a Fellow of the Centre for Economic Policy Research, London, a Council Member of the European Economic Association, and a member of the Scientific Council of the think-tank BRUEGEL.

He is the author of several books, including The War of the Sexes: How Conflict and Cooperation have Shaped Men and Women Prehistory to the Present, Princeton University Press, 2012 and The Company of Strangers: A Natural History of Economic Life. Second Edition, Princeton University Press, 2010.

Professor Paul Seabright is a speaker at the Cooperation & Conflict in the Family Conference held at UNSW from 2-5 February 2014.