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Wednesday, 1 November, 2000, 16:45 GMT
Are women better negotiators?

"The potential contribution of women to peace and security remains severely undervalued", Kofi Annan said, urging the Security Council to appoint more women to top jobs.

Women bear more than their fair share of the suffering in conflicts, he said, adding that those who knew the price of conflict so well were often better equipped than men to prevent or resolve it.

Is he right? Is it because of women's empathy or because they would use different negotiating tactics? Would the Middle East, for example, be better off with a woman negotiator?

This debate is now closed. Your reaction:

Women may be more willing to try creative solutions

Anastasia, USA
I believe both women and men have the ability to be fair-minded and skilful negotiators. However, women may be more willing to try creative solutions. Also they are more likely to consider the impact on families, whereas men will only look at policy implications and strategy.
Anastasia, USA

I agree that women should play a greater role in negotiation/ conflict management BUT this is different from arguing that women are better/ worse than men in this field. Negotiation requires both natural and learned skills - communication, problem-solving, developing creative options to satisfy interests, etc. Negotiators are not born. Whoever has the capacity to learn has the capacity to become an effective negotiator and that has nothing to do with gender.
Mikhala, Latvia/ USA

Look at Margaret Thatcher

S. Huntley, England
Women may be considered disarming and compassionate but look at Margaret Thatcher and other females who hold/ have held positions of power. They become more ruthless than the men.
S. Huntley, England

Why do we always have to categorise? Some women are compassionate and good at negotiation, likewise some men. Forget gender (or indeed race, age or any other category) let's just have the person most suitable for the job.
Helen, UK

A very dear business-lady once told me, "You men are so stupid; you even have rules for war".
Ron Ryan, Australia

Women have come a long way

Chris, USA-Military
Women have come a long way and have worked hard to show they can be leaders equal to men. Give them a chance to show it.
Chris, USA-Military

Are women better negotiators? Only when negotiating against men.
Mark F, UK

Besides Albright, all qualified women would be fine for me. They are more likely (I hope) to consider the humanitarian aspects when dealing with issues.
Said Benomar, Morocco

I worked for a female manager and she was easily the worst I've ever encountered

Phil, England
Oh here we go. "Women make better leaders because they're more caring and compassionate than their male counterparts." RUBBISH. How caring and compassionate was Maggie Thatcher? Or Virginia Bottomley? Or Edwina Curry? I worked for a female manager and she was easily the worst I've ever encountered: self-centred, arrogant and totally clueless. A lot of good people lost their jobs because of her incompetence.
Phil, England

It would be a risk-free experiment to have women resolve conflict, considering the miserable record men have established.
Falah Hadad, Texas, USA

It is true that women may be better problem solvers in familial matters, but once the affairs of the world and conflicts between countries are concerned, a protocol is followed that is based on the socio-political traditions of the countries involved regardless of whether the peacemakers are men or women. Would we have a less violent world if all the world's leaders were women and all peace negotiations were conducted by women delegates? I think not!
Bruce, USA

Women are more compassionate

Mandhoj Tamang, Canada
Women are more compassionate. They work with their heart. Men think they work with their head but take to the heart when they realise. The result can be seen in the Middle East. Women at least can not go as violent as men. They are physically weak but compassionately very strong. To show compassion is a sign of weakness for men - that is how it is perceived. Compassion is strength in case of women. How men misunderstand.
Mandhoj Tamang, Canada

I feel that men and women both have the same capabilities of good negotiating. But I have had male and female managers and see no difference at all. I do think, however, that if the negotiator is a parent or has a vast experience of people, this seems to help greatly.
Justin Bryant, United Kingdom

Of course women are better negotiators than men. Women are sensible and more practical, whereas men are just concerned about their ego.
Milena, UK

I find a much greater proportion of men being more objective, fair and less influenced by emotions of a moment

Mikko Toivonen, Finland
I fully disagree with that assumption. Based on simple life experience I find a much greater proportion of men being more objective, fair and less influenced by emotions of a moment. Also less partial with own tribe or relatives and less influenced by "slippery" liars. It is definitely a bad mistake to "man" UN positions with women assuming what Mr Annan assumes. It is comparable to running the UN based on astrology.
Mikko Toivonen, Finland

Surely it all hinges on what the issue is? I really do wish people would get off this gender thing. The only victim is common sense.
Chris, Germany

Mr Annan is probably right that the value of women in resolving problems is underestimated, however, I do not think this would provide better progress in the Middle East situation because of the position of women in the religion of the Islam. This is one of the problems that has created many problems, and in this case I don't think it can be solved better by women.
Fred de Klein, UK

My wife agrees. She says she is always right and that I just don't listen.
Robert David Hiner, USA

Females are still taught the (devalued) virtues of femininity from a young age. These include, among others, compassion, co-operation and interdependence. It would seem, then, that women would make better negotiators for peace. However, in order for females to succeed in a political/ economic system built on the premise of the virtues of masculinity (i.e. competition, individualism) they must adopt these guiding principles in order to 'reach the top'. Thus, it is not a sex or gender question; the whole political/ economic issue is just lop-sided in terms of inherent values.
Linda, Canada

Women get plenty of practice at having to resolve children's squabbles

David Hazel, UK
Women get plenty of practice at having to resolve children's squabbles when they are mothers. Given that most international disputes seem to be little more than childish squabbles using adult methods, maybe there is something in the idea.
I agree that women are generally better at resolving disputes than men, but this isn't always the case. I've known women to occasionally goad men into fighting each other, rather than trying to stop the dispute.
David Hazel, UK

I think what really needs to be addressed is that the number of women is lower than the number of men in conflict resolution situations. It is unfair to play the sexes against each other. All those affected by conflict need to be present at the table when negotiating the end to a conflict. That means not only women and men but young and old and majorities and minorities.
Christina, USA

Women inherently are prone to settling arguments in an amicable way. They also seem to possess better skills at approaching rapprochement and are better at resolving conflicts. Could it be because they realise that the alternative (bloodshed and violence) results in a loss of their children/brothers/husbands? Maybe.
Srinivas Rangaraj (male), Canada

Sexist rubbish, or rather that this is the sort of question that can not be asked in a PC world, just like; are men better athletes than women, are women too emotional, are men less sensitive? These questions will only be answered in terms of what is currently politically correct, therefore the answers are subjective and meaningless.
Graeme, England

Women can be great negotiators as Margaret Thatcher showed with her decisive result in the Falklands.
Chris Klein, UK

In arguments that involve solely women you see very little compromise or empathy

Phil Eadie, UK
A woman's ability to resolve conflict relies more on her ability to offer neutrality in a male orientated argument and command a certain amount of respect in the presence of men (Perfect for the UN). In arguments that involve solely women you see very little compromise or empathy.
Phil Eadie, UK

I don't think women are better than men in solving problems. Women are both creators and destroyers. I know many success stories of men and women who have acted wisely to resolve crises in different situations. I don't know whether any proper study has been conducted to know whether women can resolve conflicts better than men. Whoever listens to others and understands what others say can be good at negotiating. What is very essential is one should be objective and impartial. Women are equal to men. There is no sex called weaker sex.
Albert P'Rayan, India/Rwanda

At best this all sounds very patronising to women

Dom, Australia
I don't think I understand where Kofi Annan is coming from on this. At best this all sounds very patronising to women at worst it clouds very complex social, political and economic issues which are at the root of many conflicts at the level of society.
What appears to be under attack here is masculinity - those traits such as determination, power, assertiveness, reason, single-mindedness and strength etc - in favour of those feminine traits of passivity, emotion, gentility and compromise.
Men and women possess and use both these personality traits in abundance, it is very patronising to suggest that because you are women you only possess passive and compromising feminine traits. Can anyone remember Maggie Thatcher backing out of a conflict?
Dom, Australia

Women? Men? Next what? Transvestites? Transsexuals? When are we going to stop focussing on gender and rather focus on the person and his/her capability?
There will always be a woman who is stronger than an average male and a man who will be better than the average female homemaker. It is the person and not the gender.
Bernard, India

These sweeping generalisations, littered with the usual politically-correct and asinine rhetoric, have no place in our modern society. It is the best PERSON for the job that counts, whether that be a Madeleine Albright or a Tony Blair. The sooner we start thinking this way, instead of adding bogus attributes/ handicaps to the gender of competent individuals, the sooner we'll all grow up.
Mark M. Newdick, USA/ UK

Fairer sex? Certainly!

Kate, England
In my experience it's usually women who seek reconciliation and negotiate compromise in situations where there is disagreement. It is frequently the woman, in a mixed sex dispute, who diffuses arguments and sees multiple points of view. Women, for whatever reason (and I'm sure quite a lot could be suggested) seem to be much more likely to want to reach a negotiated compromise which both parties can be satisfied with, rather than demand their own way. Fairer sex? Certainly!
Kate, England

Imagine the outrage if you suggested legitimacy by asking; "Are men better natural leaders than women?" Reverse sexism allows this question to be asked in a sober and respected forum. You would have none of it if the shoe were on the other foot and you suggested the possibility of men actually being better equipped for something important than females.
Luc Pere, Lucerne, Switzerland

Generally speaking, I think women are better at resolving conflicts, but not always. Generally girls aren't goaded into the "I've got something to prove" mindset, and they're usually more willing to compromise. They're not taught that willingness to compromise is equal to backing down, and losing face. I know from experience, women make better bosses.
Morgan O'Conner, USA

Completely unqualified statements of this kind irritate me in the extreme. Has a study been conducted? I very much doubt it. Then where did this come from?
Rob Harris, England

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25 Oct 00 | AudioVideo
Clinton considers Middle East talks
25 Oct 00 | Middle East
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