Women drivers

Les Hearn writes.

In the discussion between Cordelia Fine and Joe Herbert (‘Is testosterone the key to sex differences in human behaviour?’, October 2017) both agree that sexist attitudes can account for much gender imbalance in employment. However, Professor Herbert insists that biological differences, testosterone-related, account for part of the imbalance.

While he may, or may not, be right in some areas, his chosen example, bus-driving, fails to support his argument. As a child in World War 2, he might have noticed that women drivers of buses, ambulances, fire engines, vans, lorries and tractors were often to be seen.

It didn’t take the advent of power steering to nullify the upper body weakness of women, attributable to their lack of testosterone. Different gearing, steering wheel sizes, and driving techniques had already made it possible for anyone to drive heavy vehicles. It was merely the ‘unsuitability’ of women for such jobs, suspended during wartime, that kept them out of such jobs. As Cordelia Fine says.

Les Hearn
London NW5

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As a youngster growing up in a smallish village I can only remember one woman that drove a car. Later on Women had a bad reputation for being poor drivers.I suspect that evolution is playing its hand here. Men had driven for generations before women (generally) and therefore natural driving instincts were passed on to their sons, but now, in my expertience of teaching girls to drive they are just as good as the boys I taught to drive because more generations have passed of female drivers! This theory could apply to Maths also where there have been more generations of girls being taught the subject.(no personal experience of this Maths bit.)

Biological differences between men and women have a very small contribution towards gender inbalance within the modern world. Sexist attitudes and outdated stereotypes are common barriers creating gender inbalance.

As a 21 year old female applying for my first class 1 HGV driving job, with 2 years class 2 driving experience. I had to face being told I was ’unsuitable’ for the role every day. Fortunately I am a determined and resourceful person, I found a company I wanted to work for and I agreed I was completely ‘unsuitable’ for the role. The director was intrigued and as the job had not yet been advertised I told him he WAS employing me on a 8 week trial basis, if we still agreed after the trial that I was unsuitable for the role, then I would leave. 

1. I was too short, I just could not reach the peddles and lean out the window to see where the trailer was going.

2. I was not physically strong enough to pick up large blue pallets and load them onto the back of the truck (which was too high for me). We had to handball upto 100 pallets by hand on our own.

3. I could not throw heavy straps over a16ft high stack of pallets. to this day i still cannot open and close curtainsider trailers, my last attempt the curtain was caught by the wind and i was subsequently launched across the yard, this is not an experience I wish to repeat. 


arguably the above reasons are due to lack of testosterone, but each problem was solved with a willpower and determinism. I had the site mechanic work on adapting the seat position so i could reach the peddles. I struggled to lift pallets for the first 6 weeks and struggled through lifting pallets until muscles were formed to make it much easier. I spent days on end throwing the straps until I mastered it, getting as much advice from a range of different drivers as possible.


Over time I went from being the ‘unsuitable female‘ that shouldn‘t be working in a mans world, to a driver equal to all male drivers on the team. 


Is testosterone the key to sex differences in human behaviour?  Or is it worth exploring if will power and determinism is half of the key to sex differences in human behaviour?