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Personality differences in gender

Personality and Dynamics of the Millennials

Returning from a long hiatus, this marks the first of a series of post dealing with personality and its dynamics.

Why analyze personality? From an academic perspective, it is very interesting. And from a workplace perspective, more than relevant. The better we understand ourselves and other people, the more successful we’ll be in dealing with people and situations, and importantly, getting it right. Psychology could be termed an academic discipline, but understanding personality it is a much more practical subject, especially in a workplace. It is about using psychology to your advantage in everyday situations, to ‘get’ people, to influence, help and support, to get your point across, in a way that’s right for you, to better understand and shape decision-making, to motivate and manage people, and deal with conflict and most importantly to understand and manage our own impact on other people.



From a leadership perspective, it helps to understand if your team member is someone who tends to hold back initially and think things through, or ‘speak out loud?’. Do they exhibit a blunt directness or tactful diplomacy? Do they like to get the job done before chilling, or do they chill then get the job done? Communication and flexibility are important aspects of being a leader, and understanding the personalities of your employees can help you improve both. Knowing how your employees are likely to adapt in different situations will allow you to put them in positions where they are primed to succeed. Isn’t that the very definition of a leader? By doing so, not are you laying the foundation for your team be more successful, but you will also have a better grasp on when employees are reaching out of their comfort zones, which can help you determine what projects they care about. For example, if a typically introverted employee becomes more extraverted on a certain project, it may be a clue that she cares about the project enough to step outside of her comfort zone. This can start an important discussion about her/his priorities and preferences, and allow you to draw out her best work in the future. Understanding your co-workers’ and employees’ personalities is an indispensable part of being a good leader. Awareness of personality helps reduce stress in the environment, cultivate healthier working relationships and develop healthier lifestyles.

The test, test takers and data

An in-house test was developed by the resident Neuroscientist, Dr. Marcia Goddard. The test aims in deciphering and understanding the personality of the test taker (referred to as candidates going forward) in 38 facets shown below. (The tests and metrics are all in Dutch. English translation where possible are given. Mind you some of these Dutch terms do not have a direct English equivalent.)

S. No Personality Trait English Translation
1 aanpassingsvermogen adaptability
2 analyseren analyzing
3 assertiviteit assertiveness
4 besluiten nemen decision making
5 commercieel vermogen commercial mindedness
6 contactvaardigheid ability to make contact
7 creativiteit creativity
8 delegeren delegating
9 dienstverlenend service minded
10 discipline discipline
11 doorzetten not giving up
12 durf daring
13 feedback geven giving feedback
14 flexibiliteit flexibility
15 helikopterview helicopter view
16 initiatief taking initiative
17 inleven in anderen empathy
18 innoveren innovating
19 integriteit integrity
20 klantgerichtheid client oriented
21 kwaliteitsgerichtheid quality oriented
22 luisteren listening
23 motiveren motivating
24 nauwkeurigheid accuracy
25 netwerken networking
26 onderhandelen negotiating
27 ondernemen entrepreneurial mindset
28 oordeel vormen judgement
29 organisatiesensitiviteit organizational sensitivity
30 organiseren organizing
31 overtuigen convincing
32 plannen planning
33 presenteren presenting
34 prestatiemotivatie motivation to do well
35 resultaatgerichtheid result oriented
36 samenwerken team work
37 stressbestendig stress handling
38 sturen direct people

The test was taken by roughly 15000 (predominantly Dutch) candidates, of diverse background, ranging from young people (14 yo) to old (80 yo), with educations from middelbare school and all the way up to PhD graduates, with specialization from Engineering to Psychology.

While the preliminary analyses caters to all candidates, some simplifying assumptions were made to the final analyses to achieve better targeting:

  • Restrict the data to only the millennial generation
  • Simplify the education discipline to Technical (Engineering, Economics, etc.) and Non-technical (Psychology, Business studies, etc.)
  • Remove all missing values

The data provides both an in-depth and broad research into personal qualities, and opens up perspectives to provide insight into development opportunities to suit the needs of the workplace.

The age distribution of the candidates look like a Weibull distribution, with the mean and median ages at around 24 and 23 respectively.

The gender distribution looks as below, with men totalling approximately 2/3rd of women.

The education level and discipline, and multi-lingual abilities are distributed as below.

This concludes the exploratory analysis. All the subsequent analyses will investigate the dynamics of personality traits with candidate attributes like gender, age, education level, education type, multi-lingual abilities. In this piece, we begin with gender. Given the sample is not random and confined to a particular geography and demographic, one may not generalize the results of the analyses to a wider audience. Do so at your own risk!

Gender and Personality: A quick statistical discourse

People perceive the differences between men and women to be large. The saying ‘Men are from Mars, women are from Venus’ and countless other examples from popular culture reinforce this view of significant differences between the sexes – but is it accurate? Men and women have clearly different biological roles when it comes to propagation of the species. Understanding ‘how much’ they differ psychologically is a question that requires empirical research to answer adequately. This is the objective of this first analysis.

Personality is often conceptualized as the extent to which someone displays high or low levels of specific traits. Traits are the consistent patterns of thoughts, feelings, motives, and behaviors that a person exhibits across situations. That is, someone who scores high on a trait will exhibit psychological states related to that trait more often and to a greater extent than individuals who score low on that trait. In this study, gender differences in personality traits are characterized in terms of which gender has higher scores on that trait, on average, corrected for their sample sizes using appropriate techniques.

Before any analysis, it’s worth taking a moment to understand the structure in the data and visually examine trends, if any.


One might note the lack of vivid trends, but might observe the ‘islands’ dominated by each gender (denoted by blue and red). This indicated a reasonable level of ‘separation’ between the genders. Separation in this context implies differences in personalities. Its important to note that there is no evidence of statistical significance yet.

There are noticeable differences in the mean values as shown by the box plot, but again, there is no evidence to support (or disprove) their statistical significance.

Adding a simple binary classification model to the data reveal a similar picture.

The logit model shows that integrity, empathy and judgement are the 3 most important factors that are indicative of the genders. An incorrect way to interpret this would be a gender having absolute integrity while the other has none. A better way to state this would be that in the sample of candidates, there is a noticeable difference in the overall scores between the 2 genders. Same interpretation ought be extended to the other personality traits.

At this juncture, it is important to note that the male sample is roughly 2/3rd that of women. Thus the imbalance in the sample sizes need to be corrected with ‘effect size’. Cohen’s D is used to assess the effect sizes (though η2 is also used just to corroborate the Cohen’s D effect sizes. The 2 measures have good agreement).

personality male_mean female_mean cohensD effect_size_cohensD eta_sq effect_size_EtaSq
adaptibility 6.43 6.68 0.14 small 0.005 small
analyzing 4.78 4.37 0.22 small 0.011 small
assertiveness 5.76 4.77 0.50 medium 0.056 small
decision making 5.25 4.57 0.58 medium 0.075 medium
commercialminded 5.38 5.45 0.05 small 0.001 small
ability to make contact 6.03 6.15 0.08 small 0.002 small
creativity 6.71 7.03 0.17 small 0.007 small
delegating 5.31 4.83 0.48 small 0.052 small
service minded 4.31 5.04 0.53 medium 0.062 medium
discipline 4.40 4.49 0.07 small 0.001 small
not giving up 5.18 4.80 0.24 small 0.013 small
daring 5.40 4.96 0.36 small 0.029 small
giving feedback 5.55 5.01 0.45 small 0.046 small
flexibikity 6.04 6.13 0.06 small 0.001 small
helicopter view 5.62 5.40 0.20 small 0.009 small
taking initiative 4.58 4.74 0.10 small 0.002 small
empathy 4.35 5.31 0.62 medium 0.083 medium
innovating 6.71 7.03 0.17 small 0.007 small
integrity 4.18 5.31 0.63 medium 0.087 medium
client oriented 4.55 5.17 0.51 medium 0.058 small
quality oriented 5.16 5.61 0.45 small 0.047 small
listening 5.36 5.78 0.40 small 0.037 small
motivating 4.90 4.87 0.02 small 0 small
accuracy 4.45 4.36 0.06 small 0.001 small
networking 4.56 4.85 0.20 small 0.01 small
negotiating 5.42 4.92 0.39 small 0.034 small
enterpreneur 5.48 5.35 0.10 small 0.002 small
judgement 5.22 4.67 0.53 medium 0.062 medium
organizational sensitivity 4.41 4.95 0.43 small 0.043 small
organizing 5.18 5.09 0.09 small 0.002 small
convincing 5.13 4.81 0.32 small 0.023 small
planning 4.98 5.11 0.09 small 0.002 small
presenting 5.25 4.97 0.16 small 0.006 small
motivation to do well 4.59 4.57 0.01 small 0 small
result oriented 4.50 4.49 0.01 small 0 small
team work 5.10 5.23 0.09 small 0.002 small
stress handling 5.29 4.54 0.41 small 0.038 small
direct people 5.55 5.01 0.45 small 0.046 small

Though there are no large effects, the medium effects still signifies significant differences between the genders.

It is interesting to note that women have a higher scores in empathy, integrity, service mindedness and client oriented-ness, traits one might usually associate more with women. Men have scored higher in assertiveness, a trait one would usually associate men to be good at. Associating a gender doing better in decision making and judgement is not trivial, but among the millennials who took these tests, men seem to score better than their female counterparts.

The intent of this series of analyses is to break the gender stereotypes (especially in a work setting) and help kickstart a constructive and a progressive discussion on how to be sensitive towards the personality differences between the genders. After all, an imbalance within the genders isn’t the best way towards its Nash Equilibrium!

This concludes part 1 of the personality analysis. The subsequent analysis would investigate the effects of other attributes like age, education level and type and lingual ability.

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