Monique de Kermadec, psychologist and specialist in precocity, looked into this difference, and even made a book, “La femme surdouée. Double difference, double challenge ”(Ed. Albin Michel). She explains to us why gifted women often have a different way of living their high potential .
IT. How did you find that there was a difference between gifted men and gifted women?
Monique de Kermadec. For many years we have talked about the gifted in general. And I myself participated in that: we always talked about the characteristics they share. But it’s been more than 25 years that I receive gifted men and women, and I am obliged to note that there is a different way of experiencing giftedness for women. It’s related to both who they are, their personality, but also to the fact that they live in a world where there are stereotypes and different expectations for men and women, and that has an impact on the way they experience this difference.
IT. How does this difference translate?
Monique de Kermadec. If the characteristics are shared, some are still more exacerbated in women. The feeling of difference, for example, which exists in all gifted people, is stronger in women, because not only are they intellectually different, but also, society has an idea of what a woman should bring, and she comes out of it . these standards. So she has two reasons for feeling different when she grows up. It is also particularly sensitive. This hypersensitivityit can be shared by gifted men too, but in women it is more culturally encouraged. So that in women, it is expressed perhaps much more spontaneously, and with the intensity of a gifted, and will therefore be perceived with more embarrassment by the outside world.
IT. This is contradictory, we require them to be gentle and sensitive, but when they express their emotions …
Monique de Kermadec. … they are said to be hysterical. They also generally have a greater lack of self-confidence than men. When it comes to a promotion or a new job, if the man has 70% of the skills, he goes. The woman, if she doesn’t have 120% of the skills the job requires, she says to herself “no, I can’t”. There is a great personal requirement, a perfectionism that leads them to doubt themselves. And to try to manage things as best they can, they probably have more recourse to the “false self” [a way of conforming to lessen one’s difference, note] than gifted men. That is, they are more attentive to what is expected of them, and to be well accepted, they are more easily ready to give others what they expect. It can create a deep sense of loneliness in them, because they say to themselves “if you knew me for who I am, would you still like me?” “.
IT. So there is a difference in school between gifted girls and boys?
Monique de Kermadec. The little boy cares about giving the answer. How he gives it seems less important to him than having the answer. The girl very quickly understood that to be effective, you had to give the answer as the teacher expected. This difference is not necessarily culturally encouraged, but if the girl has been allowed to be more sensitive, she perceives more quickly what the other is expecting. So this sensitivity, which is a richness, will also at times be a trap, because it will allow us to decode things that others do not decode, and to which it will try to respond.
IT. Is that why we can detect gifted little boys more easily than little girls?
Monique de Kermadec. By the way they behave, boys very often attract the attention of parents or teachers. However, since the girls are good and do not pose any problems, we ask ourselves fewer questions. It starts to change, but at the beginning, there were 70% of boys tested for 30% of girls. Parents would consult when there was a problem, and they would consult to discover that high potential that would “excuse” the indiscipline, for example. I’ve seen parents consult for their son and say ‘our daughter is not expected much anyway’, and in the end the girl was much earlier than the boy. But since she wasn’t a problem, well, we just didn’t care.