Feature

In a 2005 American Psychologist article, Janet Hyde, PhD, advanced a controversial hypothesis-that men and women are more psychologically alike than they are different.

In the paper, which the Society for General Psychology named as one of the year's best, Hyde reviewed 46 meta-analyses conducted over the previous 20 years on psychological gender differences. Based on her review, she developed the gender-similarities hypothesis, which refutes the view perpetrated by such popular books as "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" (HarperCollins, 1992) that men and women differ enormously in cognitive ability, communication style and social traits. These inflated claims of gender differences are not consistent with the scientific data, says Hyde.

"[Such beliefs] cause harm in numerous realms, including women's opportunities in the workplace, couple conflict and communication, and analyses of self-esteem problems among adolescents," she says.

Hyde's experiences as a woman in academia mirror the ideas she put forth in her gender-similarities hypothesis. Though being female shaped her interest in the psychology of women, she says, in many ways gender doesn't figure into her professional life, which has spanned more than 30 years and helped define the subfield.

Her gender certainly hasn't held her back. In 2002, a study in the Review of General Psychology (Vol. 6, No. 2) listed Hyde among the top 100 psychologists based on the number of citations in introductory psychology textbooks, and in 2001 she served as one of three scientific advisors for Surgeon General David Satcher's "Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior." She also founded the APA journal Emotion and from 1990 to 1992, she worked to advance gender equity as associate vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"I function as any other faculty member in that I do research and teaching, write grant proposals and mentor graduate students," she says. "Being a woman doesn't affect my functioning as a faculty member in psychology."

Nor does being a woman dramatically influence her leadership style.

"A good leader looks the same whether they're a man or a woman," she says.

However, because Hyde identifies herself as an "out-of-the-closet feminist," some of her leadership objectives-such as promoting and mentoring other women-are directly related to her gender.

"Lift as you climb," she says. "If you lead in isolation, you are not going to be effective."

--E. Packard