business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

There was a provocative piece in the New York Times over the weekend pointing out how, during last week’s Boston Marathon - in which runners were beset with “horizontal rain and freezing temperatures” - there also was a lesson in fortitude.

“Finishing rates varied significantly by gender,” the story says. “For men, the dropout rate was up almost 80 percent from 2017; for women, it was up only about 12 percent. Overall, 5 percent of men dropped out, versus just 3.8 percent of women. The trend was true at the elite level, too.”

What this provided, was “an example of women’s ability to persevere in exceptionally miserable circumstances. In good weather, men typically drop out of this race at lower rates than women do, but this year, women fared better.”

How come?

“One theory is that women handle cold weather better because their bodies naturally have more fat,” the Times story says. “In general, it’s true that the essential body fat level - one you can’t medically dip beneath - hovers around 3 percent for men and 12 percent for women (when it comes to racing, breasts aren’t exactly performance-enhancing, but they’re still usually part of the deal). And the insulating subcutaneous fat layer under the skin is twice as thick in women as in men.”

However, it also might be connected “to the perception, or tolerance, of pain,” the story says. “Here’s a potential, if contentious, factor: Childbirth is by most accounts excruciating, and because women’s athletic and fertility peaks are close or overlap, a lot of the female marathoners who race Boston have also given birth.”

And, there’s another possibility: “The people who run Boston are a self-selecting group. Women are often discouraged from being athletic and competitive, so the female runners who made it to Boston had already overcome more social obstacles than men. They may simply be tougher, and this was a year when toughness worked.”

Of course, toughness is not limited to women. But the Eye-Opening observation, I think, is that this year, it may have mattered more than ever, and the women in the race had it in greater supply than the men. This could be seen as yet another reason that in a competitive business environment, companies should more and more turn to women not just for their leadership skills and ability to see problems differently than men, but also because they’re just plain tougher than we are.

Which doesn’t really surprise me at all.
KC's View: