Social conditioning has a lot to answer for. It is one of those vague terms used to explain away all sorts of injustices in the battle for gender equality. In the past, I have felt ambivalent about it, believing that it was all too easy to make social conditioning the scapegoat for our difficulties in achieving equal pay, boardroom roles for women, or penetrating male-dominated professions. However, a startling survey by Privilege Insurance last week on female and male drivers not only challenges the old myth that men are better drivers, but also demonstrates just how pernicious social conditioning can be.
Firstly, the survey finds that women are better drivers than men, in use of speed, observational skills on the road and response to other road users (among other things). Secondly, it suggests that there is a discrepancy between women's ability on the road and how they are perceived as drivers by society. The results from the survey actually show that both sexes tend to believe men are better drivers.
Anecdotally this is borne out by my experiences of being in a car. On family outings, my husband is always the default driver because there is a general assumption that he is the better driver. Similarly, when I was learning to drive as a teenager, my family use to tease me for being a bit dopey, while they described my brother as a "natural driver". Possibly I am the exception to the rule, but how many times do we observe a car making an error on the roads and then assume it must be a woman behind the wheel?