Men can't do two things at once. Or so I'm told, by women of course. It's just a stereotype, but there it is. Men can't do work with their hands and talk on the phone at the same time, but women can. Men can't organize their to-do lists while driving their car, but women can. Men can't cook, clean, and keep the baby entertained all at once, no matter how much they try. But women can. Pfah. Sounds like good old-fashioned sexism to me.

And yet....

It's been discovered relatively recently that women's brains tend to have a larger corpus callosum, the neural tissue that connects the left and right halves on the brain. The right side of the brain tends to be used for creative and emotional purposes, while the left side is used for logical and analytical ones. Since each half of the brain controls the opposite side of the body, and since most people are right-handed, most men use the left half more often.

Meanwhile, women's brains are busily shuffling data back and forth between both halves much more frequently, thinking non-linearly and improvisationally while still talking and processing what goes on around them. Maybe it's the non-linear part of the right half that helps; maybe it's the doubled level of activity; maybe it's the creative and logical halves working together. But it doubtless does make a difference in how they work and interact, especially when other people are involved.

Of course, it's also true that the brain develops in response to how it's used, to a certain degree. It may well be that most women's brains simply adapt to a more personal interactive environment, while most men adapt instead to a goal-oriented, problem-solving set of expectations.

It's not a hard-and-fast rule for the sexes, of course. I can cook dinner and listen to my wife tell me about her day at the same time, quite well -- it just takes a bit of concentration, mainly because I'm used to cooking in silence. I can type a node while listening and responding to a co-worker at my door quite easily. I can even rub my tummy and pat my head simultaneously (ooooh...), on demand. Of course, if you ask me to do two things at once that involve actual creative thought, I'm going to have problems. I can only multitask the mundane, it seems.

So I can do a "woman's job" just as easily as she can. Just don't expect me to do all of them at once. That's when I have to call for backup.