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Women in Bridge

by Miriam Harris-Botzum, Vienna, Virginia, USA


Here are my thoughts on the subject, as a fairly good woman player:

One: The kind of left-brain, mathematical/logical thinking ability required for bridge is generally stronger in men. Whether that is a result of nature or nurture, or some of each, is an open question. But it means that by the time people reach an age to begin learning bridge, there are fewer women who have the requisite abilities to become top experts. There are certainly exceptions to this rule, but from a purely statistical perspective, the odds favor a preponderance of men in the top echelons.

Two: Because of number one, above, and the commonly held views of women's abilities at bridge, it is rare for a talented woman player to get a really good mentor, or partner, or to get on the best teams unless she is paying for the privelege; and even then, she gets treated as an inferior, rather than an equal (or soon to be equal student).

Three: Women in the prime of their life tend to be more focused on family and/or a paying career. I suspect this is both a matter of nature [men can father children late in life without medical assistance] and nurture [fathers who work outside the home are breadwinners; mothers who do so are labeled as "part-time mothers"]. While some people make their living playing bridge, that is a risky venture, and women tend not to be risk-takers to the same extent that men are [again, the question of cause arises, but the effect is there].

I totally disagree with the poster who said that women tend to be much more defensive when discussing bridge errors; I have found the reverse to be true. If anything, most women tend to lack the egotism displayed by so many male bridge players, for good or for ill.

As to women being too emotional at the table, I think that applies to many, but not all, women. And that can certainly affect one's bridge game. To give an extreme example, I was still playing ftf bridge when I was pregnant with my first child. Several times, I found myself in tears at the table, over bad bids/plays by my partner, and over gross fixes by the opponents. I was never that way before pregnancy, but hormones really do affect one's emotional control. Some women go through drastic mood swings every month, others seem unaffected, but it certainly is a potential factor.

My conclusions: I think there are some women players who are capable of being top experts, but those few don't currently make it to the top. Some don't make it because of non-bridge concerns, and those who do devote full energy to bridge aren't given the support and encouragement and opportunities that advancing male players are given, and aren't given the chance to break into the all-male teams. It becomes a vicious cycle, because good women players are generally shunted into women's bridge, instead of the open games, but having seperate women's bridge promotes the view that women are inferior players, so that the next group gets the same treatment, etc.


Gopher Editor's note:

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