Why Gareth Southgate could not be a woman

Jul 07, 2021

I apologise to international readers in advance.

But this week’s newsletter will be about the men’s football/soccer.

I’m sorry.


At the moment all of England seems to be IN LOVE with one man. It’s of course the manager of the England national team: Gareth Southgate.

Not only has he managed to take England to two semifinals in TWO major international tournaments since becoming manager, he is also hailed as being the embodiment of a new kind of masculinity.

Southgate’s leadership style is all about COMPASSION, EMPATHY and EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE. He is the good, steady, decent guy who puts the bin out on time and doesn’t cheat on his wife or regularly lie to the whole country.

(Yes, the bar is really high at the moment, isn’t it?).

There’s also a touching backstory to his success. In 1996 Gareth Southgate was the young player who missed the CRUCIAL penalty against Germany in the Euro semifinal.

(Watch this heartbreaking video if you can bear it).

“I felt I had let everyone down – myself, my teammates and the nation”.

But look at Southgate now?!

A quarter of a century later he is the manager credited with transforming the England team into this beautiful thing that will play Italy in the final on Sunday.

Southgate has also been open about how his BIG FAILURE actually made him into a better leader.

“In many ways, I felt like it helped me to better understand myself. I still wished I had scored, of course, but in time the lessons I took away from that difficult episode were all positive”.


Southgate can be a great leader now because he has tasted failure and national humiliation (including the English public regularly shouting at him on the street in those years). It doesn’t scare him. Which means he can win now. That’s the story of Southgate as a leader.

It’s lovely.

It’s inspiring.

It’s probably even true!

It’s also the reason why Gareth Southgate could not be a women.

You see, there is something called the “punishment gap” in the economy (and it has nothing to do with football rules…).

For example, an economist at Harvard looked at doctors failing. When a female surgeon lost a patient there was a 34% fall in future referrals. When a male surgeon lost a patient, there was no such long-term decline. Even WORSE, when the female surgeon made a mistake, other women in that specialty paid a price.

In the corporate world, if women make one mistake, their career growth often slows down. Men on the other hand are able to make multiple mistakes and not suffer consequences. Women are also punished more harshly for scandals.

And not just women.

There’s a famous study from MIT built around a fictional article about a political candidate involved in a sex scandal. Half the readers were told the candidate was Barack Obama. The other half that it was John Edwards (who is white) and you can probably all guess what happened… The participants who thought the politician was Barack Obama were more likely to punish him.

After Gareth Southgate missed that penalty kick back in 1996, Liam Gallagher came up to him and offered some words of wisdom:

“Don’t f**king worry about it because at least you had the bollocks to go up and take it, those other f**kers, they didn’t want to f**king know.”

Yes Liam!


(Also an unsurprising sentiment coming from a guy whose big hit that year was called Don’t Look Back in Anger).

The problem is that for women (and minorities) it doesn’t matter if you look back in anger or not. Other people will.

Which means we are missing out on A LOT of potential Gareth Southgates!

Happy Thursday!


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