In Parsha Bereishit we are presented with two accounts of the creation of humanity. In Genesis 1:27 we read 'And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.' Aside from the unusual mixture of pronouns, it looks like man and woman were created on the sixth day, and perhaps they were.
If we look at Genesis 2:21, we read a different account, 'So the Lord God cast a deep sleep upon the man; and, while he slept, He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that spot. And the Lord God fashioned the rib that He had taken from the man into a woman; and He brought her to the man.'
So which is correct? Were man and woman created on the sixth day or was man created first and woman at some later time? Further, for those of us who take the Scriptures seriously, how do we reconcile the apparent difference between the two accounts?
If we assume that Genesis 1 represents a high level overview of the creation process and that Genesis 2 begins to supply such details as God determines we need, we see a way to resolve the apparent contradiction. From Genesis 2, man was clearly created first and woman was separated from him at some later time - perhaps within the sixth day, perhaps not. Hence we could read Genesis 1 as being a statement that Adam was created having all human potential, both male and female.
Why should man's creation be different from the formation of animals who are made separately male and female from the beginning? And why was man separated into man and woman later?
The answer lies in the naming of the animals. God first determines that it is not good for man to be alone. He then parades all animals before Adam for naming. In that process Adam does not find a suitable companion for himself. It is only then that God separates mankind into male and female. Hence, the separation was not for reproductive reasons but for reasons of companionship.
Finally, a lot of mischief has been caused by the designation of woman as an 'helper'. In most people's understanding, an helper is someone of secondary importance who extends the capability of the primary person. Biblically that understanding is wrong . God describes Himself as an helper and there is surely no intimation that He is of secondary importance. Nor is there an intimation here that woman is of secondary importance.
(Loosely based on Her Ways Considered at Aish.com)