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The Sexual Paradox: Extreme Men, Gifted Women and the Real Gender Gap

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After four decades of eradicating gender barriers at work and in public life, why do men still dominate business, politics and the most highly paid jobs? Why do high-achieving women opt out of successful careers? Psychologist Susan Pinker explores the illuminating answers to these questions in her groundbreaking first book. In The Sexual Paradox, Susan Pinker takes a hard l After four decades of eradicating gender barriers at work and in public life, why do men still dominate business, politics and the most highly paid jobs? Why do high-achieving women opt out of successful careers? Psychologist Susan Pinker explores the illuminating answers to these questions in her groundbreaking first book. In The Sexual Paradox, Susan Pinker takes a hard look at how fundamental sex differences continue to play out in the workplace. By comparing the lives of fragile boys and promising girls, Pinker turns several assumptions upside down: that the sexes are biologically equivalent; that smarts are all it takes to succeed; that men and women have identical goals. If most children with problems are boys, then why do many of them as adults overcome early obstacles while rafts of competent, even gifted women choose jobs that pay less or decide to opt out at pivotal moments in their careers? Weaving interviews with men and women into the most recent discoveries in psychology, neuroscience and economics, Pinker walks the reader through these minefields: Are men the more fragile sex? Which sex is the happiest at work? What does neuroscience tell us about ambition? Why do some male school drop-outs earn more than the bright, motivated girls who sat beside them in third grade? Pinker argues that men and women are not clones, and that gender discrimination is just one part of the persistent gender gap. A work world that is satisfying to us all will recognize sex differences, not ignore them or insist that we all be the same.


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After four decades of eradicating gender barriers at work and in public life, why do men still dominate business, politics and the most highly paid jobs? Why do high-achieving women opt out of successful careers? Psychologist Susan Pinker explores the illuminating answers to these questions in her groundbreaking first book. In The Sexual Paradox, Susan Pinker takes a hard l After four decades of eradicating gender barriers at work and in public life, why do men still dominate business, politics and the most highly paid jobs? Why do high-achieving women opt out of successful careers? Psychologist Susan Pinker explores the illuminating answers to these questions in her groundbreaking first book. In The Sexual Paradox, Susan Pinker takes a hard look at how fundamental sex differences continue to play out in the workplace. By comparing the lives of fragile boys and promising girls, Pinker turns several assumptions upside down: that the sexes are biologically equivalent; that smarts are all it takes to succeed; that men and women have identical goals. If most children with problems are boys, then why do many of them as adults overcome early obstacles while rafts of competent, even gifted women choose jobs that pay less or decide to opt out at pivotal moments in their careers? Weaving interviews with men and women into the most recent discoveries in psychology, neuroscience and economics, Pinker walks the reader through these minefields: Are men the more fragile sex? Which sex is the happiest at work? What does neuroscience tell us about ambition? Why do some male school drop-outs earn more than the bright, motivated girls who sat beside them in third grade? Pinker argues that men and women are not clones, and that gender discrimination is just one part of the persistent gender gap. A work world that is satisfying to us all will recognize sex differences, not ignore them or insist that we all be the same.

30 review for The Sexual Paradox: Extreme Men, Gifted Women and the Real Gender Gap

  1. 4 out of 5

    S

    Susan Pinker's book discusses a common problem in our society - the gender gap. Men have ruled the world for far too long. Women are now regaining their rightful place alongside men as leaders both in the office and outside the office. People are being trained on how to encourage women to enter the male-dominated fields such as Science, Techology, and Mathematics. Women want the prestige, the paycheck, and the corner office. Why aren't they flocking to these fields then? Susan Pinker's theory is Susan Pinker's book discusses a common problem in our society - the gender gap. Men have ruled the world for far too long. Women are now regaining their rightful place alongside men as leaders both in the office and outside the office. People are being trained on how to encourage women to enter the male-dominated fields such as Science, Techology, and Mathematics. Women want the prestige, the paycheck, and the corner office. Why aren't they flocking to these fields then? Susan Pinker's theory is that while women want the benefits, they don't want the other things that often come with those positions: the 80-hour work week, the inflexible schedule, the sacrifice of family to give all to your company. Pinker delves into this complex and frustrating dilemma by giving examples of biological differences between males and females in addition to the social stereotypes we're working so hard to shirk off. She discusses the myriad of problems that can affect child in utero and how males are more likely to be adversely affected. This, she hypothesizes, is why there are more men in the extremes of behavior - the psychopath or the extremely gifted and intelligent person - whereas there are more "average" women and less of them in these extremes. This has been a fascinating book to read. I thoroughly enjoyed both the data that was presented and the ease of reading. This is not often something you find in a non-fiction book. This book can help many a woman who might be frustrated with her dissatisfaction in her current job and give her possible solutions for finding a better fit. This book can also be a help to the many employers out there who are looking to attract women into their fields. Unfortunately, it seems, women are not likely to be exactly the same as men. This is a good thing and it means that it's not women who are the problem, but the system. If employers are likely to do things that may entice women, such as flex-time, part-time positions, daycare opportunities, self-driven and self-lead positions, then women might be more likely to be applying for positions within their company. There are a lot of incredibly smart and capable women out there who would love a more flexible career. Now we just need to help them find the right jobs for their interests and personalities and to encourage employers to just be a little bit more flexible.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Yvonne

    Although I am not a fan of "difference biology" about the sexes, this book makes some interesting statements about how comparing the careers of women and men is largely like comparing apples and oranges. Susan Pinker submits, with a great deal of socio-biological research, that new standards for our workplaces must take into consideration the different needs/ambitions of female workers. Considering the needs of men "standard" is fallacious, and is only continuing the disinterest of women in top Although I am not a fan of "difference biology" about the sexes, this book makes some interesting statements about how comparing the careers of women and men is largely like comparing apples and oranges. Susan Pinker submits, with a great deal of socio-biological research, that new standards for our workplaces must take into consideration the different needs/ambitions of female workers. Considering the needs of men "standard" is fallacious, and is only continuing the disinterest of women in top-earning, high - paying positions. Current standards and workplace recruitment campaigns alone cannot bring women in; considered planning and environmental changes in the office are what's needed for more women to prioritize many career offerings. Where this book fell down for me is Ms. Pinker spends a lot of time on "extreme" male biology (examples of men with ADHD, Autism, or other conditions) who became successful as models for how extreme behavior suits the current workplace standards and demands. I would have appreciated more discussion on what the author thought needed to happen in the future (besides subsidized childcare) to offer women a raft over the glass ceiling. And although Susan Pinker is fairly clear about where she is making generalizations (which is often) I found her focus on "women's lives" to typically be about married women with children -- a population that is losing ground as the female "standard".

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Draper

    Highly interesting, well-researched, surprisingly evenhanded argument that the "vanilla-male model" of human behavior doesn't work--women aren't just a variant on a standard male, and many of the persistent differences in employment, interests, and outlook come from inherent (and not bad or unfortunate) differences in how men and women are physically put together (brain studies figure prominently) and emotionally wired (so do psychological tests of empanthy, aggression, competitiveness, etc.). S Highly interesting, well-researched, surprisingly evenhanded argument that the "vanilla-male model" of human behavior doesn't work--women aren't just a variant on a standard male, and many of the persistent differences in employment, interests, and outlook come from inherent (and not bad or unfortunate) differences in how men and women are physically put together (brain studies figure prominently) and emotionally wired (so do psychological tests of empanthy, aggression, competitiveness, etc.). She uses extreme examples of "fragile" males (the ones who have succeeded despite--or perhaps because of--dyslexia, ADHD, autism-spectrum disorders, extreme competitiveness) to illustrate the deep-seated differences that have nothing to do with native ability and everything to do with personal convictions that gender influences. She's also careful to remind us that the variations inside each gender are greater even than those between genders, and that knowing someone's sex doesn't tell us all we need to know about her--or him--but that we should accept that the choices men and women make will be different, and we should value & respect the abilities & interests of both.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Cris

    Very interesting look at different capabilities and goals of boys/girls and men/women. "Girls may be insured by having two X chromosomes, so if one is damaged or encodes deficits, girls have a spare. As many brain-related genes are located on the X, neurological traits are particularly affected. With only one X, extreme variations are more likely to show up, extremes that might have been damped down or even eliminated if a second copy of the X were in place to reduce that mutation’s effects.7Gir Very interesting look at different capabilities and goals of boys/girls and men/women. "Girls may be insured by having two X chromosomes, so if one is damaged or encodes deficits, girls have a spare. As many brain-related genes are located on the X, neurological traits are particularly affected. With only one X, extreme variations are more likely to show up, extremes that might have been damped down or even eliminated if a second copy of the X were in place to reduce that mutation’s effects.7Girls are also sheltered from male hormones that slow down and skew the development of boys’ brains in utero" This explanation of the lesser impact of disabilities like ADHD or autism on girls is appealing. The"vanilla male model" of how the working world should look is more like the "American men work model". The idea that one must work 12 + hour days is very American and not only women rebel against it, most Europeans would not tolerate it. So perhaps, if we all remembered that we work for a living not live for a working the professional plane field would be more equalized and all humans would have more balanced lives.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kaethe Douglas

    I just don't need to read another argument about how, really, there is no sexual discrimination. I think there have been enough studies to demonstrate that everything else being equal women are considered inferior job candidates, are offered lower salaries and fewer promotions. Are there men who suffer greater disadvantages than some women? Absolutely! And here's an uncanny coincidence: they also hail from traditionally disadvantaged groups: the poor, Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans. Honestly, I just don't need to read another argument about how, really, there is no sexual discrimination. I think there have been enough studies to demonstrate that everything else being equal women are considered inferior job candidates, are offered lower salaries and fewer promotions. Are there men who suffer greater disadvantages than some women? Absolutely! And here's an uncanny coincidence: they also hail from traditionally disadvantaged groups: the poor, Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans. Honestly, I'm tired of the argument that because some people do well (in this case, well-educated upper class white women) there can't be any discrimination at all.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Alexis

    Should be read by any women interested in work and the career spectrum. The book looks at the differences between men and women in the world of work, and why some characteristics of either sex make for success or failure. This book can be very scientific, but it's quite interesting, and not particularly long.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Darcy

    I was absolutely riveted from the beginning. But then I am fascinated with any research about the brain--it is such a marvelous and complex thing.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tara van Beurden

    This is a really valuable book, and one that I related to immensely. I’m one of those stereotypical ‘career’ girls. Straight out of high school, I started a double bachelors degree in accounting and sociology, and fast tracked it by doing summer school three years in a row. Seven months before I finished I secured a job with a Big 4 accounting firm. Six years of crazy hours and a secondment to the UK, and I quit to take up a job with a major university in my city. Ten months later, and I’m about This is a really valuable book, and one that I related to immensely. I’m one of those stereotypical ‘career’ girls. Straight out of high school, I started a double bachelors degree in accounting and sociology, and fast tracked it by doing summer school three years in a row. Seven months before I finished I secured a job with a Big 4 accounting firm. Six years of crazy hours and a secondment to the UK, and I quit to take up a job with a major university in my city. Ten months later, and I’m about to apply for a job that will see me the Finance Manager for Science and Technology faculty, if I get it. When I left the Big 4 job, I got asked to stay because they considered me ‘partner’ material. And I knew I could get there, but the idea of doing the same thing every day, even if it made me an expert, bored the crap out of me. I went from being an auditor to a management accountant, because I have a compulsion to seek out new skills. I went from public accounting to education, because I needed to do something different and expand myself. Why am I telling you this? Because reading this book helped me understand (to an extent) why I had made these decisions, and why I often make different decisions from men in similar situations. Pinker puts forward a few ideas. Firstly, that women are not the CEOs etc of the world, not because they aren’t smart enough, or don’t have access to education (in fact in many countries women studying all the way up to postgrad outstrip men in many fields), but because they simply don’t want to. They want to spend more time with their children, or do jobs that they feel are more meaningful or contribute more to society, or try new things. Men, on the other hand, due to brain wiring, appear better able to focus on one topic and become experts in it, to slog away at the same thing or the end goal of CEO or President or whatever, and get to the upper echelons of business etc. This attribute, according to Pinker also explains why things such as autism etc are more prevalent in men then women. This is just one of Pinker’s theories within this book, but chapter after chapter, I unmasked more about myself, my gender, and why I often make the decisions I do. Obviously not everything will apply to every woman or every man – we are all different – but generalisations are called as such because they do ‘generally’ apply and I can see that in this book. I read a lot on gender studies (I have started to recognize names of writers and academics across the field – scary) and this book was definitely in my top five of the field. A very fascinating read I highly recommend.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    I like that Susan Pinker brings forward the idea that the "real gender gap" is more biological than social and cultural. She states that women today have every advantage and opportunity to succeed in a man's world than our grandmothers and great grandmothers. She also states that women are unfairly compared to the "vanilla gender assumption" that women want what men want and they must work to male standards in a male dominated world. She asks is it really fair to compare women to this standard w I like that Susan Pinker brings forward the idea that the "real gender gap" is more biological than social and cultural. She states that women today have every advantage and opportunity to succeed in a man's world than our grandmothers and great grandmothers. She also states that women are unfairly compared to the "vanilla gender assumption" that women want what men want and they must work to male standards in a male dominated world. She asks is it really fair to compare women to this standard when they are so biologically different then men, physically and neurologically? What I don't like about this book is her comparison with highly educated women who have climbed the professional latter to men with developmental disabilities who did poorly in grade school and later became extremely successful because of their disabilities. She states that women have every opportunity, and she denies that women suffer from discrimination, stereotyping, and sexism. There is none of that addressed in the book. Because she works with young boys with developmental issues, she is somewhat biased and ends her book, saying that we should spend more in those boys because we spent way too much time trying to get girls interested in learning about the math and sciences. That's just putting it bluntly. I'm writing a critique on the book for a Human Sexuality that more in depth on the subject. So this book only gets 3 starts. I like how she brings up the fact that women need a different standard to be compared to in the professional world and that the vanilla gender assumption is unfair. I don't like her comparisons and her assumption that women no long face discrimination, stereotyping, and sexism.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Ruf

    I loved this book! Pinker gathers examples of what she calls "extreme men" in order to highlight some of the many differences between men and women. The main point of this book, I think, is to highlight the different choices that very highly talented or gifted people make with their lives and careers. I highly recommend it to my clients (who are parents of smart and gifted kids) to help them understand a common trajectory of gifted girls and women compared to gifted boys and men. Pinker's use of I loved this book! Pinker gathers examples of what she calls "extreme men" in order to highlight some of the many differences between men and women. The main point of this book, I think, is to highlight the different choices that very highly talented or gifted people make with their lives and careers. I highly recommend it to my clients (who are parents of smart and gifted kids) to help them understand a common trajectory of gifted girls and women compared to gifted boys and men. Pinker's use of case study interviews leads to explaining why it is that there remains a gender gap in many fields and why this may be so. I find this book especially helpful in getting parents of gifted children to understand why it is their gifted boy may appear to have ADHD in school and their gifted girl may decide after years of academic success not to pursue -- or stay in -- that highly competitive, time-consuming career that she is so qualified to pursue. Pinker repeatedly makes the distinction between outside influences and personal choices for her subjects. Well done!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tanja Berg

    Girls do better than boys at school, more girls graduate high school and college. Yet despite this, there are few top leaders that are women or earn the top dollars. This book analyses why. One reason is that although men and women, on average, are equally intelligent, the male variety is more extreme. There are more imbeciles and more geniuses among men than among women. Another reason is that there are biologically wired gender differences which causes women to choose differently. Having the s Girls do better than boys at school, more girls graduate high school and college. Yet despite this, there are few top leaders that are women or earn the top dollars. This book analyses why. One reason is that although men and women, on average, are equally intelligent, the male variety is more extreme. There are more imbeciles and more geniuses among men than among women. Another reason is that there are biologically wired gender differences which causes women to choose differently. Having the same qualifications and opportunities, a woman will usually not choose the same path as a man. Generally speaking, women are more empathatic and prefer to work with people. Also, when they work in a male-dominated field, by the time they have children they will often opt out of the long hours - and thus the career path - to spend more time with the family. This is an interesting and vastly informative book. It is a bit repetitive, but nonetheless, highly recommendable.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Meg

    This book topples a lot of others that deal with the working mother question by studying biology, brain chemistry, and what men and women typically say they want out of their careers and lives. It looks at the question from a completely different perspective - not through history, not through feminism, not through culture, but through science and facts. It definitely changed my mind on a lot of issues. I still believe women should work while raising families, but this book has shifted a lot of b This book topples a lot of others that deal with the working mother question by studying biology, brain chemistry, and what men and women typically say they want out of their careers and lives. It looks at the question from a completely different perspective - not through history, not through feminism, not through culture, but through science and facts. It definitely changed my mind on a lot of issues. I still believe women should work while raising families, but this book has shifted a lot of blame off those women who choose not to work and onto the companies and culture that make it something impossible to sustain.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Liza

    A very interesting look at an old subject in a new way. I thinks its about time someone ventured into the biological differences between the sexes, without worrying about upsetting the battle axe "feminists" who still cling to the "all men are evil oppressors" mantra. Whether or not one agrees with the points raised in this book is another matter. But like it or not, I think its an important book to read, in order to enable a healthy discussion about our physiology and how it influences our life A very interesting look at an old subject in a new way. I thinks its about time someone ventured into the biological differences between the sexes, without worrying about upsetting the battle axe "feminists" who still cling to the "all men are evil oppressors" mantra. Whether or not one agrees with the points raised in this book is another matter. But like it or not, I think its an important book to read, in order to enable a healthy discussion about our physiology and how it influences our life decisions.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Allen

    Overall, a really thought-provoking book. It lays out the inherant biological differences between men and women, breaking conventional wisdom (i.e. contemporary political correctness) that all men and women should want the same things in life and illustrates the drastically different responses that men and women have when presented with the EXACT same opportunities. Also, after reading this book, I am convinced that I have Aspberger syndrome...

  15. 5 out of 5

    Katrina Sark

    Introduction: Female Puppets and Eunuchs p.2 – As in Higgins’ song, I started to wonder about myself, my female colleagues and other women I knew, “Why do they do everything their mothers do? Why don’t they grow up like their fathers instead?” I’d had every opportunity. In 1973, at the age of sixteen, I worked for my father. In those years he was a garment manufacturer’s agent and for two summer months we companionably drove around rural Québec in his wood-paneled station wagon, the back loaded wi Introduction: Female Puppets and Eunuchs p.2 – As in Higgins’ song, I started to wonder about myself, my female colleagues and other women I knew, “Why do they do everything their mothers do? Why don’t they grow up like their fathers instead?” I’d had every opportunity. In 1973, at the age of sixteen, I worked for my father. In those years he was a garment manufacturer’s agent and for two summer months we companionably drove around rural Québec in his wood-paneled station wagon, the back loaded with a dozen many sample bags filled with women’s uniforms and sleepwear, each bag the size of a fridge and weighing about seventy-five pounds. With new respect I discovered the labor that financed our suburban, middle-class life. His years on the road eventually put three kids through college, my mother through graduate school, and would underwrite his own transition to a successful law career. p.3 – Coming of age at the cusp of second-wave feminism, my expectations diverged sharply from those of previous generations. Unlike the women who matured during the Depression, I counted on an education and a career, not just a job. And like my friends, I didn’t think getting married and pregnant was a sufficient future plan. It was precisely the one that had trapped our mothers. p.4 – Galvanized by Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and others, that 1973 summer, my mother started a graduate degree. All her friends were doing the same, returning to jobs they had before they married, or seeking professional training that would allow them to work for pay. There were other signs of major societal attitude shift. The birth-control pill had been legal since 1969 in Canada. p.5 – What women want, and why they want is, is half of what this book is about. The other half is about men, and whether it makes sense to see males as the base model when we think about women and work. p.6 – For me, the question of whether males really fir our expectation of the standard, neutral gender – what I’ll call the “vanilla” gender – started in my pediatric clinic waiting room. Over twenty years of clinical practice and teaching as a child psychologist, I had seen mostly males. Boys and men with learning problems, attention problems, aggressive or antisocial boys, those with autistic features, those who didn’t sleep well or make friends, or couldn’t sit still, dominated my practice – and that of every other developmental psychologist I knew. Research confirmed the gender breakdown of my waiting room. Learning problems, attention deficit disorder, and autism spectrum disorders are four to ten times as common in boys; anxiety and depression twice as common in girls. From the point of view of learning and self-control, boys are simply more vulnerable. These apparently fragile boys had overcome their early difficulties through the support of parents and teachers, who after all, were attentive and observant enough to seek out a psychologist, presumably only one of many steps they might have taken with that child’s welfare in mind. Many of these initially fragile boys continued to have obsessive interests or an appetite for risk that set the stage for their careers. Meanwhile, many of the girls their age who were light-years ahead of them in classroom learning, language, social skills, and self-control opted for paths that would not necessarily lead them to the highest status or the most lucrative careers. They had other goals. So even if being male made childhood a bumpier road, as adults at work, the situation was reversed. p.9 – Through the sixties and seventies, equal-rights laws were introduced in Britain, the United States, the European Union, and Canada that made it illegal to discriminate against women or to pay them any less than men. p.10 – And though discrimination still exists – both Wall Street and Wal-Mart have faced recent class action suits by women who feel their advancement has been blocked – as I talked to high-achieving women and started to look at the data, it became clear that women’s and men’s interests and preferences are also skewing the picture. p.13 – “There is no female Mozart because there is no female Jack the Ripper,” wrote the social critic Camille Paglia, and her quip hints at a biological truth. Compared to women, there are more men who are extreme. Even though the two sexes are well matched in most areas, including intelligence, there are fewer women than men at the extreme ends of the normal distribution. Chapter 1 – Are Males the More Fragile Sex? p.21 – From a biological perspective, being female simply offers a protective umbrella from cradle to grave. [...] Girls may be insured by having two X chromosomes, so if one is damaged or encodes deficits, girls have a spare. As many brain-related genes are located on the X, neurological traits are particularly affected. With only one X, extreme variations are more likely to show up, extremes that might have been damped down or even or even eliminated of a second copy of the X were in place to reduce that mutation’s effects. Girls are also sheltered from male hormones that slow down and skew the development of boys’ brains in utero and a reason why premature boys may already be more vulnerable than girls before they’re born. p.23 – Men continue to take more risks, have more accidents, get sick more often, and also are less likely to pay attention to their illnesses, so they die younger (the female life expectancy is now eighty-three years, while males’ is seventy-eight years). Men also drink, smoke, and use lethal weapons more than women, but use seat belts, sunscreen, and doctors less. p.24 – In Canada, boys drop out at almost twice the rate of girls and are more likely to describe school as a waste of time. They hand in less homework, are less likely to get along with teachers, and are less interested in what they are learning in class. “The girls have a willingness to play by the rules of the educational game and an engagement with learning. Even if they find things tedious, they get on with it, rather than get out.” p.25 – Girls have always done better in the classroom. But since 1992, they’ve also beat boys with higher global scores on high school achievement tests. p.34-35 – A things versus people point of view: The high-functioning form of autism called Asperger syndrome is ten times more common among males than females. This highly heritable disorder is characterized by opposing traits: difficulties “reading” other people, alongside an intense interest in predictable spatial, mathematical, or highly organized systems. It is hard to imagine that a person who can grasp sting theory or the workings of their hard drive cannot easily decode signs of embarrassment on someone’s face. Yet reading and responding to lightning-fast signals about other people requires accessing a suite of skills that have neurodevelopmental roots. These skills include the ability to “get” the nuances of facial expressions, and the notion that other people have thoughts and feelings distinct from one’s own. As a result, the deficits of autism and Asperger syndrome have been dubbed “mindblindness” because those born with the disorder seem blind to the hidden feelings and intentions of the people around them. Chapter 3 – Abandon Ship! Successful Women Who Opt Out of Science and Engineering Careers p.69 – intrinsic goals such as making a difference, or belonging to a community, are often in direct opposition to extrinsic goals like seeking financial rewards or status. p.70 – Intrinsic and extrinsic goals often conflicted – it was unlikely that people would pursue both at once. Meanwhile, several other studies have shown that women, on average, are more motivated by intrinsic rewards at work. An interest and an ability to contribute to a field, and a capacity to have an impact in the real world are more powerful drivers for women, on average, than higher salaries, job security, and benefits. p.71 – The richer the country, the more likely women and men choose different types of jobs. Suppose you had a secret benefactor who allowed you to choose the work you really wanted to do. Would you do what you are doing right now and put in the same hours? Would you do what puts the most food on the table? The conflict between intrinsic and extrinsic goals reflects familiar terrain: the trade-off between pursuing the biggest paycheck versus following one’s star. I suspect that the freedoms offered to women in Western, industrialized countries – all countries with equal-opportunity legislation – allow them to move closer to their ideal of pursuing intrinsic rewards, perhaps at the cost of pursuing the most money and status. p.90 – Women who have the smarts and the ambition to become scientists, university professors, or engineers are no longer stymied by the wrong course work or by outmoded ideas about gender roles. Especially in the physical sciences and engineering – which, as traditionally male fields, are seen as test cases for equality – women can now have what men have, but many decide after trying it that they don’t want it. The vanilla gender idea that given every opportunity, they should want it, if that’s what men choose, hinges on the assumption that male is the default against which we measure everyone’s wants and dreams. p.91 – They have the brainpower, they had parents and teachers who encouraged them, mentors, self-discipline, the right course work, excellent credentials, and even excellent jobs. Still, they decide they would rather do research on human questions. Or make a social impact by being teachers, law professors, or social workers. Or have more time for their children when they’re small. When gifted women decide they’d rather be doctors than physicists, teachers, not engineers, they’re opting to study and spend time with people, not things. Many are demonstrating a capacity to be attuned to others. It’s a proclivity that has a very long history, and as we’ll soon see, one that makes women feel pretty good. Chapter 7 – Hiding the Imposter Within p.188 – What differentiates imposter syndrome from garden-variety self-doubt is that the feelings may wane but never entirely disappear, regardless of accolades. When men feel self-doubt, especially in a new job, these feelings are transient, less internalized. When researchers ask people whether they believe they can achieve a desired outcome, the studies reveal that women have lower perceptions of their agency – a belief in their mastery and control – than men. “Men are more comfortable bluffing,” says Valerie Young, an expert on the imposter phenomenon. “Before women will apply for a job or raise their hand, they feel they have to know 100 percent, whereas men feel they only have to know 50 percent and can fake the rest.” p.190-191 – When bad things happen are women more likely to look inward while men look outside themselves? This seems to be true in literature and popular culture, which are populated by male figures who try valiantly but can’t make the grade, from Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman to Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Larry David. Poignant or absurd, their failures resonate as reminders of our fallibility. Yet even if the world is full of obstacles for these guys, they never see their problems as self-imposed. They do battle with external factors: changing urban or social landscapes, supernatural powers, deadbeat sons, and the nincompoops of this world, never looking inward. Their problems are out there, not within themselves. Chapter 8 – Competition: Is It a Guy Thing? p.225 – When Mark Twain wrote “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education,” he captured the life histories of most eminent men until the mid-twentieth century, and many beyond. Einstein’s original thesis did not qualify as a doctoral dissertation at the University of Zurich, as he had hoped. He was finally granted a Ph.D. in 1905, after four thesis attempts and five years of trying. Chapter 10 – Things Are Not What They Seem p.258 – The state achieved near gender parity in physical science and engineering by squelching individual choice. Thus a society that achieves a 50-50 gender divide in a field might appear to have eradicated discrimination. But a closer look reveals an abrogation of individual freedoms.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Evan Micheals

    Susan Pinker was trying to figure out why women did so well at school but failed to take that success in educational fields to become uber successful in their careers. What she found supported everything that Matt Ridley wrote in the Red Queen regarding gender differences between the sexes. The Sexual Paradox was written 20 years after The Red Queen but comes to the same conclusions where they intersect. I suspect nothing has changed in the science of sex differences to this day. The politics co Susan Pinker was trying to figure out why women did so well at school but failed to take that success in educational fields to become uber successful in their careers. What she found supported everything that Matt Ridley wrote in the Red Queen regarding gender differences between the sexes. The Sexual Paradox was written 20 years after The Red Queen but comes to the same conclusions where they intersect. I suspect nothing has changed in the science of sex differences to this day. The politics continues to evolve over the past ten years and remains even more contemptuously deaf to the reasonable answers Pinker provides to this Paradox. "Gender bias is more likely to come from other women" (p 220). She articulately explains the problems for the matriarchy and their expectations of other women to women who compete and stand out. "Women use covert manoeuvring to cement their status. Social exclusion, mean remarks, trying to win over a competitor's friends and allies are the 'female' ways to jockey for power. Less overt and more socially sophisticated, female aggression is harder to observe" (p 221). She points out that we tend to use a masculine measure of what success is "putting in fourteen-hour days when their children are toddles as really what' in their best interests, is a form of infantilization. It's also a form of homogenization" (p 263). Judging success from a limited masculine perspective and imposing what it is to be a successful man, has become an idealised form of success (CEO, Board Member, Politician, Tenured Professor). Not everyone (men included) have the obsessional drive to make the sacrifices required to achieve the success by a man’s measure. There is nothing wrong with having a happy home life and sacrificing career advancement to achieve it. I found her chapter on Dyslexia interesting. 10% of children have Dyslexia, and boys have it twice as much as girls. Does that mean 5% of girls and 15% of boys? It was suggested I had dyslexia when I was a child. I was not formally tested ("expensive follow up assessments needed to confirm the diagnosis sometimes didn't happen" p 45), but it seemed to fit. I felt smart but seemed to remain in the bottom half of the class in my reading and writing. Pinker described these adults develop obsessive reading about an area of interest - check for me there as well. People who know me know how obsessively I read about ontological psychology. I saw so much of myself in this chapter, even the statement of doing poorly in time tests as school. From describing Einstein’s social aloofness to my ability to anticipate the end zone. I repeatedly thought to myself 'this is me'. The only rare aspect is that I choose a relational profession, which dyslexic’s anecdotally rarely do according to Pinker. Her critics will say she is obviously a shill and an apologist for men. This is the most imaginative response from the activist gender feminists. All they seem capable of is ad hominm responses, because they dare not argue the science and rationality of what she is saying (come up with a better argument). The arguments made by Pinker seem to make sense to me in explaining what we see in the world. Blaming the Patriarchy is a dumb argument without the Matriarchy having an equal responsibility. What we need to do is ensure if our daughters want to make the sacrifices required to succeed by a man’s measure, they have just as much opportunity as our son’s. Equal opportunity does not equate to equality of outcome. There are lots of sane reasons why people choose to withdraw from the career rat race. I could not think of anything worse than repeated 80-100-hour weeks. Those that choose this get what they deserve. You have to pay the price, and if what Pinker is arguing is true at the edges of society there are more male outliers than females willing to make the sacrifice.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Phrodrick

    Author Susan Pinker (Somehow her title as doctor is missing from the book jacket) combines the latest neuroscience with some in-depth analysis of selected high performing men (all with Asperger's) and an equal number of high performing women, none having any medically diagnosed developmental issues. Both groups in her sample (at best a sample of convenience) achieved top positions in their chosen fields. The men had either no desire or perhaps no choice but to stay at that level, the women were Author Susan Pinker (Somehow her title as doctor is missing from the book jacket) combines the latest neuroscience with some in-depth analysis of selected high performing men (all with Asperger's) and an equal number of high performing women, none having any medically diagnosed developmental issues. Both groups in her sample (at best a sample of convenience) achieved top positions in their chosen fields. The men had either no desire or perhaps no choice but to stay at that level, the women were all willing to quit and devote more time to families and less demanding work. Among other things she will argue that males are over represented at the far ends of the IQ scales (Is anyone still valuing IQ scores?) and that in general males tend to represent more of the extreme population in any number of characteristics. This is part of her argument for the continued over representation of males in high demand, high performing jobs, despite decades of women being in the statistical majority of many college programs designed to prepare students for these positions. To jump ahead, Dr. Pinker ALMOST argues that college acceptance committees should give more preference to male candidates over more qualified female candidates. A narrow reading is that the women are more likely to quite once they reach the top having along the way denied men who would stay the course. This is not a far argument and Professor Pinker would rightfully demand that this is not her point. Staying with a narrow and unfair interpretation of this book is that both males and females are heavily driven by their hormones. The female hormones will ultimately drive women out of top professional positions. Again: This is not a fair argument and Professor Pinker would rightfully demand that this is not her point. One could almost hear her women saying: "Hey I have climbed to the top, out played the players won the gold, and so what? It's time to do something more important and that is anything not at the top of a corporate ladder." Her males, on hearing a person at the top saying this are most likely to say: "Huh?" Her males seemed to be where they were because there was no place else for them. Males are expected to achieve and having achieved they do not even think about being anywhere else, at least not in comparable numbers. Professor Pinker is a respected columnist. She has a heavy science background and more than enough research to back her position. What she has written is a thought provoking analysis. What she has not written is a scientific paper. Her two `samples' are not a sample in any scientific meaning. These people are, in no way comparable. They serve to document her hypothesis rather than to test it. I would accuse her of selecting them on an a priori bases but she never makes any claim that her intent was to create sample groups. There are ample grounds for making charges based on the author under valuing the operation of gender based differences in the socialization of American Males and Females in terms of their respective working and family roles. Some have made other vague complaints about her misusing research. Unless these complaints are backed by other research or more specifics, they remain vague. The Sexual Paradox presents specific claims, backs them with specific research. It is to our advantage to consider this book, BUT only as part of a broader and deeper analysis.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    A well researched and supported examination of an important issue which many seem aware of but, all considered, most people are quite wrong about. Not long ago I would have thought the ideas presented in this book to be completely against what I thought to be true. I so often hear about how culture and the patriarchy shape women's roles that I would have considered anyone thinking otherwise to be a backwards sexist dinosaur from time gone by. It turns out the truth is more nuanced. Yes, society i A well researched and supported examination of an important issue which many seem aware of but, all considered, most people are quite wrong about. Not long ago I would have thought the ideas presented in this book to be completely against what I thought to be true. I so often hear about how culture and the patriarchy shape women's roles that I would have considered anyone thinking otherwise to be a backwards sexist dinosaur from time gone by. It turns out the truth is more nuanced. Yes, society influences some behaviours, but we as a society generally give such influences far too much credit. Men and women are not identical, though the simple variability of people means there is going to be a lot of overlap. The pay gap and differences in career choices between men and women have a lot of contributing factors but it seems that innate preferences between men and women are most of it. If there is any doubt about any of the claims made in this book we don't need to simply trust the author because she backs everything up with incapable evidence. This is the second book by Susan Pinker which I read. I was hesitant to read "The Village Effect" because I thought the premise was nonsense but it is so well supported by scientific evidence that I quickly got on board with what the author was suggesting. I felt the same with this book. Plausible mechanisms are shown and evidence backs it up. For those for whom numbers aren't enough the book is peppered with anecdotes to anchor things in reality. These anecdotes are not something we should accept as being evidence for the facts on their own but they simply complement what the data supports. Men and women want different things. Men on average are higher risk, wanting money, pursuing careers related to things. Women are more interested in careers related to people and other concerns than money such as work life balance and happiness in a job. This is true regardless of social pressures. In fact it seems the opposite is true. When subjected to pressures to pursue more traditionally male career paths women still gravitate towards the jobs that are typically female. No need to let any of this reality encourage sexist behaviour. Quite the opposite. We should encourage men and women to pursue their own career interests rather than forcing them into something they don't want to do. To force women into more male centric careers is no better than forcing them into more traditionally female dominated jobs. I consider myself a feminist and still do. That doesn't mean I'm on board with what a lot of other feminists may be preaching, especially when that goes against science, against the evidence and ultimately against what is good for women. Let us allow people to have equal opportunities but allow them the freedom to do what they are interested and not assume that the male way is the best way. If everyone would read this book the world would be a better place, and that includes all of the ignorant bad reviews I'm seeing for this book by people who admit to not having read it at all but simply having an ideological problem with the premise. You can read this well cited book and still think its ideas aren't evidence based. You can only feel that way if you don't read it and don't give it a chance.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jo

    The Sexual Paradox examines the differences between men and women in the workplace. It discusses the varied characteristics that either gender may have, that then may determine how successful that individual is in their career. Although this book was published in 2008, some of the points are still very valid and entirely thought provoking. This book gives a sort of breakdown as to why women are not taking the same career choices as men and why many women don't take up key roles in physics or compu The Sexual Paradox examines the differences between men and women in the workplace. It discusses the varied characteristics that either gender may have, that then may determine how successful that individual is in their career. Although this book was published in 2008, some of the points are still very valid and entirely thought provoking. This book gives a sort of breakdown as to why women are not taking the same career choices as men and why many women don't take up key roles in physics or computer science, for instance. And yes, we still live, more or less, in a male dominated working world. I can say after reading this, that I was already aware that women face far few hurdles and barriers than we did say, thirty years ago. But with that in mind, there is absolutely no way that the working world is now a "Utopia" as the author is making it out to be.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Peter Phillips

    Nuanced and well-written, Pinker reminds the reader that biology is an issue that people ignore at their own peril.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Dea

    To say up front, I did not get very far into the book. Frankly I got tired of having to read through 5+ pages for a single piece of information that caught my attention. I found myself wondering off mentally and not actually reading the book, just sounding the words out in my mind. I also did not find the book to be very well organized, it just kind of wondered around the topic every once in a while stumbling on an interesting piece of information. I also did not like the message that was coming To say up front, I did not get very far into the book. Frankly I got tired of having to read through 5+ pages for a single piece of information that caught my attention. I found myself wondering off mentally and not actually reading the book, just sounding the words out in my mind. I also did not find the book to be very well organized, it just kind of wondered around the topic every once in a while stumbling on an interesting piece of information. I also did not like the message that was coming across from the book, saying that men should be cared for because they are the weaker sex and are in more danger and less well off and on and on. I honestly don’t care if they are stronger or weaker, in my opinion both sexes have positive and negative aspects to them. And I am shocked at lack of ridicule from the author regarding favorability of male enrollment into collages because without it the campus would be almost entirely female. In either case I made the decision to drop this book because I am certain there are plenty more books on the subject and I only have so much time to get working on my reading list.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jaime L.

    I loved this book. It's a thought-provoking examination of the reasons why there aren't many women in key disciplines (engineering, physics, computer science, etc.). The author's thesis is testing the implicit assumption that men and women, given the same opportunities and being equally capable, should choose the same career paths. The fact that they don't and the possible reasons why are explored in this book. I know that some readers have criticized this book because the discussion is kept som I loved this book. It's a thought-provoking examination of the reasons why there aren't many women in key disciplines (engineering, physics, computer science, etc.). The author's thesis is testing the implicit assumption that men and women, given the same opportunities and being equally capable, should choose the same career paths. The fact that they don't and the possible reasons why are explored in this book. I know that some readers have criticized this book because the discussion is kept somewhat high level as the author touches upon several aspects of this controversial topic. I quite liked this approach because it gave me, as the reader, the option to dive deeper at any given moment. The bibliography is comprehensive which would allow me to delve into any aspect at a much deeper level, should I choose. I found that while reading this book I had to put it down every 10 pages or so to think through carefully what was being described. A definite must-read for any woman contemplating work-life balance and the attainment of career fulfillment.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Michaux

    Picked the book up one evening at about 11pm, and didn't put it down until I finished it the next day. I was in a gender studies course, and was troubled by the nature of the course content. Every reading and class was filled with overtly moralistic armchair philosophising. After reading Pinker's book, I started asking some simple questions in class -- a process that led to unravelling the politics and ivory towers of academic feminism. My faith in feminism was shattered. By asking questions, it Picked the book up one evening at about 11pm, and didn't put it down until I finished it the next day. I was in a gender studies course, and was troubled by the nature of the course content. Every reading and class was filled with overtly moralistic armchair philosophising. After reading Pinker's book, I started asking some simple questions in class -- a process that led to unravelling the politics and ivory towers of academic feminism. My faith in feminism was shattered. By asking questions, it became evident that feminism is hopelessly innervated by a culture of righteous zeal that encourages the sort of intellectual dishonesty we see from creationists. (I can understand and tolerate chauvinism, but playing fast and loose with the truth is unacceptable from an educator.) Pinker helped me tune into the pertinent issues, and ask the right questions to unseat the dogma. Thoroughly recommended for anybody trying to make sense of the gender debate.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    Content-wise, I thought this book was great. I've personally spent 20 years feeling bad because I felt like I haven't been living up to my potential in my professional life. This book has given me a different perspective - as it turns out, I was just ahead of my time. Pinker's point is that men and women are not alike, and they often do not want the same things out of life or work. According to her, we should stop thinking of women in the workplace as slightly different versions of men. She offe Content-wise, I thought this book was great. I've personally spent 20 years feeling bad because I felt like I haven't been living up to my potential in my professional life. This book has given me a different perspective - as it turns out, I was just ahead of my time. Pinker's point is that men and women are not alike, and they often do not want the same things out of life or work. According to her, we should stop thinking of women in the workplace as slightly different versions of men. She offers suggestions about how employers can attract and retain talented women. Now, if only they would listen..... However - I gave this only three stars because it's pretty badly written. Her editor seems to have been asleep on the job. The text is clunky. It seems as if it were written in a big hurry.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    (I only read parts of this book, focusing on the bits about successful women in male-dominant professions who chose to have their careers plateau.) This book offered a very refreshing perspective and emphasized several points that few will disagree with: that feminism was never meant to structure women's working lives' according to men's, and the goal ultimately should be to empower women to make their own choices, whatever they may be. Although I agree that women face far fewer barriers now than (I only read parts of this book, focusing on the bits about successful women in male-dominant professions who chose to have their careers plateau.) This book offered a very refreshing perspective and emphasized several points that few will disagree with: that feminism was never meant to structure women's working lives' according to men's, and the goal ultimately should be to empower women to make their own choices, whatever they may be. Although I agree that women face far fewer barriers now than they did decades ago, we hardly live in the utopia Pinker has made out the working world to be. If the author actively tried to address those realities, I would have liked this book a lot better. Still, I'd choose this book over Lean In any day.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    This is a must-read for any woman who has wondered about how she, her values, her skills, and her mind-set, fits into what is still more or less a male dominated working world. It is a good book for anyone (female or male) who wonders how to attract and retain women in the workforce. Susan Pinker, a psychologist and a regular columnist in the Careers section of the Globe and Mail, writes about how learning and behavioural patterns between boys and girls evolves into success and happiness differe This is a must-read for any woman who has wondered about how she, her values, her skills, and her mind-set, fits into what is still more or less a male dominated working world. It is a good book for anyone (female or male) who wonders how to attract and retain women in the workforce. Susan Pinker, a psychologist and a regular columnist in the Careers section of the Globe and Mail, writes about how learning and behavioural patterns between boys and girls evolves into success and happiness differences between men and women in the workforce. She compares and discusses (in a balanced, non-judgemental way) what she calls the opposites: “fragile boys” who later succeed versus "high-achieving” women who opt out or plateau in their career.

  27. 4 out of 5

    C

    As a woman who had nothing but support in studying math and then going on to study law later but who has now "opted out" to raise children, I greatly enjoyed reading a book that demonstrated how my study and work decisions are typical of 60-80 percent of females and understandable in light of average female strengths and preferences. I find it extremely irritating how much of today's feminist movement ignores the fact that I want to choose to raise my own children without being branded a traitor As a woman who had nothing but support in studying math and then going on to study law later but who has now "opted out" to raise children, I greatly enjoyed reading a book that demonstrated how my study and work decisions are typical of 60-80 percent of females and understandable in light of average female strengths and preferences. I find it extremely irritating how much of today's feminist movement ignores the fact that I want to choose to raise my own children without being branded a traitor to womankind. I can never consider myself a feminist while feminists invalidate my choice as just the effect of culture and society.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    I finally finished it. This book took me much longer than average to get through. Distractions were part of the reason, but I liked it so much that I wanted to absorb everything she was saying. By combining hard data and real life examples, Pinker showed that men and women make different choices. It's obvious in everyday life, but here was a breakdown of some reasons why women are not slowly making the same career choices as the opposite gender. On a personal level, it reaffirmed my own desires I finally finished it. This book took me much longer than average to get through. Distractions were part of the reason, but I liked it so much that I wanted to absorb everything she was saying. By combining hard data and real life examples, Pinker showed that men and women make different choices. It's obvious in everyday life, but here was a breakdown of some reasons why women are not slowly making the same career choices as the opposite gender. On a personal level, it reaffirmed my own desires to have a flexible and enjoyable career rather than simply a successful, financially stable job.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    Although this book was published in 2008, it is still well worth the time to read today. As someone who came of age in the late 70's / early 80's, I have often wondered why there are not more women today in the higher levels of traditionally male fields. This book pulls together brain research about the difference between the sexes and the trends in the last 30 years to explain why there are not equal numbers of men and women in all fields. As an accounting field dropout, I now realize that I wa Although this book was published in 2008, it is still well worth the time to read today. As someone who came of age in the late 70's / early 80's, I have often wondered why there are not more women today in the higher levels of traditionally male fields. This book pulls together brain research about the difference between the sexes and the trends in the last 30 years to explain why there are not equal numbers of men and women in all fields. As an accounting field dropout, I now realize that I was part of a much larger trend among women to choose quality of life over money.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Brian Gee

    Really excellent book. For a non-fiction, this was probably one of the fastest reads, due to how compelling, interesting, and easy to read it was. It held my interest the whole time and had a good mix of statistical analysis and anecdotal information from interviews and stories. She did a great job bringing relevant observations and conclusions to the topic of biological sex differences, and a lot of the information felt relevant to everyday life. Highly recommended!

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