Atlantic Books £8.99
The Sexual Paradox, By Susan Pinker
Sunday 18 January 2009
Susan Pinker's big idea is that there are inherent psychological differences between the sexes and that they, rather than a glass ceiling, account for the persistent gap between men and women's occupancy of top professional positions. In the past, inherent differences have been used to justify all sorts of unfair treatment, but that isn't Pinker's agenda. She demolishes the idea of "vanilla gender" (the notion that men and women are basically the same) with evidence from a battery of interviews and psychological tests. It's a shame that the clichés are all true, but they seem to be: men are more competitive and single-minded; women are more empathetic, have better language skills, prefer working with people to things, and value quality of life more than career success.
Pinker's research shows that around 20 per cent of women are prepared to follow the typically masculine career path of elbowing their way to the top. But it's never going to be 100 per cent and we'd be better off, she concludes, acknowledging the differences and working with them.
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