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

Susan Pinker
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb. 26 2008 0679314156 978-0679314158 Canadian First
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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Review

"Fascinating, insightful and deeply captivating. Every thinking man and woman should read this book."
–Louann Brizendine, M.D., author of The Female Brain

"All these many years of running a business, I thought I was an anomaly. Susan Pinker’s work has grounded my intuitions in reality: a woman’s success is going to knock the spiritual stuffing right out of her if she tries to come at it from traditional angles. Instead she must invent a workplace that not only provides food for the table but gives social and emotional meaning to her life. Susan Pinker helps you understand that it’s not you that’s crazy, it’s the system."
–Margot Franssen, social activist and co-founder of The Body Shop Canada

"Pinker, a psychologist and columnist for the Globe & Mail, presents a compelling case for a biological explanation of why men and women make different career choices. … She may draw a great deal of fire for this book, but her strong evidence could also open a better-informed discussion of the issues."
Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Susan Pinker is a developmental psychologist and journalist who writes about interpersonal and ethical issues in the workplace in her Problem Solving column in the Globe and Mail. She has worked as a clinical psychologist for twenty-five years and has taught at the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology at McGill University. She lives in Montreal with her husband and three children.

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Instead of trotting out the time-old theories that are supposed to explain gender differences across the western world, Pinker, a Montreal psychologist, takes a different approach in her book. She explores the notion that in spite of the proven intellectual ability and superiority of women in many fields, societal norms and expectations are such that many are discouraged from competing with their male counterparts for the traditionally elite jobs. Though women might initially succeed in winning the coveted position in the company, other instincts and interests kick in. From what Pinker is able to determine, women usually shy away from contending with males because they refuse to focus solely on the job as the be all to end all. There are other things in life that need to be considered like spending quality time with family and friends, and pursuing personal dreams and ambitions. While some companies move to accommodate and protect the unique female needs and interests in the workforce, the changes are still minor in relation to the heavy demands made on a woman's time. Regrettably, the mainstream economy seems to be driven by a typical Asperger, ADHD type male, who in spite of his social and intellectual failings, is able to achieve tangible results without the same distractions. Hence, the paradox. Males succeed occupationally because they generally know what is necessary to get the job done, even to the exclusion of socializing, while females, with all their natural abilities, tend to seek values that go beyond task orientation. One weakness in Pinker's assessment of the female plight is that a lot of what she says also applies to certain males who express job dissatisfaction out of a need to pursue other interests. Read more ›
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Bookman
Format:Paperback
This is a book that tries to explain away the scarcity of female genius. Indeed, the word "genius" does not even appear in the index. (Look it up.) Furthermore, the most common difference among men and women is not cited-- men's qualities are more widely dispersed around the mean, women's are more homogeneous. Thus the most basic stats (also absent from the book) are the distribution of various measures among men and women-- not just "empathy," which seems to get star billing, but real, measurable qualities. (Did anyone say science?)

For instance, a simple chart of the distribution of IQ among male and female populations shows that the mean (and the median too, approx) of men's and women's IQs are about the same. But men's IQ distribution has very long tails, while women's are bunched around the center. In other words, there are more men idiots than women idiots (late night comedy to the contrary), but there are also more men geniuses than women. (Mensa worldwide has almost universally a ratio of 2 men to 1 woman, no matter how much the latter try to correct it by preferential advertising.) Ditto re weight and height distributions and physical strength, etc. (in all of which the mean, however, is lower for women.)

In other words, nature experiments with the males. There are far more male geniuses than female ones (although yes, there are some of the latter), but also more male psychopaths and perverts. Live by the sword, etc.

Take a simple example: There are very, very few grandmaster (grandmistress?) women chess champions. How come there aren't more? Again, the Polgar sisters notwithstanding (and they are not really top-top level), why don't we see more of them? Why indeed should chess championships be segregated into male / female?
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Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Feminist polemics Aug. 30 2010
By Bookman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a book that tries to explain away the scarcity of female genius. Indeed, the word "genius" does not even appear in the index. (Look it up.) Furthermore, the most common difference among men and women is not cited-- men's qualities are more widely dispersed around the mean, women's are more homogeneous. Thus the most basic stats (also absent from the book) are the distribution of various measures among men and women-- not just "empathy," which seems to get star billing, but real, measurable qualities. (Did anyone say science?)

For instance, a simple chart of the distribution of IQ among male and female populations shows that the mean (and the median too, approx) of men's and women's IQs are about the same. But men's IQ distribution has very long tails, while women's are bunched around the center. In other words, there are more men idiots than women idiots (late night comedy to the contrary), but there are also more men geniuses than women. (Mensa worldwide has almost universally a ratio of 2 men to 1 woman, no matter how much the latter try to correct it by preferential advertising.) Ditto re weight and height distributions and physical strength, etc. (in all of which the mean, however, is lower for women.)

In other words, nature experiments with the males. There are far more male geniuses than female ones (although yes, there are some of the latter), but also more male psychopaths and perverts. Live by the sword, etc.

Take a simple example: There are very, very few grandmaster (grandmistress?) women chess champions. How come there aren't more? Again, the Polgar sisters notwithstanding (and they are not really top-top level), why don't we see more of them? Why indeed should chess championships be segregated into male / female? This, after all, is not golf, or tennis, where physical strength matters. Isn't this then a tacit agreement that some male brains attain levels that women have less chance of attaining?

Ms. Pinker's book notwithstanding, the simple fact is that male / female differences go far beyond the "cultural" ones. And Sophie Germain notwithstanding, there are not many women mathematicians(if any) on the level of Gauss (with whom Mme Germain corresponded. Yes, presenting herself as a man.) Or Riemann. Or Einstein. Or Feineman. or Teller. Or even Paul Erdos (an idiot savant, almost, who was more a connector than a real genius).

To sum up: The book about sex differences I would really like to read is the one Susan Pinker perhaps would not dare write: Just the facts, Ma'am, just the facts.

AM
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