By comparing fragile boys who later succeed, with high achieving women who opt out, Susan Pinker turns several assumptions upside down: that the sexes are biologically equivalent, that smarts are all it takes to succeed and that men and women have identical interests and goals. If the majority of children with school and behavioral problems are boys, then why do so many overcome early obstacles, while rafts of high achieving women choose jobs that pay less or opt out at pivotal moments in their careers? A provocative examination of how and why learning and behavioral gaps in the nursery are reversed in the boardroom, The Sexual Paradox: Men, Women and the Real Gender Gap reveals how sex differences influence ambition and success. Using the latest neurological and biological findings of brain-imaging and sex-hormone assays, Pinker adds scientific ballast to the anecdotal truisms that women are more consensus-minded and team-oriented, and are better at reading human visual cues, interpreting feelings, and maintaining relationships and relationship networks than men. Instead she must invent a workplace that not only provides food for the table but gives social and emotional meaning to her life.
Women are in a bad way. We are still made scapegoats and traduced and our true natures denied. Two female polemicists have published books explaining why, although they have come to very different, arguably opposing, conclusions. One is also very much better than the other.
Why do girls on average lead boys for all their years in the classroom, only to fall behind in the workplace? Do girls grow up and lose their edge, while boys mature and gain theirs? Ten years ago, no one would have thought to ask.
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. 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 per cent and we'd be better off, she concludes, acknowledging the differences and working with them.