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Why So Slow?: Advancement of Women [Paperback]

Virginia Valian
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

26 Feb 1999
Why do so few women occupy positions of power and prestige? Virginia Valian uses concepts and data from psychology, sociology, economics, and biology to explain the disparity in the professional advancement of men and women. According to Valian, men and women alike have implicit hypotheses about gender differences -- gender schemas -- that create small sex differences in characteristics, behaviors, perceptions, and evaluations of men and women. Those small imbalances accumulate to advantage men and disadvantage women. The most important consequence of gender schemas for professional life is that men tend to be overrated and women underrated. Valian's goal is to make the invisible factors that retard women's progress visible, so that fair treatment of men and women will be possible. The book makes its case with experimental and observational data from laboratory and field studies of children and adults, and with statistical documentation on men and women in the professions. The many anecdotal examples throughout provide a lively counterpoint.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 424 pages
  • Publisher: MIT Press; New edition edition (26 Feb 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262720310
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262720311
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.3 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 401,540 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Why So Slow? is a breakthrough in the discourse on gender and has great potential to move the women"s movement to a new, more productive phase. Publisher's Weekly

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The term glass ceiling has become a popular way of referring to the scarcity of women at the top levels of organizations. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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5.0 out of 5 stars A wake-up call for us all 3 Mar 1999
By A Customer
Valian has succeeded in taking the hysteria out of sex discrimination and replacing it with cool, calm rational thinking. Though much of her text makes reference to previous research, she incorporates these references with a graceful sleight of hand that enables the layman (laywoman?) to get the gist, while making resources readily available to those who wish to pursue the details. This book should be required reading of every Chief Executive Officer, and everyone else who agrees that we have not maximized our potential until we've made it possible for every woman to contribute her share of brilliance to the world in general. Women: you're not crazy after all. Valian points out ways that our influence is compromised in today's "slow" working world. It's not just you. It's everybody with two x chromosomes. Knowledge is power. Read this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive, essential and inspiring. 27 April 1999
By A Customer
Hallelujah! Valian has not only done her homework; she's done ALL of our homework. Anybody who doubts the power of subtle discrimination to shape, and warp, women's professional lives should read this book. But all is not glum: Valian goes beyond merely cataloguing problems to offer thoughtful and creative solutions as well.
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Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Valian's social science research-review rocks! 1 May 1999
By Sarah McGinty (smcginty@tiac.com) - Published on Amazon.com
Virginia Valian offers scholars and general readers a book of extraordinary excellence. Why So Slow? brings together decades of social science research on the role of gender in society.
In the schools, in the home, in the work place, men and women have taken on different roles and therefore have lived different experiences. Gender is socially constructed. But it affects who gets listened to, who gets promoted, and even whose goals get cheered in those coed soccer games! Understanding the construction isn't easy. Valian's book lights the path.
Valian's claim is that small differences can become, over time, significant differences. If disadvantage accumulates, the little molehills become mountains. If women (or any group) suffers a slight disadvantage in evaluation, hiring, promotion, consideration, or attention, over time the disadvantage can be great--and Valian gathers the numbers and data to support her view. Her title question, Why So Slow?, asks why women still represent only 8% of all the managing directors on Wall Street, still lag behid in publication, pay, and promotion. It is surprising to discover that the causes are broadly societal and not just "men as the enemy."
The book is beautifully structured, carefully written, complete (even a first rate index she must have created herself!), richly annotated, and a pleasure to read. Valian's tone is that of the scientist and scholar who has looked long and carefully at the world and has a few interesting thoughts to share. The final chapter should be required reading for anyone with a job, a child, or a future
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Have we come a long way, baby? 10 Feb 2001
By E. M. Carey - Published on Amazon.com
I discovered this book browsing through the bibliography of Woman, An Intimate Geography by Natalie Angier. Some of the statistics Angier used truly frightened me, and this excellent book turned out to be the source. This book paints a fascinatingly disturbing picture of the status of women in modern society, and Valian relies on statistics, data and research to back up her theory that we haven't progressed quite as far as we might think. Because Why So Slow? focuses on research rather than anecdotal evidence or experiences, it does come across as 'somewhat dry,' as one reviewer noted, but I still couldn't put it down as I completely engrossed in and upset by what I was reading. I highly recommend this book to anyone at all interested in the position of women in current society. It certainly opened my eyes and has helped me notice things that otherwise wouldn't have caught my attention - examples of gender bias are so pervasive, and Valian does not sugar coat the story. Again, Why So Slow is invaluable for people - men and women alike - who are concerned about women's place in the modern world - I cannot recommend it highly enough. Be prepared to be annoyed and disturbed but don't miss it!
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A true eye-opener! 27 Aug 2006
By Anne C. Larme - Published on Amazon.com
Valian is a cognitive psychologist. I saw her speak at a local university and was impressed by the breadth of evidence she presented re: how ingrained gender discrimination is in the thinking of both men and women, but also with her logical suggestions for addressing this problem. (She, as a matter of fact, was invited by women students and faculty to help them strategize how to get more women into higher positions.) In her convincing talk, I was struck by the evidence that discrimination is not something "done" by men to keep women down, but is, in fact, "done" equally to women by both men and women. So I got her book and was more impressed when I read it.

Valian presents experiment after experiment showing that women are held back by psychologically ingrained ideas held by both men AND women. She calls these gender schemas, which are a way for the brain to organize complex information. (They are close to stereotypes, but schema is a more neutral term). The evidence is fascinating and convincing. Examples: if a man and a woman of identical height stand in an identical height door frame, viewed separately and then rated, both men and women perceive the man to be taller. Or how a woman can make a suggestion during a meeting and no one hears it, but later a man makes the exact same suggestion and everyone hears it and thinks it's great. (Example after example you will all recognize and be disgusted by!) While the knowledge presented in this book is depressing, Valian ends with suggestions for ways to become aware of these fallacies in thinking and then actively counteract them within organizations.

I LOVE this book and it is a true eye-opener. It has really opened my eyes to what women have to surmount to get ahead when there are so many hidden negative assumptions ingrained in our culture. While it is written in an academic style and perhaps less accessible than a pop-psychology type or journalist-written book, one could read the introduction and conclusions to the chapters and skim parts of the in between text if it gets too heavy. (Like all academic writers she says her main points in the chapter intro, then presents evidence, then summarizes at the end of the chapters.) I highly recommend this book!
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear and Informed Analysis 14 Nov 2002
By Fey Ritchey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Virginia Valian is an outstanding researcher in the area of women's status in prestigious professions. Her analyses are concise and accurate. She has the gift of asking important questions and not biasing her answers with any specific opinions of her own. Her documentation is thorough and includes current thought when it is relevant. If you are interested in issues of women in academia and the work place, you need to read this book!
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the data you need 26 July 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Spells out clearly and carefully how it is that, despite the good intentions of many, women are still paid less and are in fewer positions of power within the academy. Especially helpful in explaining how subtly gender bias can exert its effect. Should be on the Must Read list for any dean or provost who is serious about addressing gender equity in hiring, promotion, retention, or pay.
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