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Virginia Valian uses concepts and data from psychology, sociology, economics, and biology to explain the disparity in the professional advancement of men and women.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 m Virginia Valian uses concepts and data from psychology, sociology, economics, and biology to explain the disparity in the professional advancement of men and women.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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Virginia Valian uses concepts and data from psychology, sociology, economics, and biology to explain the disparity in the professional advancement of men and women.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 m Virginia Valian uses concepts and data from psychology, sociology, economics, and biology to explain the disparity in the professional advancement of men and women.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.

30 review for Why So Slow?: The Advancement of Women

  1. 5 out of 5

    Christina Mitchell

    I read this book as an assignment for a grad course. And, with a few minor alterations for context, I am providing you with the review I submitted for my grade. I figured why write two when one will serve both our purposes. So.... forward. I approach the review of Why So Slow: The Advancement of Women (Valian, 1999) with the question ‘Why did we lose so much of her valuable information?’ She iterates exactly what I have argued exactly what I have been arguing (quite vocally, for anyone who knows I read this book as an assignment for a grad course. And, with a few minor alterations for context, I am providing you with the review I submitted for my grade. I figured why write two when one will serve both our purposes. So.... forward. I approach the review of Why So Slow: The Advancement of Women (Valian, 1999) with the question ‘Why did we lose so much of her valuable information?’ She iterates exactly what I have argued exactly what I have been arguing (quite vocally, for anyone who knows me). Valian, a cognitive psychologist, brings together a comprehensive meta-analysis of studies addressing differences (if any) between men and women. Her obvious conclusion: men are not better leaders than women because men and women operate more similarly than differently. Yet, in the 13 years since Valian’s work, women still knock up against the glass ceiling. I believe the stagnation is because the subject and approach continue to have the same arguments based on the same question with the same measurement. The argument has looped around – chasing its tail. In 1999, Valian opened the question to broader inquiry by acknowledging the impact of diversity, yet surprisingly the question itself has remained stagnant and essentialized. Valian’s Findings. Valian begins by admitting that her study is limited in scope. She states, “To date, there has been little research on the interaction of sex, ethnicity, class, and culture. Thus, although I use the terms women and men throughout, the researchers I cite have overwhelmingly studied white, middle-class, college-education American men and women” (Valian, 1999, pp. xv-xvi). She further states that as interactions between identifiers are more closely studied, and studied by individuals with a broader diversity of identification, the topic of ‘gender and leadership’ will be better served. With such a narrow study viewpoint, the schemas that guide our interactions to individuals based on stereotypes of men and women will hardly be accurate since “even minor instances of group-based bias…add up to major inequalities” (Valian, 1999, p. 3). These oversimplifications of gender, what it is and how it operates, pit traits against each other and cause us to treat men and women in accordance with our expectations, whether or not the expectations are accurate despite gender. Gender is not biology and not a determinant of behavior. Yet, the common belief that biology is a (if not the) determinant of behavior has proven surprisingly difficult to alter or undermine. This solidification is understandable since these beliefs, or schemas, are in place to help us operate in the world. However, Valian notes that when approaching the issue of women in the workplace and deterrents to leadership, the question is always approached as a set of work improvements (e.g., child care, flex schedules, etc.) to help women meet their responsibilities. Instead, Valian states that the question needs to be addressed as a human problem as opposed to a woman problem (Valian, 1999, p. 45). These schemas also influence how we view ourselves. We self-segregate, impose cultural expectations upon ourselves, and believe stereotypes about our behaviors. When confronted with something (e.g., an action, a way of dress, and attitude, etc.) in ourselves or others that does not fit our schema for normality, we will rationalize the behavior as being exceptional or we will ignore it. The schemas themselves remain solid unless individuals acquire a new schema to replace it (Valian, 1999, pg. 114). Valian’s work strives to define a new schema by establishing that while influences on behavior assuredly exist (e.g., culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.), there is very little difference in abilities related to biological sex. Approaching the question as one relating to diversity of humanness may produce a better question and introduce an alternative schema that people will readily embrace. Implications. The question on how to solve the gender-gap in leadership is one that pits (heterosexual, white) men against (heterosexual, mostly white) women striving to meet a measure of success and leadership based on occupancy of the C-Suite. This was true in 1999 and it is true in 2012. Valian explains several times throughout the book that we “do” gender rather than “have” gender (a concept not new to fields of poststructuralist behavioral inquiry). This small statement leaves room for improvement on the tired arguments simply by refuting the notion that certain behaviors are male and certain behaviors are female. Valian goes further to point out that jobs themselves have changed their gendered roles over time at the employer’s will (Valian, 1999, pg. 114), so the workplace is not gender fixed or stagnant. The idea of ‘leadership’ needs to move as far away from male vs. female as possible. Presently ‘women and leadership’ and/or ‘gender and leadership’ remain subcategories of inquiry in the field of leadership studies. The segregation has proved ineffectual and its limitations are recognized in our own classroom. There is an obvious lack of gender diversity (and we can argue ethnic and cultural diversity) among those who are interested in the subject. I believe most gendered males shy away from such inquiry because they are afraid of the bashing, tokenism, and ridicule they will suffer as a result of their participation. I further believe gendered males and females shy away from the topic because they are afraid they will be subjected to the ideology that all men are the enemy, or the course will be uncomfortably “touchy-feely.” Can the subject of ‘gender and leadership’ truly embrace the concept of what gender means and welcome gendered males, as well as a host of other excluded genders, to the table? If the answer is ‘no’, I believe those studying ‘gender and leadership’ are simply reinforcing the hierarchy they are hoping to dismantle. We are failing to see just how often, and to what detrimental degree, the schemas operate. As a result, our questions and approaches to the gender gap problem have failed to evolve toward sustainable, enduring solutions.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Chari

    This book is a must read for anyone in the workplace, but especially women. Valian pulls from psychology, sociology, economics, and biology to explain the disparity between men and women and their professional advancement. Her thorough research and discussion of gender schemas help readers recognize workplace imbalances. She argues that small imbalances accumulate over time and affect both genders----advantaging men and disadvantaging men. She provides experimental, anecdotal, statistical, and o This book is a must read for anyone in the workplace, but especially women. Valian pulls from psychology, sociology, economics, and biology to explain the disparity between men and women and their professional advancement. Her thorough research and discussion of gender schemas help readers recognize workplace imbalances. She argues that small imbalances accumulate over time and affect both genders----advantaging men and disadvantaging men. She provides experimental, anecdotal, statistical, and observational data to to help us become aware of our gender schemas which contribute to our overrating and advantaging men and underrating and disadvantaging women.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Johansen

    A senior expert with legions of experience brings together 100+ statistical studies about how all of us view women and men, their characteristics, and abilities in the workplace. This is the best book I have read on the entire topic of gender perceptions and women in leadership and career.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sally

    This was a great book about social schemas and stereotypes, specifically those about gender. I had the pleasure of taking Valian's course on gender schemas and the book is basically a condensed version of the course. Great book!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rosemary Reilly

    80% read. Great overview, albeit from the 90s, of the gender gap, work, constructions of masculinity & femininity. #schemas 80% read. Great overview, albeit from the 90s, of the gender gap, work, constructions of masculinity & femininity. #schemas

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dane Bell

    This is a must-read. Valian strikes an excellent balance between maximizing information and accessibility, with a well reasoned and frank style. The only complaints I have are that 1. at times, Valian re-summarizes a bit too often, perhaps anticipating that people will read single chapters, 2. the chapter on specific professions drags a bit, 3. as Valian freely admits, the book is limited (by the available research) in scope, and so ignores interactions with race, class, orientation, and non-binar This is a must-read. Valian strikes an excellent balance between maximizing information and accessibility, with a well reasoned and frank style. The only complaints I have are that 1. at times, Valian re-summarizes a bit too often, perhaps anticipating that people will read single chapters, 2. the chapter on specific professions drags a bit, 3. as Valian freely admits, the book is limited (by the available research) in scope, and so ignores interactions with race, class, orientation, and non-binary gender. But overall, this book is stuffed with insight and fascinating details of gender schemas in action.

  7. 4 out of 5

    J.P. Drury

    An amazing, clearly-worded treatise on the affairs of women in the professional and academic spheres. Though many research programs have rejected the null hypothesis of no difference between the sexes, Valians steps back to re-think this question in the light of what she calls "gender schemas", the hypotheses individuals have about the sexes that influence their opinions of individuals independent of any observations. This book has made me think critically about my own behavior and the behavior An amazing, clearly-worded treatise on the affairs of women in the professional and academic spheres. Though many research programs have rejected the null hypothesis of no difference between the sexes, Valians steps back to re-think this question in the light of what she calls "gender schemas", the hypotheses individuals have about the sexes that influence their opinions of individuals independent of any observations. This book has made me think critically about my own behavior and the behavior of other people in my field (biology). I'll be gifting this book a bunch.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Heron

    Great book - pretty depressing though. No women in upper levels of professionalism or academia and the only way to fix it is to be super duper careful about gender schemas. Yay!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Karalyn

    Psychology of Gender classic, written by my mentor/employer Dr. Virginia Valian

  10. 4 out of 5

    Todd Williams

    This is an amazing book that blows away a lot of myths. I found it to be a long read since I had to stop and think about what was said every few pages. It explains a lot and I have found that it changes how I look at gender stereotypes. Four stars only because it is so densely packed with data. This is not a light read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Maxine Madison

    I participated in a book study with this book many years ago, and it left an indelible impression on me. It opened my eyes to the unfortunate trend of slow advancement for women in the workplace.

  12. 5 out of 5

    James Mason

    I've never seen a dead horse beaten so badly. Every single point is belabored. However, I recommend this book highly and think it should be on everyone's bookshelf. I think this is an important book but the writing style makes it more useful as an encyclopedia/reference for studies that demonstrate gender bias. The book also provides some theory to tie the studies together and suggestions to mitigate personal gender bias. Some of the anecdotes were amusing. Many of them and the results of studie I've never seen a dead horse beaten so badly. Every single point is belabored. However, I recommend this book highly and think it should be on everyone's bookshelf. I think this is an important book but the writing style makes it more useful as an encyclopedia/reference for studies that demonstrate gender bias. The book also provides some theory to tie the studies together and suggestions to mitigate personal gender bias. Some of the anecdotes were amusing. Many of them and the results of studies were infuriating. The author covers biases applied to children all the way through the impact of biases in the workplace.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Marie

    I'm rating this three stars because it is unfortunately still relevant in 2016, though the book was published in 1999. It is a very well referenced volume providing an in-depth analysis of pay and power disparities. It can be a dry-to-dusty read, however, and is ultimately rather depressing, as progress remains slow.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    An interesting take on the state of white, upper- to middle-class women in the United States. Valian explores early influences, differences in educational experiences, and women in academia and professions. Though scholarly, the book is a quick and easy read. Bus rating: 4 stars

  15. 4 out of 5

    Davie

    Because it keeps coming up, and I only ever read cherry-picked chunks of it -- gotta read it start to finish one of these days soon.

  16. 4 out of 5

    elbren

    Why So Slow? The Advancement of Women by Virginia Valian (1999)

  17. 5 out of 5

    Andy Schramm

  18. 5 out of 5

    Julie

  19. 4 out of 5

    Anne

  20. 4 out of 5

    Randi

  21. 5 out of 5

    Robyn

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jana Sico

  23. 5 out of 5

    Paul

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dustin Martinez

  25. 4 out of 5

    Trapezoidale

  26. 4 out of 5

    Susan

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mary

  28. 4 out of 5

    Manya Lisse

  29. 5 out of 5

    Keera

  30. 4 out of 5

    Revi Sterling

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