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Women Don't Perform as Well at Work as They Did in School

I'm Asking: The Sexual Paradox

The Sexual Paradox is the name of a new book by Susan Pinker, and recently reviewed by the New York Times, that discusses why females outperform males in school but then we fall behind in the workplace. She observes, “If you were to predict the future on the basis of school achievement alone, the world would be a matriarchy.” So then why is it more of a man's world after we're finished being graded?

The author argues that our brains are to blame for falling behind professionally. She believes that most women want to limit time spent working and search for “inherent meaning” at the office instead of seeking out a power position. She notes that these priorities “both conflict with making lots of money and rising through the ranks.”

What I want to know is — now that you've dipped your toes in the working world — why do you think we haven't had the same success in the workplace, compared to men, that we did during our school days?


Join The Conversation
Cassandra57 Cassandra57 9 years
So Pinker says "our brains are to blame"? That sounds pretty judgmental and unflattering to me. I could definitely get a promotion at my workplace, if I were willing to work longer or later hours. However, I have two high-schoolers, and I *love* leaving at 3:45. I think it's more about priorities than "success", as defined by office size and paycheck.
jadenirvana jadenirvana 9 years
I think it's because boys are still raised to believe they will be the breadwinner in their family, so they don't have time to think about things like "inherent meaning." They just work, because they have a family to feed. For women, it's still more of a choice. Women define work/life balance aka "having it all" as being successful, whereas many men I know can put their heart and soul into work at the cost of personal health and relationships, and still feel very successful. I think the other reason is because women are still extremely concerned with being "nice". They view being well-liked as their definition of success, and are not willing to make the enemies that come with making a lot of money (having to downsize, having to cut costs and enforce lunch hours.) That is why so many women still go into the "helping" professions like nursing, education, and social work which are largely underpaid. All of these things combine to make for a less "successful' women work force. I personally hope this changes. Social work is a worthy cause, but it would be nice for once if women were giving the grants instead of applying for them.
popgoestheworld popgoestheworld 9 years
I did the "redefine success" thing as well. I honestly think women are quicker to realize how empty "success" can be. I'd rather have a well-rounded life than power or traditionally-defined success any day. And you know, it was a choice. No one was beating me down telling me I couldn't do it. I could and can do anything I want to do. It's just that being a CEO isn't it.
sophia_HL sophia_HL 9 years
I like my job but I don't want it to be my life.
mandy_frost mandy_frost 9 years
There are so many studies that women are NOT educated to fight for things in the professional world. We don't negotiate for higher salaries. We accept more duties without question. We just don't know how to ask about that stuff, and we'd be seen as b*tches if we did. Also, loads of women, as pointed out by above commenters, still take care of families while men are the "breadwinners."
javsmav javsmav 9 years
There's also a lack of female role models and mentors in the corporate world. The majority of partners at my firm are men--a lot of firms & companies are like that.
princessjaslew princessjaslew 9 years
i think a huge part of it is that women define success differently from men. but when it comes to the definition of 'success' in the working world, they always take the definition from the men!
SkinnyMarie SkinnyMarie 9 years
I think it all comes down to who instinctively takes care of the kids. My Aunt is the bread winner. Her husband doesn't work, so you would think he would be a stay at home dad, but he won't do it. They hire a nanny because he can't stand being the mom. I also think that women don't have that killer instinct to be number 1. I would rather be happy at work, then miserable with lot of money and power.
imLissy imLissy 9 years
I don't care about money or power. I want a job I enjoy, where I'm not killing myself and I can be home at 6 every day. I think a lot of women feel the same. It looks good for guys to be in a position of power/have high pay, but I think people still expect women to take care of the home/kids, so if other people don't care, why should we? I worked really hard in school, but now that I have a nice, cushy job, I'm finally relaxing.
Shopaholichunny Shopaholichunny 9 years
Great point Marinermandy! That's really true with alot of women except me and my Mom. :P But, you do only LIVE once and sometimes money isn't worth it all.
MarinerMandy MarinerMandy 9 years
I can't speak for all women, but I do value a job that I feel good about over making money. I've never cared about money beyond what I need to survive and I've never set a goal to be rich. I want a life outside of work; the thought of spending my entire life perched in front of a computer screen just so I can have a big house I never spend time in just doesn't make sense to me. I really don't like being told that I'm holding women back by not taking a job that pays well over a job that satisfies me. You only live once.
RosaDilia RosaDilia 9 years
This is a hard one. I myself limit my leadership in the workplace due to that being a single parent my son is my first priority. I'd rather miss a couple of dollars than miss open school night or little league. But I always make sure that my work is noted for and my salary compensates not for being top leadership but making sure that my work is done right.
megnmac megnmac 9 years
When I was in law school, I decided to 'redefine success' - and I took a job I love that doesn't make the money of my peers and that allows me to go home at a normal time. I am still a lawyer, I am still working hard, but I love my entire life. I think women are more likely to do this overall, and I think the outcomes reflect that. Women are more likely to take a break, and women are more likely to be seen as people that will take a break from the workforce. Any 5-10 year break takes us out of the competition a lot. Speaking with men that are 'successful' in my world, respected judges and attorneys, some seem to regret that they missed so much of their life - either kids and family or just a fulfilling work experience. In climbing the ladder that other people expect, and looking for external 'success' people miss out on so much life.
SkinnyMarie SkinnyMarie 9 years
That is a hard one. I think to compare how well someone does in school has nothing to do with how well they do at a job. there are variables for each person. Myself is more of a matter of the field I am in, so it can't be compared to most others. Being an Interior Design in an Architect controlled world is hard enough. If I did go to architecture though I would feel I would be looked at as equal and make it just as high. My boss worked for a large (in the top 15 of the nation) architecture design firms as an Interior Designer. She was there long enough to become a principle. She would have been one, but the firm did not believe in making an Interior Designer a principle. Only architects were allowed (though when you design interiors as a designer or architect you are doing the same thing). So she left and started her own firm.
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