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Why So Slow?: The Advancement of Women Hardcover – January, 1998

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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

A scholarly and convincing explanation of women's slow progress in the professions. Whether in business, law, medicine, or academia, women are not advancing at the same rate as men. They're not paid as well, they occupy less-powerful positions, and they are not as respected. In this copiously researched book, Valian (Psychology and Linguistics/Hunter Coll.) attempts to explain why. She argues that we all have unarticulated, often subconscious ideas about gender that affect both our behavior and, perhaps even more importantly, our evaluations of one another. For instance, we think men are logical, women are social; men are competent, women are flaky. As a result, men are consistently overrated and women underrated by coworkers, bosses--and themselves. The resulting advantages and disadvantages may be small, but they accrue over time to create large gaps in advancement. Valian reviews numerous studies, enlivens her material with personal anecdotes, and offers both personal and societal solutions. She looks not only at the workplace, but at its context--data on how girls and boys are raised and educated differently and the extremely inconclusive biological research on men and women's ``inherent'' differences (she has a refreshingly balanced take on the latter, noting that there may be a few differences, but they don't justify our discriminatory assumptions and practices). Throughout much of the book, Valian is in effect synthesizing the work of other researchers--but her take on the material, which draws richly on a linguist's sensitivity to nuances of verbal exhcanges, is fresh, and it's worth doing, since few readers will ever see the obscure studies she cites. Probably too academic in tone for most readers, but for anyone concerned about gender inequality--or perhaps even more importantly, readers who think they aren't--it's worth a look. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.


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) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 401 pages
  • Publisher: Mit Pr (January 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262220547
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262220545
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #390,177 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Sarah McGinty (smcginty@tiac.com) on May 1, 1999
Format: Hardcover
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
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By E. M. Carey on February 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
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!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Anne C. Larme on August 27, 2006
Format: Paperback
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.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Fey Ritchey on November 14, 2002
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!
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
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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