A new book about gender has created controversy, but perhaps for all the wrong reasons. How would you like to know that women are the superior gender, and that we actually don’t need men at all?
I don’t think that’s what Sheryl Sandberg had in mind when she wrote Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (Knopf, 2013). That’s a best-seller by the Facebook COO that I am familiar with, having read and presented a synopsis of that book at a Creative Communication Network (CCN) client site. Note: I can no longer do that under contractual agreement with Randy Mayeux, who presented it at the First Friday Book Synopsis and other CCN sites. and who has exclusive presentation privileges for the book. Regardless, there’s no way that Sandberg wanted women to eliminate men – but rather, to figure out how to co-exist with them, and how to get their “fair share.”
That’s not what Women After All: Sex, Evolution, and the End of Male Supremacy (Norton, 2015) by Dr. Melvin Konner says. His book provides evidence that men are more likely to commit crimes, die in accidents, and incite violence. To your great surprise, he also points out that men cannot reproduce without women. But, did you know that there is evidence that females can reproduce without males? You’ll have to get the book to learn how. (Hint: it’s not by humans.)
And the critics on Amazon.com are not happy. One consumer review, after giving it one star out of a possible five, remarks: “Konner practically salivates when considering a future without men.” That is in spite of a glowing quoted editorial review which says, “Women After All describes what future historians will surely recognize as one of the momentous transformations in the human saga: the decline of men’s political dominance, and with it many deplorable practices and belief systems. Engagingly written and persuasively argued, it shows how an acknowledgment of human nature combined with a long view of history can advance the human condition.” (Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, & author of The Better Angels of Our Nature.)”
Dr. Konner is a professor of anthropology at Emory University. He is actually one of the rare “Doctor-Doctor’s,” holding both an M.D. and Ph.D. from Harvard. He has written many books, perhaps the most famous of which was published in 2011, entitled The Evolution of Childhood: Relationships, Emotion, Mind (Belknap Press). You can see a list of the titles and publication dates by clicking here.
From his own website, he describes why and what he does: “I apply science to human nature and experience, exploring the links between biology and behavior, medicine and society, nature and culture. Why do we do what we do, think what we think, feel what we feel? I find answers in anthropology, biology, medicine, evolution, the brain, childhood, history, and culture. I’ve often commented on medical ethics, health care reform, child care, and other issues, and I do that here too.” You can read some of his blogs on the site by clicking here.
This book contains great outrage at the historical indignities suffered by women. Sandberg may appreciate his call that treating women better will help men as well. But, it appears that there is not a great place at the table for men. And, the thesis that society will be better off without them may be difficult to swallow.
By the way, this is no best-seller. It is nowhere close to that on Amazon.com, and it does not appear on any list that I can find.
You can’t say the book is biased. It’s full of scientific data, trends analyses, and logical interpretations. It’s just that a book which exposes problems without giving much in terms of solutions is not going to appeal to very many readers.
You can expect to see more about this author and book very soon. It is an obvious choice for the “Good Morning America“s of the world, the Huffington Post, radio talk shows, and even some of the tabloids. If nothing else, Konner will make a lot of money and get famous.
People don’t care about entities that they don’t care about. If someone has a “just a job,” then that is not enough to make them care about the success of an organization. It has to mean something in the depths of their being for them to genuinely care …
This occured to me as I read just a couple of short paragraphs from Tyler Cowen’s blog entry about Harvard’s dominance in the rankings. Here’s the key sentence:
…Therefore, whichever measure of school quality that we use – rank, school selectivity or endowment, we find that same result – the greater the degree of alumni control, the higher the quality of the school.
The article is on why Harvard is always ranked #1. And the answer is “alumni control.”
In other words, people care about what they care about. And alumni usually care a very great deal.
Here’s the source: What Makes Harvard #1? Governance and the Dominance of US Universities.
Even in a down-economy, discussions about assessing, developing, or obtaining talent will not go away.
Indeed, this week we learned about another business best-seller on this topic.
Top Talent by Sylvia Ann Hewlett (Harvard Business School Press, 2010).
Over the years, at the First Friday Book Synopsis, we have featured books such as these on talent:
- The War for Talent by Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones, Beth Axelrod (Harvard Business School Press, 2001)
- Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin (Portfolio, 2008)
I think the major reason that the quest for talent will not go away is that it is part of the consideration at the top of a company’s Performance Management system. The first step is to “hire the right person.” The second step is to get the person off to a good start with proper orienting or onboarding. What’s funny is that if more companies would take the time to get the right person and get that person off to a great start, everything else under performance management would fall in place. For example, companies would need to less counseling, progressive discipline, firing, and so forth.
However, this is not the case! When managers have openings, they want to fill them as quickly as possible. Companies are not taking the time and care to be sure that the new hire is a proper fit. Talent is a huge consideration in this process, but not the only factor. Yet, it is this rush to fill an open position, rather than ensuring that a person is right for the job, that creates so much trouble.
I understand this. Many times managers with open positions do the work of the open position. That means at least two jobs – if not more. But, I think of the old line, “do you want to pay me now or pay me later?” A company does not have to take the time to get the right person, but when it does not, it will pay for it later in many ways.
Talent is important. That’s why we continue to see authors write about it, and why we see customers purchase books about it, that ultimately make best-seller lists.
What do you think? Let’s talk about it.
P.S. – By the way, did you know you can purchase synopses of the two talent books I refer to above at 15MinuteBusinessBooks.com? You get the audio presentation along with an outline and sheet of key quotes.
Cheryl offers: I’ve been reading the newspaper a lot more carefully ever since Sara blogged about the Fort Hood incident. Remember the strapping brunette? I don’t watch TV so I haven’t seen any of the Olympics; instead I occasionally check the sports section of the newspaper. What grabbed me today was the tremendous success of the US Women’s hockey team. They have now moved to the gold medal finals on Thursday of this week against old rival, Canada. Yesterday they beat Sweden 9-1. This added to their fantastic record in 2010 of outscoring their rivals 40-2. Holy smoke! Did I find this on the front page of the Sports Section as was the men’s win against Canada which only moved them to the quarter finals? No, it was on page 5. That isn’t what grabbed me though. It was the writer’s comment “A scrapbooking party couldn’t have been more competitive.” Say that about the men’s team and see what happens. This type of comment, from a female writer by the way, takes me back to Pat Heim’s book Hardball for Women. She shares “Men respond to strength and a part of your capacity to ultimately lead is a capacity for you to demonstrate your strength.” There are players on this women’s team with degrees from Harvard and job offers from Donald Trump. These women are strong leaders, athletes, and role models for young women. What made me laugh was the image in my head of the ever competitive Donald at a scrapbooking party! Now that’s a LOL.
Sara adds: I do watch television and saw some of women’s hockey…nothing wimpy about those women!! What Cheryl points out, makes me more than a little sad. Kristen Kaufman of The Dallas Morning News is quoted in She wins, You Win by Gail Evans as saying, “Women… are not helping one another to achieve power in the work world – and they may even be putting one another at a disadvantage….” I wonder what it will take for media in the US and Canada to become gender-neutral?