Insightful advice for women about decisiveness, confidence, and tackling gender bias.
Cognitive psychologist Huston (Teaching What You Don’t Know, 2009), founding director for the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Seattle University, investigates women’s decision-making in the workplace, addressing both women and the men who work with them. Drawing on interviews and a wide range of studies across many disciplines, the author concludes, “decision-making has a gender component…someone would give a man a supportive pat on the back but give a woman a raised eyebrow for making the same call.” Huston examines stereotypes about “women’s intuition,” which she attributes to empathy and sensitivity to body language; in making decisions, however, evidence shows that women, as much as men, rely on deliberate analysis. Cultural assumptions, the author writes, often make women doubt themselves. Men are expected “to be like secret agents: competent, independent, forceful, and, most of all, decisive.” Women, on the other hand, are expected to behave like “mother ducks,” working to foster relationships. Men are thought to be more comfortable with risk-taking—“passing up a sure thing to shoot for an opportunity that might be costly but also might turn out to be more valuable than the sure thing”—but Huston asserts that risk-taking “is not a personality trait. It’s a skill.” Yet when a woman takes a risk and fails, she often believes she has made a bad choice: “The message she hears is she should really play someplace else.” When stressed, men may exhibit a “fight-or-flight” response while women react with “tend-and-befriend.” Besides attending to the “to do” lists at the end of each chapter, which offer exercises for self-examination, Huston suggests keeping a one-sentence daily journal to record decisions, feelings, and reflections about “what you really valued.”
Useful, practical strategies based on informed analysis.