As she put down the phone, she looked at me, and said, “Just so you know: Don’t ever tell a man in business that you can’t do something because of personal commitments. You’re ‘in a meeting.’ He doesn’t need to know that it is with your kids’ dentist. If he does, he starts to think this irrational thing that you allow personal life to interfere with work. Don’t even give him the opportunity to go there.
– The Male Factor, p. 79
Summary: Many talented women risk undermining their careers without realizing it, simply because they don’t understand how they are perceived by their male colleagues and customers. In The Male Factor, author Shaunti Feldhahn reveals the inner reality behind men’s views. These revelations include:
• Men’s unwritten ‘rules’ of the workplace
• How men perceive workplace emotion
• What common situations with female colleagues most frustrate men – and why
• Why revealing clothing can sabotage a woman’s effectiveness
• Why some men think flextime is fine, but equal compensation for it is not
There is a Christian and general market edition of this book. The major difference is that the former edition includes some additional material from a Christian perspective. I reviewed the Christian edition.
Positives: Feldhahn does a good handling such an emotionally charged subject. She seeks to be fair and balanced and her background as a researcher is evident in the thoroughness of this report. She spent 7 years working on this book and surveyed more than 1,500 men. Included are many direct quotes from men in upper management at Fortune 500 companies. Much of this material is eye-opening, as I found myself frequently being surprised at how differently men and women are regarding certain issues. The book also put to words how men think and operate in the workplace in ways that even I (as a male) wasn’t fully aware of.
Feldhahn does not suggest that it is fair that men get to set the rules. What she does suggest is that women at least know what the unspoken rules are in order to prevent themselves from inadvertently coming across poorly and hurting their chances of promotion. She provides a number of anecdotes and intensely practical tips to back up her findings and advice. Finally, I loved the Christian perspective on setting priorities and living a life that is pleasing to God included at the end of the book.
Negatives: This book felt needlessly long (320 pages) and repeats itself often. It also took awhile to get underway. My biggest complaint, though, is that it is impossible to write a book like this without making a litany of mass generalizations. For example, an early theme was how men are thinkers while women are feelers. Obviously, there are going to be a lot of exceptions. There is no “one size fits all” in regards to gender differences. This book does uncover helpful patterns, but it is good to also keep in mind that every situation is different and complex. Gender is just one factor. Personalities, upbringing, culture, age, race, level of seniority and social context are other factors that come into play.
I also didn’t feel that this book was as unbiased as it came across. Feldhahn spends a chapter describing how men are inherently insecure, oversensitive and full of self-doubt. The next chapter is on how women whose dress reveals cleavage are simply wearing the latest fashions and have no idea how visual men are and what a distraction it can be. I was thinking to myself, “Come on Shaunti! You just spent a chapter dealing with how inadequate men feel and then you ascribe the most naive and purest of intentions to women who wear provocative clothing?” I agree that most men struggle with feelings of inadequacy. On the other hand, I also believe that certain women consciously or unconsciously wear things that will tempt men’s thoughts because they desire to be desired. The research methodology is sound, but the author’s editorial comments give an interpretation (and subsequent bias) to the findings.
Summary: As a male reader, this book continually kicked me in the shins. I didn’t always agree with the author’s conclusions or how case studies were so broadly applied. Still, it was beneficial for me to understand additional obstacles, frustrations and challenges that women in the workforce face. Books like this one go a long way in helping men and women understand each other. I found it very helpful.
This book was provided for review by the Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group. To learn more about or purchase this book at RandomHouse.com, click here. For further information, check out book’s website.
I have a free copy of this book to give away. Leave a comment (can be anything) and I will randomly draw a winner on Thursday, January 14 at 9pm EST.