The Male Factor by Shaunti Feldhaun
This book is a take on helping women in the business world to break through the so-called glass ceiling. The key is to use a male-oriented approach in the workplace – it’s business, not personal. Author Shaunti Feldhaun goes to great lengths to establish her credentials and the sampling methodology she and her team used to produce this book. She also touts her wildly successful career as a consultant; a bit of overkill. During this disclosure, Feldhaun emphasizes majority versus minority responses to her carefully crafted written survey that forms the basis for many of her conclusions. At the outset, the reader is repeatedly offered allusions to the findings in later chapters. These allusions are not the least bit tantalizing.
The world featured in this book is acknowledged as private sector; there was no exploration of the public sector – government. This is a shortcoming, for government and its employees, albeit civil servants, factor mightily in the economy of the United States. Many opportunities for female advancement exist in this sector. Although civil service is dominated by testing and exam rankings, the interview and subsequent probation period following a hire determine whether women are upwardly mobile (just as is the case in the private sector).
The version of the book being reviewed here is the “Christian” one. It contains many references to workplaces that are operated as Christian enterprises or Christian male employers and coworkers in secular businesses. Feldhaun over generalizes and portrays Christians in a homogenous way that is presumptuous. The “Christian” community is comprised of many permutations and is no more alike than an “Asian” or “Muslim” community.
The men who graciously agreed to being interviewed by Ms. Feldhaun (her own characterization) come off as strangely schizophrenic, following one set of norms at the office and another during their personal lives. Apparently, because the workplace was established by men, the rules are not going to change. Women, particularly those who she views as most in need of reading this book, are chastised for not perceiving the difference.
There are ample references to scientific studies that established the differences between male brain activity and female brain activity. Males are described as 100% focused and not able to multi-task, while women are eager, willing and able to lay the groundwork, illustrate the concept and come to a conclusion while performing multiple activities. No kidding! Anyone can easily use this finding to justify why human males do not bear the babies or provide their nourishment for the first few months.
There are italicized comments placed at what the reader assumes are teachable moments in each section of the book; however, they are repetitive extracts from the immediately preceding text. While these statements are obviously intended to be pearls of wisdom and learning points, they come off as slogans or watchwords to use on business trendy flashcards.
Sadly, a reader who would most benefit from the best parts of this book (yes, there are some) is not only fully committed to her view of the “good old boys’ network,” she is too emotional to wade through the dry narrative. A lost opportunity but two stars for the attempt.
Review by Ruta Arellano. This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, a division of Random House.