Why so slow? The Advancement of Women, by Virginia Valian

Many Michigan Tech WISE members know that I am a big fan of Virginia Valian’s book Why So Slow?  The Advancement of Women (MIT Press, 1999).  Valian’s well researched book gives women the data they need to first, convince themselves that they’re not imagining the disadvantage they feel, and second, the tools to make things better.  Here is some of what you will find there:

  • Department heads consistently evaluated resumes with male names higher than identical resumes that were presented with female names (Why so slow? Virginia Valian, p127, bottom)
  • When test subjects are presented with a group working together at a table, both male and female evaluators consistently identify a male at the head of the table as the “group leader”, but when a woman is seated at the head of the table, 50% of the time evaluators choose a male not seated at the head of the table as the “group leader.” (Why so slow? Virginia Valian, p127, top)
  • Even when an objectively measurable parameter, such as height, is evaluated, our unconscious biases influence our evaluations. In a study when subjects were asked to estimate heights of people in photographs, they consistently identified the women as shorter, and the men taller, than they actually were. (Why so slow, p6). There was no difference in the evaluations provided by male and female evaluators in this or the other studies. We all carry these schemas.
  • These effects are accentuated when women make up a small fraction (<25%) of those being evaluated (Why so slow, p140).

I have two copies in my office ready to loan to anyone who is interested in reading more of this quantitative and convincing book.