Have you ever wondered why misogyny still exists in Western society in the 2020s? So did I, which is why I read this book. This review contains spoilers.Read more: Authority Gap by Mary Ann Sieghart
The first thing I should say about this book is that it’s thoroughly researched, and almost 50% of the tome is composed of the references section. That said, I’m not sure I see the reference section as up to standard because a lot of names and dates were omitted, which in mind doesn’t make it an adequate reference.
Anyway, back to the actual content. The idea behind the book is to examine the apparent authority gap between men and women, arguing that it’s responsible for such things as the pay gap between the two genders, as well as there being more men in authoritative corporate roles compared to women.
The reason the author puts forth is quite simple when you come to think on it – an unconscious bias.
The content of the book is well structured, starting with the basics, the various facts and figures that demonstrate that as a whole, men are taken more seriously than women. The author even goes so far as to say that this chapter can be skipped because it is already so evident (at least it is to women).
In the following chapter the author argues that the authority gap between men and women can be best observed when individuals have undergone a transition to the opposite gender. Here Sieghart describes a woman who became a man who was then taken more seriously, and a man who became a woman who was then taken less seriously. Both times in academic settings.
Though this may seem to some like a more scientific means to test the theory, it’s pretty easy to poke holes in it. Was the reaction to the now woman caused by prejudiced against the transgendered? And what were the theories being put forward? And the arguments against it? Could the reaction have been justified?
The third chapter is more about what the authority gap feels like in action, how women get interrupted more by men when they are talking, and how men will assume that it’s the men in a mixed group who are the real experts, the ones with knowledge, the brains and the clout. While women are treated like little girls, who are there presumably for decorative purposes.
The next chapter is more interesting, it’s about how we could all benefit from having more women in senior roles, how they make better leaders, and can often help companies earn more profit too. The focus of the chapter is about how men won’t miss out on anything by having a woman in charge.
In chapter 5, the author puts forward the idea that teachers give boys more attention in school than girls, describing schools as a confidence factory for boys, and a competence factory for girls. And the boys’ confidence later becomes mistaken for competence when they progress to the adult world, while females are more likely to second guess themselves and hesitate before speaking their mind.
Women, Sieghart argues are taught to self-deprecate while men are taught to brag. The author even goes so far as to suggest that instead of making assertiveness classes for women, there should be course son humility and bullshit avoidance for men.
Next, the author discusses how men often talk over women, and how their lower voices alone tend to naturally carry more authority.
In chapter 7, and later chapter 11, Sieghart discusses how confident women are seen as pushy, and how they have to interact with more warmth than men do when in more senior roles, because they are required to be likeable, whereas for men this requirement doesn’t appear to exist.
Even in the world of literature, the author has identified a gender difference, with men getting better recognition.
The tome then takes a more saddening turn. Chapter 9 for examples talks about how even women are guilty of this bias towards men. And chapter 10 discusses how certain institutions, primarily religious organisations and the movie production industry still continue to be dominated by men.
Then, in chapter 11, the author discusses how gender bias can often be compounded with other forms of bias, such as race, sexuality, and disability. Chapter 13 is about how much attention is given to a woman’s appearance, over and above what her intention in any setting may be.
While chapter 14 discusses the extremes of misogyny, and how these days men respond to opinionated women with intimidation and aggression with death threats on Twitter, and threats of sexual violence.
But, thank goodness for chapter 15! The final chapter in the book is also the longest, and it’s basically a long list of practical things we can do rectify this authority gap. And if you’re in any kind of leadership role, you can really gain a lot here, and the book would be worth reading for this chapter alone.
So, in summary, this book is not just a rant about how women still aren’t always given the respect and recognition that they deserve. But it also explains why this authority gap has come to exist, and it offers practical steps to help elevate a female’s say in all kinds of different scenarios .
As a woman myself, I hate saying this, but I strongly believe that this book would have more impact if it was written by a man. Which I think is case and point of what the author is trying to say here.
The take home is to try to make yourself more aware of any bias that you may have, so that you can change your behaviour accordingly.
It’s a long read, but an important one for anyone who is concerned about women achieving their rightful place in a man’s world. And the author’s points are very well made.