The New Soft War on Women: How the Myth of Female Ascendance Is Hurting Women, Men-and Our Economy

Overview

For the first time in history, women make up half the educated labor force and are earning the majority of advanced degrees. It should be the best time ever for women, and yet... it’s not. Storm clouds are gathering, and the worst thing is that most women don’t have a clue what could be coming. In large part this is because the message they’re being fed is that they now have it made. But do they?

In The New Soft War on Women, respected experts on gender issues and the ...

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The New Soft War on Women: How the Myth of Female Ascendance Is Hurting Women, Men-and Our Economy

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Overview

For the first time in history, women make up half the educated labor force and are earning the majority of advanced degrees. It should be the best time ever for women, and yet... it’s not. Storm clouds are gathering, and the worst thing is that most women don’t have a clue what could be coming. In large part this is because the message they’re being fed is that they now have it made. But do they?

In The New Soft War on Women, respected experts on gender issues and the psychology of women Caryl Rivers and Rosalind C. Barnett argue that an insidious war of subtle biases and barriers is being waged that continues to marginalize women. Although women have made huge strides in recent years, these gains have not translated into money and influence. Consider the following: 

- Women with MBAs earn, on average, $4,600 less than their male counterparts in their first job out of business school.

- Female physicians earn, on average, 39 percent less than male physicians.

- Female financial analysts take in 35 percent less, and female chief executives one quarter less than men in similar positions.

In this eye-opening book, Rivers and Barnett offer women the real facts as well as tools for combating the “soft war” tactics that prevent them from advancing in their careers. With women now central to the economy, determining to a large degree whether it thrives or stagnates, this is one war no one can afford for them to lose.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[A] vital study of the state of women in the labor force... It's hard to ignore overwhelming evidence that shows the undesirable and unsustainable conditions women face in the 21st century. This book will move readers."
—Publishers Weekly

"In page after page, these authors catalog the barriers that women still confront…[and] support their argument with solid data and illuminating anecdotes."
—Library Journal

“This is the book you have been waiting for. In meticulous and maddening detail, the authors lay out the studies and statistics that show how women are getting overlooked and underpaid in the workplace. And by showing that the gender wage gap typically begins right out of school, they blow a million sorry excuses for the pay differential right out of the water. It’s not business. It’s bias.”
— Carolyn Maloney, U.S. Representative for New York’s 12th Congressional District

The New Soft War on Women is myth-shattering, disturbing, persuasive, and hopeful all at once. The authors argue that discrimination isn’t gone, it’s gone underground, and they show what to do about it to ensure that women’s talent isn’t lost. Anyone who cares about a thriving economy—and her own career—should grab this powerful book.”
— Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School professor and bestselling author of Confidence and SuperCorp: How Vanguard Companies Create Innovation, Profits, Growth, and Social Good

“While the rest of the punditocracy either proclaims or bemoans the ‘end of men,’ veteran observers Caryl Rivers and Rosalind Barnett say ‘not so fast.’ This bracing, clear-sighted, and well-researched book cautions against such premature self-congratulation and reminds us of the startling inequalities yet to be righted.”
 —Michael Kimmel, author of Guyland and SUNY Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies

“Finally, finally, finally—a book that pulls together and makes sense of the most credible research on women in the workforce. If you have been confused by the media hype, if you are a woman, if you manage women, or if you are a business decision maker, this is a must-have book for you!”
Ellen Galinsky, President, Families and Work Institute

Publishers Weekly
Rivers and Barnett’s (She Works/He Works) vital study of the state of women in the labor force draws upon statistics, interviews, and cultural analysis, to argue that, contrary to the widespread belief that women are outstripping men in the classroom and workforce (“the myth of female ascendance”), the situation is far from ideal. Moreover, the authors claim that gains that women have made since the early part of the 20th century, such as access to contraception, are in danger of disappearing. Although the copious use of statistics to debunk myths can become tiresome, it’s hard to ignore overwhelming evidence that shows the undesirable and unsustainable conditions women face in the 21st century. Though many struggles sound old hat—whether women are natural caretakers and subordinates, the struggle to balance career and family, the undue influence of a woman’s appearance, the disparity in wages—this book will move readers who believe that feminism is an outdated movement, or that gender discrimination is a thing of the past. Although the book doesn’t offer comprehensive strategies to win the “soft war,” it effectively shows how old ideas are still at work and unveils their contemporary manifestations. (Oct.)
Library Journal
09/01/2013
Rivers (journalism, Boston Univ.) and Barnett (senior scientist, Women's Studies Research Ctr., Brandeis Univ.) take on today's recurring argument that discrimination against women has largely disappeared (see, e.g., Hanna Rosin's The End of Men: And the Rise of Women). It's our damaged men and boys, we often hear, who warrant our attention. Any close observer of the economic, political, and social roles of women today knows that discrimination against women endures, with biases that still harm women and families reliant on women for support. Rivers and Barnett point out that in some areas, such as reproductive health, women's rights are not gaining but eroding. In page after page, these authors catalog the barriers that women still confront: lower wages, hostility toward "aggressive" women, favoritism toward men who enter traditionally female occupations, and penalties for both men and women who take time off for family care, among others. They support their argument with solid data and illuminating anecdotes. Their prescription for progress is, however, disappointing: "We must move from rhetoric to action." Feminist organizations, national and local, do push for action, but to little avail in the current political environment. VERDICT Readers interested in women's circumstances today will appreciate this book.—Cynthia Harrison, George Washington Univ., Washington, DC
Kirkus Reviews
2013-10-01
Called a "soft war" due to the insidious nature of today's gender discrimination, Rivers (Journalism/Columbia Univ.) and research psychologist Barnett (co-authors: The Truth About Girls and Boys: Challenging Toxic Stereotypes About Our Children, 2011) collaborate to chronicle the ongoing marginalization of women, on levels ranging from executive to domestic. On the surface, things seem to be improving, write the authors. However, their collected data reveals little being done to stem the flow of all-too-prevalent societal discrimination against women. Interviews conducted with female attorneys, physicians, executives and professors reflect decades of inequities in the modern workplace, the result of everything from rampant hypersexualization, unbalanced wages and unfair perceptions to promotions based on performance and not on future potential. The authors' detailed examination draws heavily on statistical data, demonstrating how widespread the railroading of women has been over the last 40 years in less-obvious places such as classrooms and in the home, where expectations force many to forfeit professional careers in favor of caregiving and child-rearing. The authors admit that while great strides have taken place in the gender equality movement itself, these advancements and opportunities for women are hardly commensurate to those afforded to male contemporaries, leaving women lacking both the compensation and the influence necessary to advance within the corporate arena, or anywhere, for that matter. Alternately, there are those who've persevered. Influential women like Katie Couric, Meg Whitman and Hillary Clinton are among the many powerful women referenced who've bent to counterproductive societal biases, yet thrived in positions of power. Though the authors admirably expend the bulk of their energies demarcating festering stereotypes, they don't use their collective voice to provide resource material on how proponents can support change on a grass-roots level. Stern reportage anchored with passion but lacking affirmative action.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399176395
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/1/2015
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,523,453

Meet the Author

Caryl Rivers is a professor of journalism at the College of Communication at Boston University. A nationally known author and journalist, she received the Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Rosalind C. Barnett is a senior scientist at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University. Her pioneering research on workplace issues and family life in America has been sponsored by federal grants, and she is often invited to lecture at major venues in the United States and abroad. Dr. Barnett has a private clinical psychology practice and is the author of scholarly and popular books and articles.

 

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