As those of you who are regular readers of this blog and FEAST the eZine know, I generally write only about books I can enthusiastically recommend. OUTLIERS: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell (Little, Brown 2008) breaks that rule to some degree. Yes, I liked it. In fact, I found it fascinating to read the data about interconnected and chance factors that have played into major success stories of our time. Gladwell has an entertaining style that uses stories to illustrate results of studies on his topics, and I applaud that approach because we all like stories better than numbers or dreary statistics. HOWEVER, sadly, Gladwell misses the boat in my view by completely ignoring the role of gender in his story of success. For the most part, this book is all about successful WHITE MEN, about studies that show the sometimes hidden keys to their achievements in arenas where many have the basic potential, but only a few hit the high notes.
BUT WHERE ARE THE WOMEN? That there is an extra layer of challenges for women to achieve the highest financial and career successes is without doubt. Have there been no studies about this that could have been included? Were all the studies done about men only? It would appear so in Gladwell’s book. The only nod to successful women in this volume is not really on a par with those offered for men. The last chapter of the book is the story of his own family’s women, his grandmother and his mother in particular. But it is an homage—and a well-deserved one from the sound of it—but their successes do not compare with the male geniuses and top earners of sports, science, and industry with which Gladwell makes his earlier points. He tries to tie it in, but it just doesn’t work. Where is the story of an Oprah, a Maya Angelou, a Sandra Day O’Connor, a Nancy Pelosi, a Coco Chanel? Perhaps that’s a whole other book since the key factors include challenges unique to their gender.
This is still a good read, with plenty of food for thought on the often perplexing questions about why this person becomes a phenomenal success and a seemingly similarly capable person does not. But, come on, Malcolm—look beyond your own box!
-- Rosemary Carstens