Shaunti Feldhahn is an accomplished woman: she has a degree from Harvard; she has held high-profile analysis positions in both the public and the private sectors; and recently she has been taking her considerable research skills and applying them to how different genders relate to one another. Her most recent book, The Male Factor, is a study of how men and women approach the workplace. Written primarily for women, Feldhahn seeks to understand the unspoken honor code of men in the business world and then help women understand how to thrive within that culture. Although The Male Factor starts to feel repetitive and wordy at points, it is a book that is worth taking the time to read.
Feldhahn has written The Male Factor because she believes that women often sabotage themselves in the workplace without even knowing it. She begins this discussion by giving her readers a primer on how men’s brains and women’s brains are engineered differently. Simply put, men prefer to compartmentalize and focus to accomplish what they need to get done. Women, on the other hand, are multitaskers. This is a very helpful insight, because much of her research leads her to believe that the male-dominated business culture is very much about differentiation.
For instance, Feldhahn devotes one whole chapter to the phrase, “It’s not personal, it’s business.” In this chapter and subsequent chapters, she shares how her research reveals that the business culture demands that people are able to separate their personal world and their work world. Most men approach the business world and their personal world with different values and attitudes in each. Many guys become frustrated when women or other men attempt to bring their personal lives into their workplace. It is also important, Feldhahn argues, to not take business personally within this culture. She shares the story of a man who hired and then fired a friend that worked for him, and the men and their families were still close and went on vacations together. They were able to differentiate the work world and the personal world (pp. 46-47).
Other chapters continue along similar themes. The author coaches women that men in the business world hope that men and women can work together in a way where they can work rationally and strategically instead of being overcome by emotion. Much of the insights are helpful, but I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t simply common sense.
Overall, The Male Factor is intended to teach and instruct people about how workplaces function and how to thrive in that environment. Feldhahn does a nice job in describing the business culture, and I would recommend the book for a woman seeking to break through the “glass ceiling.” However, I think either Feldhahn and/or the publisher should have done a better job in acknowledging that many people do not have workplaces planted in this corporate culture, and that this book will be less helpful outside of these types of work settings. I think there are several kinds of work worlds (schools and classrooms, social work environments, churches, etc.) which have a more egalitarian or even feminine work style. This book may not be as helpful for persons in those contexts. However, The Male Factor is a thought-provoking, smart read, with Feldhahn’s insights backed by her stellar research. The book is worth picking up and looking at, even if you find yourself having to skim through parts of it instead of reading the whole book word for word. – Clint Walker, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
Based on a nationwide survey and confidential interviews with more than three thousand men, bestselling author of For Women Only, Shaunti Feldhahn, has written a startling and unprecedented exploration of how men in the workplace tend to think, which even the most astute women might otherwise miss. In The Male Factor, Feldhahn investigates and quantifies the private thoughts that men almost never publicly reveal or admit to, but that every woman will want to know.