Outliers: The Story of Success

Outliers: The Story of Success is an interesting read to be sure.  In it’s pages, Malcolm Gladwell presents numerous examples of remarkable individuals who have achieved great things in their lives.  He argues, “It is not the brightest who succeed.  Nor is success simply the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf. It is, rather, a gift. Outliers are those who have been given opportunities — and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.” He discusses some of the fascinating circumstances around the success of the Beatles, Bill Gates and Joe Flom, an extraordinary mergers-and-acquisition attorney who happens to be of Jewish descent, for example.  According to Gladwell, those circumstances are not limited to innate personal ability.  The timing within history of ones birth, their home environment growing up, and their cultural heritage are also major factors.

About half way through the book, however, I began to detect a blaring fault line leading me to put the book down and check out some reviews on line.  I typed “Women in Outliers” into Google search and discovered several links to articles like the one below.

Gender Elephant in the Gladwell’s Outlier Living Room

Sure enough, my suspicions were correct.  Not one single woman is discussed among the case studies of successful outliers.  NOT ONE!  It’s just strange!  And Gladwell makes no attempt to account for their conspicuous absence.  I continued reading the book anyway, however, because I did find it interesting and enjoyable.  As with his other books, like Tipping Point and Blink, in Outliers Gladwell exhibits an unquestionable ability to challenge many of our assumptions about everyday phenomena in a compelling way.  In the end, I still have to agree with the conclusion to the article above by Ellen Snortland. “Unless we stop squandering the talents of girls and women, we’re apt to destroy our own world from the very real dangers of gender imbalance.”


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