How Women Decide

Therese Huston, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 373 pages, $28. In February 2013, Yahoo's new chief executive, Marissa Mayer, ­announced that the company was eliminating its full-time work-from-home policy because she wanted her employees to interact more closely. There was an explosion of criticism. Three years later, people still talk about it. A week after Mayer's announcement, Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly made the same change. It attracted only a fraction of the attention. The ­responses to the two executive orders were telling. "For making the same judgment call," Therese Huston writes, "a male CEO drew some sidelong glances for a few months, but a female CEO drew extensive scrutiny and censure for years." Huston uses anecdotes like this to demonstrate something most women in the professional world learn as soon as they report for their very first job in a freshly pressed Banana Republic suit: There's an enormous double standard when it comes to how men and women are perceived as decisionmakers, and those differences can hamper much more than a woman's career. Using a wealth of economic and social science research, Huston — a cognitive psychologist who teaches at Seattle University — documents these stereotypes and shows how women are often trapped in situations where they can't come out ahead, no matter what they do. Both voters and workers, for example, want their leaders to be decisive, but those same groups penalize women if they don't seem sufficiently collaborative, only to criticize them if they appear too reliant on the opinions of others.