An expert on innovation and work argues that many highly capable women are not being recognised, and that this harms businesses, societies, and individuals alike.
Whereas The Peter Principle, a four-million–copy bestseller from the 1960s, argued that most (male) workers will inevitably be promoted to one level beyond their competence, Tom Schuller shows how women today face the opposite scenario: their skills are being wasted as they work below their competence levels.
Schuller blends interviews and case studies with examples drawn from literature and popular culture to examine how attitudes have changed, from the advent of higher education for women in the 19th century to female dominance at all academic levels today. He also reveals how this has translated — or failed to translate — into the lived experiences and careers of professional women, whether they are nursery workers, council employees, journalists, or oil company executives.
Engrossing and full of everyday insights into how gender impacts on working life, The Paula Principle is a well-reasoned analysis of the obstacles that many women face, and a call for us to challenge them on a personal, organisational, and societal level.
‘A really interesting book — and an encouraging one, despite its central premise. It provides an absorbing and accessible look at what exactly holds today’s women back - and what we can do about it. The Paula Principle deserves to become an instant classic.’
Melissa Benn, author of What Should We Tell Our Daughters?
View all reviews
‘Essential reading for anyone who thinks about the future of work; compelling evidence showing how unions help women and men build alternative working lives; and a powerful argument for radical changes to achieve genuine equality.’
Frances O'Grady, General Secretary of the TUC
‘In a world where women’s work, despite changes in the last decades, is still given less recognition than men's at every level, and where the gap is closing slowly if at all, it lifts the spirits to find Tom Schuller’s thoughtful book analysing with subtlety and elegance why this might be so. He reminds us, as if we needed reminding, that the problem of equality is by no means solved and needs continually to be rethought.’
Ursula Owen, founder-director of Virago Press
‘It’s almost 50 years since the Equal Pay Act, women are doing brilliantly in education — and yet gender, and gender inequalities, are still huge issues. The Paula Principle tells us both why and why we should care. It’s a splendid analysis, a fascinating read — and a great way to understand just how differently women, as well as men, experience today’s reality. Just try Schuller’s test on page 230 with yourself and your family.’
Alison Wolf (Professor the Baroness Wolf of Dulwich)
‘The path to equality thus far has involved women converging on traditionally male employment patterns, Schuller argues: now is the time for men to move towards traditionally female ones — to improve equality and work-life balance, and to make better use of our resources.’
Jessica Abrahams, Prospect
'Why do women tend to outperform men in education, yet earn less in the labour market? In this important new book, Tom Schuller shows that gender inequity should concern all of us. A society where women work below their level of competence is missing out on the chance to reach its potential. With pithy statistics, fascinating interviews and entertaining literary references, this book explains why the Paula Principle has emerged, and how we might work together to fix it.'
Andrew Leigh MP, author of The Economics of Just About Everything
‘[Schuller’s] passion for social justice is stamped on every page of a study whose clarity and well researched insights are captivating.’
Times Higher Education