In an era when men and women are having to redefine their roles and the way they relate to each other, nowhere are the politics of the sexes more confused than in the workplace. How do men, used to dominating women, deal with female bosses? How do women, used to deferring to men, become comfortable exercising authority? How do women break through the glass ceiling that still undoubtedly exists in most businesses? And, at a time when people work longer hours and have less chance than ever before to meet partners outside work, how do we deal with office affairs, relationships and partnerships between work colleagues?
The central problem argues Shere Hite in Sex and Business, is that men and women only know the old ways of relating to each other. "For the most part, we are only taught (somehow) to meet and mate. These old lessons are inappropriate", she writes. She proposes that we should find a new way of relating--"the important challenge is to get a new kind of office interaction up and running." Hite became a feminist icon in 1970s with the publication of the first Hite Report which married quasi-scientific "quantified research" with anecdotal tales and feminist analysis. The secret of her success was that at the time her perceptions and methodology were new and cast new light on a contentious issue.
This is less true of Sex and Business, which addresses issues that have been in the public domain for some years now. There are, however, brave innovations in the book from the journalistic style and format to the "consciousness raising exercises" that Hite calls "brain software commands": "Software to delete, 'Is she date material?' Software to install, 'I'm in a new situation. Here's my chance to try something new!'"
Sex and Business is designed very carefully as a book to dip into, rather than to be read cover to cover. Its basically feminist stance provides an interesting counterpoint to male executive culture. Whether those same male executives will give it a chance is another matter. --Alex Benady