Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Alfred Hitchcock, Sherlock Holmes… these are some of the iconic names dominating the cultural narrative that men far supersede women in talent, accomplishment, and genius. The true question is, while the gender ratio in the world is 101.7 men to every 100 women, why is the genius exclusively favoring one gender or it is that the opportunities to let out one’s own inner genius is not created equal?
On this episode, journalist, TV producer, and author of 15 popular books including the New York Times bestseller, The Gratitude Diaries and The Genius of Women, Janice Kaplan, discusses why the talent and genius of women has been unacknowledged, dismissed, or even wrongfully attributed to men. As we think of educating our girls and position women to make their mark on this world, explicit effort must be made to identify, encourage, and celebrate the unique skills in women because it’s not the norm for them to be recognized as geniuses.
About Janice Kaplan
Dr. Chesney is a licensed clinical psychologist with unique expertise in the application of Janice Kaplan is a journalist, TV producer, and the author of many popular books including the New York Times bestseller The Gratitude Diaries and her newest book, The Genius of Women. Janice was the editor-in-chief of Parade magazine and the executive producer of more than 30 primetime network television specials. She has appeared frequently on TV shows including Today and Good Morning America and she hosts the daily podcast The Gratitude Diaries on iHeartMedia.
About Host, Sucheta Kamath
Sucheta Kamath, is an award-winning speech-language pathologist, a TEDx speaker, a celebrated community leader, and the founder and CEO of ExQ®. As an EdTech entrepreneur, Sucheta has designed ExQ's personalized digital learning curriculum/tool that empowers middle and high school students to develop self-awareness and strategic thinking skills through the mastery of Executive Function and social-emotional competence.
Sucheta Kamath: Welcome back to Full PreFrontal exposing the mysteries of executive function. I'm your host Sucheta Kamath. And I believe by trying to find the nuggets of gold in neuroscience, psychology, and education. Every transformation is possible for not just ourselves, but people that we work with people we take care of. And collectively, it can make a better society. So as you know, this podcast is fueled with three particular goals, we try to make a concerted effort to understand executive function, how crucial it is for personal development, self sufficiency, and even moral development. Second, try to find ways to connect the current self with the future self, and maybe investigate some blind spots, personal challenges, and maybe societal barriers that some of us have more to battle than others. And lastly, maybe create a personal playbook playbook, so that we can all master our executive function and grow and become the most amazing individuals or even let our geniuses out. So, one of the things that always has interested me is this idea that when we think about excellence, what comes to mind? You know, Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Alfred Hitchcock, Sherlock Holmes, these are some of the iconic names dominating the cultural narrative that men by far supersede women in talent, accomplishment and genius. The true question, is his genius, a skill or a natural gift? And whatever the answer to that is, well, the gender ratio in the world is 101.7 men to 100 Women. Why is the genius exclusively favoring one gender? Have you thought about that? Are all opportunities created equal? And particularly as we think about educating our girls are as women consider joining the workforce, and even as we tell girls, that they can do anything and become anybody they wish to? Is that really true? And guess what? Our guest today is going to demystify that. So it's a great pleasure and honor to introduce Janice Kaplan, who is a journalist, TV producer, and author of 15 popular books, including The New York Times bestseller The Gratitude Diaries, and her newest book, The Genius of Women. I am, by the way, giving gratitude diaries as my Christmas gift. So if you need some ideas, please consider. And Janice was the editor in chief of Parade Magazine and executive producer of more than 30 primetime network television specials. She has appeared frequently on TV shows, including Today, and Good Morning America. And she hosts the daily podcast, The Gratitude Diaries on iHeartMedia. Welcome, Janice, how are you?
Janice Kaplan: I'm great. Thank you so much for having me. What a pleasure to talk to you.
Sucheta Kamath: Same here. So before we jump into your topic of expertise, I wanted to ask a little bit about you as a child, you know, it's not an easy feat of accomplishment to write 15 books, and particularly to hit New York Times bestseller list. So how were you as a child and what kind of guidance you received? And were there any particular ways you looked at the world?
Janice Kaplan: Well, I was a very good child, I have to admit, and probably had many of the qualities that you talk about with executive function. When you say 15 books, I guess that doesn't include the one I wrote in fourth grade, which remains unpublished. But I was always very determined and always knew what I wanted to do. And life seemed pretty easy to me as as a kid. I'm not sure where that came from. I have a very, I'm the youngest of three. And I have a very bright older brother and sister, and very determined parents. But I think some of it, some of it just comes from who you are, and and what perhaps it is what your parents consider important. And my parents held education as very important. And I got lots of credit for being smart and being a good reader. So I think that's certainly played out very early on in my life, fortunately.
Sucheta Kamath: Yes, and actually reading several of your books, I wouldn't claim I have read all 15 of them. But I think there's a definite playfulness. And I feel there is a genuine curiosity. I think those two are marks of a great child who looks at the world with great optimism. I can see that.
Janice Kaplan: Well. Thank you. And I think one of the reasons I became a journalist is because I am curious, and I'd like to be able to ask questions and explore things and find things out. And I suppose on the negative side, being a journalist means you have a short attention span, you know, you'd like to be able to jump into something, learn about it, and then step back and move on to the next thing. But it also does require a certain amount of self propulsion, right? You do have all of that, but certainly much of what you do is based on what excites you, and what interests you, and, and what does make you curious.
Sucheta Kamath: Lovely. So let's talk about this concept of genius. You know, Webster Dictionary describes the word genius, as exceptional intellectual or creative power, or other natural ability, implying a human quality, not a male one. So then why write a book about genius women? So can you start with the definition? And tell us a little bit of a Genesis story?
Janice Kaplan: Sure. Well, lots of things from what you just said. And let me let's come back to that definition that included a natural ability, because I think I would, I would question that I got interested in this topic after a survey that was actually done by a friend of mine named Mike Berlin, who's a very well known pollster. And the survey found that 90% of Americans say that geniuses tend to be men. And when asked to name a female genius, virtually the only name anybody could come up with was Marie Curie. There were a few Rosalind Franklin's thrown in there, but not too many. And Mike came to me with these findings. One day, we had lunch together, and he said, What do you think is going on here? And I really had no idea. But it completely intrigued me. And, as you said, at the beginning, in the introduction, we tell girls that they can be anything. But if 90% of Americans say that geniuses tend to be men, does that mean they could be anything except geniuses. And by the way, 90% of Americans don't agree on anything. So this is your ordinary number. And I left, I left that lunch with with Mike and decided that I really wanted to do this as my next book. And I pretty much spent the next two years trying to come up with some answers. As to your Webster's definition, I would agree with the part about extraordinary talents. But I think that what you need very much to add to that equation, is that an extraordinary talent that has been recognized, and that it's somebody has noticed, because people have extraordinary talent. But whatever field you're in, whether it's journalism, or medicine, or law, or especially academia, or the arts, if that talent is not recognized, it can't have an effect, it can't have an effect on your generation, and it can't have an effect on future generations. And I think that's been the problem for women for so long, that many have had the extraordinary talent, but it simply hasn't been noticed. And so it has gone and nurtured. And by the way, that is the additional quality, about genius that I think is so important to mention. Genius does need to be nurtured. And that's why I objected to that definition of saying that genius, his natural genius may start as a little colonel, but I think genius needs to be recognized. And then genius needs to be nurtured. And over and over again, with the women I looked at in history. And the extraordinary women that I spoke to right now, who are doing such wonderful work right now, that was a key ingredient, or those two parts were key ingredients being recognized and having the talent nurtured.
Sucheta Kamath: You know, that's such a powerful distinction there because I think genius implies effortlessness. And genius implies this capacity to stand alone, as if the gift itself was waiting to emerge. Nobody, as you mentioned, like, acknowledged it or nurtured it. And lastly, I feel there's a another misconcept that it propagates is a genius, does not meet with obstacles. And and I think that, that, to me, is one of the foundational like learning if we think about learning, we, we in order to let our genius come out, we need to be facing obstacles, we should be encouraged that mistakes are a natural part of you know, learning. And lastly, I think as we discover how we arrive at that process of learning or acquisition or whatever we want to call it, every person has their different ways and that itself can be a genius, genius. So one question I do have does genius means that exceptionality of intellectual and creative power that is by far different and unique as compared to people who are smart and work hard?
Janice Kaplan: Let me give you an example. And by the way, in the book, I don't necessarily make a huge distinction between genius and really smart or talented people will often ask me, how did you pick the people to interview? How I just picked fabulous people. And we're doing really interesting work because I think our definition of genius and who meets that, that ability to be a genius is is very much socially determined and is very much based on what the power structures are and who the people in power, say are geniuses. And we see this over and over again, in the art world, that somebody gets declared a genius and or somebody from 400 years ago suddenly is rediscovered. And I found that with an artist named Clara Peeters, who was a great artist during the Dutch Golden Age, she was a at the same time as Rembrandt, you've probably never heard of Clara Peeters, you have heard of Rembrandt. And Clara Peeters, until maybe 10 years ago, her work could have been purchased for not a reasonable amount for me, but a reasonable amount at auction, you know, for for 1000s of dollars, not millions of dollars. And then a few years ago, the Prado Museum in Madrid decided to give her a solo show. It was the first solo show that the Prado museum had ever given to a woman. In fact, she's one of the only women ever to be in the Prado Museum in any way. And all of a sudden the value of Clara Peeters work soared, she became internationally known. They had this amazing show of her. And I happened to be in Madrid while I was writing the genius of women and the show was over at that point, but a couple of her pieces were still there. And when I went to look at them, at first, I was so excited by the idea that this woman had been rediscovered and what great joy there is in somebody to be rediscovered. But it also made me sad, because I thought, if we see Clara Peeters as great right now, why haven't we seen her as great for the last 400 years, and how many other women artists work is there in the basement, hidden away because nobody has declared them? A genius. And it's very hard to just look back in history sometimes and pick out the people like Clara Peeters, because not all of them had the same advantages as men did. If I can give you one other example Sucheta. While we're on this subject, think about Mozart. I think everybody would agree that Mozart is a genius and has been declared a genius. Well, Mozart had a sister. And when Mozart and his sister were young, his sister was actually considered more talented than he was. She was that she was the great musician. And they toured together when they were very young. And Mozart looked up to his sister and he turned to her for all sorts of of help on various things. But then, when she was a young teenager, her father told her that it was time for her to go home and get married. And it was inappropriate for a woman to perform anymore. And so she did. And we never heard again from Mozart's sister, if she had been nurtured differently, would Mozart's sister be the one whose music we listened to at Carnegie Hall and, and other other great performance halls around the world now? Quite possibly, but we'll never know. And that's why I think it's so important for us to understand the need to nurture the need to recognize and the need to encourage as much as we can.
Sucheta Kamath: You know, a couple of things as I was reading, particularly Mozart's sister's story, it occurred to me that one, the father was a brilliant man, he he had great talent in in music himself. And he started training both his children very young, but definitely at a certain point, he also saw that as a woman, as a daughter, talented daughter, a musician will not be accepted. So there's definitely a social criteria that people are deploying. Whether would, would this would her talents be well received? And second, would that go anywhere? So why bother because not going to go anywhere? Second thing I think, from your work, what occurred to me that men long men have long been the arbitrators of what counts as great greatness. And they are the ones who are then looking at another great artist, another great writer or scientist and saying, is this a threat? Or is this something going to be well assimilated into the culture that I'm, you know, I belong to and I think women as a cat category is seen was seen as not either equal or a direct threat. So do you think the culture is shifting? And that's why we have better acceptance or was culture the one one of the reasons why women genius was not nurtured, acknowledged and propagated?
Janice Kaplan: I think yes to both, I think I think those cultural issues are indeed why women's genius has not been nurtured. And are things changing. I think things change slowly. Things have changed, probably more slowly than many women working right now. I would like them to be you talked about obstacles and overcoming obstacles. And I think the barriers for women genius are high. And one of the things that impressed me so much when I was interviewing these women and talking to these different women, was how they did overcome obstacles and how they started to do what I began to think of as the great work around how they figured out what those cultural barriers that you just mentioned are and how they could overcome them. And another story from music like Mozart's sister, sometime later in the early 1800s, was Fanny Mendelssohn, who was the sister of Felix Mendelssohn. And it's very similar story to Mozart and his sister where they toured together when young she was sent back home. But Fanny Mendelssohn was able to overcome those obstacles, in that she kept writing her music, and she published it under her brother's name. Much of the work that Felix Mendelssohn was really written by Fanny Mendelssohn, many of the great songs that he wrote, and you asked if men consider women a threat, I think I joke in the book that, you know, one, one way to keep your sister from being a threat is to tell her that it would be inappropriate for her to publish under her own name, and get to get to use her own for work. But I admire Fanny Mendelssohn enormously, because she was able to do that. And at the very end of her life, which, alas, was quite, quite short, she did publish some work under her own name, it was a great triumph for her. And then it came to be known that the other songs that had been published were hers. But think about it, she had to not only write great music, not only be a great musician, like her brother, not only be a genius in that field, but she had to be willing to overcome all these societal obstacles, telling her things that she couldn't do, she had to pretty much stand up to the whole world. We don't ask male geniuses to do that. We ask male geniuses to be great in their field, which is what they should do, and for society, and then society accepts them for that. We ask women geniuses to be great in their field, and then to stand up to the whole world and say, It's okay that I'm doing this, please accept me. And that's a huge obstacle. And I have such enormous admiration for the women who have been able to do it and overcome it.
Sucheta Kamath: You know, this reminded me of a story when I was growing up in India, there was a story of Anandabai Joshee. She was born I think, in 1865. And she died at age 21. But she was the first Indian woman to travel abroad and get her degree in medicine. And, and the story, I mean, I, it was part of our educational curriculum, but it was never presented as a as a genius, which, which kind of now I think that it could have been so well presented as her perseverance, her incredible capacity to not you know, I mean, the talent that allowed her to kind of go abroad for to get, you know, Western medicine degree. But but she she it was shown or written, how she did not give up her Indianness. So she was in England and she would wear flip flops, which is an Indian footwear and the cold, bitter cold winter to show how she never gave up her culture. And so she died of pneumonia. And so to me, here's the story. You can you can frame it in a particular way, but and it was kind of almost the I remember in you know, I grew up in Marathi, which is my mother tongue my education from K to 12 was in Marathi. And that story always said that you never give up your cultural roots, you know, but it was never positioned as what a great soul what how she, her basic resilience, you know, was never positioned as the most inspiring part of her story. Any thoughts come to your mind?
Janice Kaplan: Well, you know, those those stories are so amazing. And, and in some ways you can almost understand her holding on to those cultural roots, right? Yes, yes, of needing to maintain some sense of who she was within a world that was probably quite alien to her otherwise and not accepting to her otherwise. And I think it's a wonderful metaphor for what women experience, when they aren't achieving that they often are feeling like they're in a different world, that's, that's not necessarily accepting of them. And that they just have to figure out the, the mores and the culture of where they are, and try to fit in there and figure out how much they have to give up of who they are, and how much they can just push ahead with being who they are. We certainly all know the stories of women being called aggressive when men would just be be in. We certainly all know the stories of women being called aggressive when with them, they would just be admired for being powerful. And that that happens over and over again. And I and I heard those stories from women, often so yes, that that problem of who am I and how do I hold on to the things that I am and still tell the world? Hey, pay attention to me, I think is a great challenge.
Sucheta Kamath: Yeah, and I kind of was thinking, you know, women's effort to come into themselves, they have to do a lot of juggling, they have to maneuver a lot of their own presentation, to so that it doesn't appear to be a threat or challenge. They also work hard at appearing very collaborative, cooperative. And, you know, this just reminded me of a particular stats in middle school, that girls who are too who do well in math, begin to perform poorly in math, so that they don't appear to be, you know, a challenge or threat to their contemporary boys of their age, you know, in sixth and seventh and eighth grade. And that that's a terrible. I don't want to say terrible, but that is definitely something something social navigation that's unique to women. That may not be so true for men, isn't it?
Janice Kaplan: Right. And I think we don't even realize how deep and powerful those stereotypes that you're describing are? And yes, there have been so many studies about girls and math in that way. And there was one study that was done with Asian girls, and they were girls, I think they were a young high schoolers. And they were given a math test. And some of them before the math test were in whatever way reminded that they were girls. And others of them were reminded that they were Asian. And you know where this story is going. The girls yes, that they were Asian, did significantly better on the test than the girls who reminded that they were girls. Now I find these stories so fascinating. Because you would think that math shouldn't be affected by things like that, right? You either know how much tubeless do is or you don't. But obviously this math is a little more complicated than that. And it goes into so many other things. Are you willing to? If you believe in yourself, you'll put more time into the question you'll you'll try a little harder, you'll be able to overcome the obstacle, you'll be able to overcome the mental block that maybe is stopping you from seeing what the answer is. And if you've already somehow been pre programmed to think now I'm not very good at this. I'm a girl, I don't know how to do this. You'll give up quicker and and there will be those those emotional barriers that keep you from being able to succeed. And there have been so many studies like that. And I think we sort of hear them and we go, Oh, that's interesting. But we don't really understand how deeply they affect us. And that we all believe that, oh, we are who we are. Or you know, I'm not good at math because I'm not good at math. Not because the society tells me not to be. And I interviewed one woman while I was doing the book, who was from a small town in Italy. And she was actually a professor, excuse me, professor of mathematics in London at the University College London. And she told me that she was from a very small and provincial town. That was quite a patriarchal society. But for whatever reason, in this Mediterranean town, it was just assumed that women were good in math. And so all the girls were good in math, and she and her sister went on to have jobs in math. And she walked me around her floor with with the other tenured professors were and she pointed out that all of the women in her department were from Mediterranean countries where for whatever reason, it was expected that women would be okay in that and I left there just stunned because it would never have occurred. To me that where you grow up, whether it's Italy or India or Southern California, is probably going to determine, particularly if you're a woman, how good you are in different subjects.
Sucheta Kamath: You know, the other story that was also one of my favorites that to talk about is Cynthia Brazil. And maybe you can share with our listeners that, you know, such when I was reading some of these stories, they reminded me, they are typically polymath, you know, they have so many vivid interests, they have great a different way of thinking than their male counterparts. And that's what makes that even their ideas, a genius because it's not even something for example, she's, she's a specialist in robotics and, and creating real human robot robot interactions. And that question, as one of the, you know, a wonderful story that you write in the book was, a man came in was so as in the audience came forward and asked her why why would you even study that they didn't even interest him because he thought robotics was purely mathematical. And it was her who thought that there is a human interaction and companionship and there's so much more to gain. So I think to me, that perspective is what you bring when you bring diversity to the table. So women have an incredible gift of bringing a perspective that male dominated fields or male dominated perspective will never bring, can you share that story with us?
Janice Kaplan: What's your Cynthia Brazil is a actually a young woman at the MIT Media Lab. And she actually created invented I don't know what the right word is there, the first social robot, and it's actually in the MIT Museum. And it is, as you said, the first robot that actually connected to two other people. And you can think of it as the precursor to Siri, and hey, Google, and Alexa, that we that we have now. And in fact, she started a company some years ago with a robot that would do exactly those same kinds of things. And the bigger companies did, did jump on it at that point, and she sold out to them. But the idea, I think, that you're suggesting is that she had this social idea because she was a woman. And I want to be a little bit careful about that. I think in some ways, it is correct. And certainly there are a lot of young women who have who are working in Cynthia Brazil's lab at MIT, because she has shown them that, that robots can do really interesting things, and can do social good, and, and, and things for society and in that kind of social way. And by the way, when she first was working on this, robots were only being considered for the menial tasks that they could do. And that was why it was such a breakthrough, when she came up with this idea. It doesn't sound so unusual now that we're much more used to it. But at the time, people were thinking of robots only in terms of how can they help out in warehouses and do the things that people don't want to do and reach for things and so forth. So her idea to, to abandon that and look for social interactions was quite extraordinary. But why I said that I'd like to be a little bit careful of that is that I don't want to replace the old stereotypes with new stereotypes. And so I think that we are, we know all the stories of, of women being harmed because of the idea of the woman behind the mat. And that, that, that she couldn't have done that on her own, she must just be a supportive woman. And that was the that was the image we had perhaps in the 50s and the 60s. And as we have started looking for more diversity, as you suggested, we've space switched to that stereotype now. And I heard over and over again, for people who were trying to be supportive of what I was doing. And often men would say, yes, you know, we need more women on boards. And we need more women in high positions because women are so much more cooperative and collegial than that. Well, are women more cooperative and collegial? Some are, some aren't. Some men are cooperative and collegial. Some men are great leaders, some women are great leaders. So I think if we start going for that stereotype and saying we need women on this board, because she'll be the collegial and cooperative one, we lose out on the women who are really powerful and not cooperative at all. So I think if we can try to look at people as individuals and realize the talents that they bring, and then some men are going to be great poets and some women are going to be great scientists. That that's a much more helpful way to look at each of our talents individually.
Sucheta Kamath: That's Thanks for that clarification, I think that is a very important distinction that I wasn't really thinking about when I said, I didn't mean to imply that women bring a softer side of humanity or any such thing. But what I didn't meet mean, is a perspective that may be coming from a worldview, that can be an asset. But that is not uniquely women perspective as such, but any perspective where people have not had a seat at the table, sometimes when we have, you know, I do a lot of work with race and equity. And one of the things that kind of strikes me that homogenous groups arrive to conclusions and decisions much faster, and they tend to have less disagreement. But that's not because they have actually arrived at that homogenous agreement, but they stay away from conflict. So when you have a different perspective at the table, you certainly have to defend, each person has to defend your point of view. And that leads to more robust and rich conversations. So I feel when women, particularly in sciences, and math, if they were absent, a perspective may not ever pose a challenge to a homogenous worldview, from a man's point of view is what I was thinking. But But you're right, there's a danger in making it to, you know, overcorrecting to the other side.
Janice Kaplan: No, but I think what you just said is absolutely perfect, and absolutely, perfectly said, I love that idea of, of people who haven't had a seat at the table, bringing a different view. And that's a really fascinating idea that yes, homogenous groups come to a decision quickly, and assume that it's the right decision, because they all agree with each other, and that it may be more challenging, when there were other perspectives there. But it comes to a much better decision. That's a really great perspective. I'm gonna I'm gonna steal that from you. Thank you.
Sucheta Kamath: Please. Yes. So I do have a question about this idea. That when we think about genius, so it is definitely an opportunity gap. Once we begin to see more faces that are non male, non white, you begin to recognize that this form of unique thinking and incredibly clever and passionate way of living life is not, you know, gifted or bestowed upon just a few people in the community or in the world. What is the advantage of that diversity, opening the gates to diversity? How does our culture shift? And now that you have much more aerial perspective on this topic? What what are the benefits, you think, to the young generation?
Janice Kaplan: Well, just think of how much talent has been wasted over the years by people who have not been recognized by people who have not been nurtured. And just think, how tragic it is, if we continue to do that. And we continue not to recognize and nurture that talent. As a society, we can't afford to do that. We can't afford to lose the talents of great people of the people who might end up having the solutions for world problems.
Sucheta Kamath: Yes, and I think one more thing that occurred to me, you know, I have, you know, when I was growing up, I was the only daughter, two brothers older and younger. And definitely the conversations were about. My particularly my father would say, I would make an exception for you. So this is not typical. For anybody. This kind of luxury is not afforded to all girls, but I will let you because you are my pampered daughter. And there was a point came when I became a late teenager and early young, young adult and my, my father, I could see him freaking out because he thought he gave me a long leash. And I became a woman with a voice and a woman who had certain opinions and he got worried that societally it may not be too acceptable. So I do feel that he didn't get the quite the courageous backing of his own male contemporaries to say it's okay to raise a daughter like this. And I feel by my generation, you know, even coming to us, I see a change in the way I have raised my children. Do you see any such a distinction between the way you were raised and how you raised your children? Is there a generational shift already palpable to you?
Janice Kaplan: Well, first of all, congratulations to your dad for having been able to, to do that and to to raise a wonderful woman in circumstances that weren't necessarily easy to do that. I think certainly, we are all trying to raise our children. I have two sons who are all grown up now and they're fabulous. If I may say, but I think I see people raising their children now. And everybody believes that they're giving their children a treating their children equally, that they're treating the boys and girls in their family equally. And when I tried to point out to them that they're not necessarily want wanted to hear and I tell a story in the book about being in an elevator in Manhattan, and I was holding a friend's 14 month old baby and was the Upper West Side of Manhattan, very liberal enclave and the baby was dressed in, I believe he was in blue jeans, but he was holding a pink sippy cup. And I was holding him and another woman got onto the elevator and she looked me she said, Oh, adorable. Boy or girl? And it was in the middle of writing this book. So I said, Baby, 14 months old. And she said, Oh, and she had no idea what to say at that point. Because it's a 14 month old boy, you say, Oh, he's so strong and gorgeous. And if it's a 14 month old girl, you say, Look how beautiful she is. And you just naturally talk differently to a baby, when you think it's a boy or a girl at 14 months old. There is no difference between them. And so we went through this awkwardness until we got down to the lobby, and I then smiled. And I told her what I was that you know, what, about this book that I was writing and, and she just paused and she said, You know, I have four children, two girls and two boys. And I'm absolutely convinced that I'm raising them equally. But that was such a lesson. Thank you. And so I, I think we just need to be really, really aware of how our unconscious responses to our children shape them. Babies taken everything, kids are really smart. They hear those messages in the air. And you can put girls and all the girl power t shirts you want but they're picking up the messages that we are subliminally sending. So I think the more conversations we have like this, and the more we try to make people aware of the issues, perhaps the more, the more advanced we'll be able to become.
Sucheta Kamath: You know, you kind of touched upon this, is there a special way that women can raise boys that can help them become better, appreciators of genius of a woman, because I feel there's a definitely you know, I to have two boys and have done. I would say a lot of hard work in coaching them to acknowledge and really not let their gender gender identity as you know, Conform it to some some sense of superiority, cultural superiority that is in easy gift. But I wonder if there's a way we can, you know, teach these skills about how to acknowledge and not immediately perceived that as a threat. Because somehow, I feel there's an incredible pressure on every individual to become an exceptional human being, and which is not possible and not needed. But second thing is if you encounter exceptionalism, you somehow feel small, or threatened. And this seems to be a general, people who haven't done any transcendental work themselves to say, there can be many people who are brilliant and amazing, that doesn't minimize your brilliance or doesn't make you shine less, you know, brightly. So just wondering, what's a good way to coach men in this equation?
Janice Kaplan: I think you're right, it's really important that we understand that it's not a zero sum society, that there's room for people to shine. And the more people who do, the better our society will be, I think in terms of your sons, you're giving them the greatest gift of all, which is that they're seeing their mom as a strong woman who has an interesting job, who cares about the world who does important things, and who loves them. And there's a good chance they're going to grow up and marry women just like that, because having a strong woman who does, who is who has a voice in the world, is what they expect a woman to be. And and I think that makes starts to make a huge change. And my children are both married, and my children, my sons are both fabulous and smart and talented and in great careers. And they both married women who are smart and talented and in great careers. And I don't take that as just because of how they were raised. But I do think it helps. I do think it was their expectation of what a woman should be. And they knew that a woman who had a career could also love them, as their mom did. And so I think that that's, that's really a great gift that you're giving your sons right now for them to be able to see that women have multifaceted lives and the great women have multifaceted lives and that the women who are most interesting do, and hopefully that will be the model that they that they see throughout their lives.
Sucheta Kamath: You know, as I was reading your book, my mom who lives with us, she has had eighth grade education. She's brilliant, though. And that is mainly because she did not have an opportunity to further her education, not because she was not capable. But I do think she could, she, to me is a an engineer, and a doctor, I think, because she can take apart any electronic, you know, sewing machine, refrigerator toaster, she can take it apart, put it back together, she can heal, she has home remedies. She is so multifaceted. And formerly, maybe she doesn't have an education. But I think she to me, she's an inventor, she can take anything and put it together in a different way. And it took me a long time to recognize that I really did not, first of all see her as a whole person. I saw her as a annoying mom. And secondly, I never acknowledged to her until much later, her incredible resilience, her ability to fight any adversity with great calmness and optimism, I've never seen anybody like that. So I do feel that maybe there is an opportunity for all of us to pause and just look back at our own mothers in a different way. Because every strong mother has fought a lot. And and I'm not taking anything from fathers. So not to present it that way. But that new newfound admiration to me is really a much more symbolic of maturation on my side, oh, my part, not her suddenly becoming a genius.
Janice Kaplan: Well, that's really lovely. And I bet your mom is terrific. And there's maybe it would have been maybe there's a certain sadness that she feels that she wasn't able to have more than an eighth grade education and that, and that she wasn't able to develop those engineering skills and those those inventive and talents that she has, and she passed along great things to us. So you will be able to move that that legacy forward. But I felt the same way with my mom that she was a really smart woman who never who lived in at a time where she thought the right thing to do was to be at home with her kids. And I think she was always a little frustrated by that. And I always felt sort of towards the end of her life that, that that was too bad. So great for you to be able to recognize that, that your mom has those talents and to make her feel worthwhile and valued. And and to be able to show that, that even within the circumstances she had she was able to shine. And that's all we can ever hope for.
Sucheta Kamath: Well, Janice, as we come to an end, two questions I have, but the first one I have is of all the women that you write about. And thank you, by the way for touching upon so many walks of life and showing us geniuses. And now I feel so proud that I'll be able to name at least 10 or 15 genius women other than Marie Curie who literally was, by the way, my name I would have mentioned, but who was who? And this probably is not a fair question, but who spoke to you the most, which woman that you write about felt like a wonderful discovery for you.
Janice Kaplan: Well, the words he said so many wonderful women, both from history and from right now. One who I was particularly moved by is Dr. Francis Arnold, who was the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in a year or two ago. And I admired her enormously, because he had this wonderful positive attitude. And that was the case with so many of the women who I interviewed, but it really stood out with her. And she'd had many, many obstacles you can imagine, as you can imagine, both in her professional life, and she had some great tragedies in her personal life. But she stayed enormously positive. And she just believed in herself and she believed in the work that she was doing. And she said that when she speaks to young women now one of the key things she says is to try to face the world in a positive and upbeat way, not in a negative and fearful one. And I think that is so important because we do spend a lot of time now talking about all of the problems, all of the obstacles that women face. And I think we also need to focus on the positive and and on the potential that we have, and when there are obstacles that they can be overcome. And as Dr. Arnold said to me, she didn't have any women mentors when she was starting out but you know, men are not the enemy. And there were lots of men who wanted a smart woman working getting in their lab. And so find the good guys and let them be your mentors, which was the case of the time now, perhaps there are more women who you can turn to. But I just think that having that positive attitude, that sense of I can do it that not doubting yourself that believing in yourself is really what is going to make the difference for so many of us. And I felt very inspired by her example, because of that.
Sucheta Kamath: Oh, that's brilliant. Brilliant. Yeah, that that was she was one of my top three. I definitely loved Cynthia Brazil story as well. You know, I was wondering, did you happen to see a 2017 movie The Wife with Glenn Close and Jonathan Price? Yeah, that was one of my, as I was reading your book that that movie came to mind, was such a beautifully portrayed story of a truly a woman behind the man who goes on receiving a Nobel Prize for Literature, when she's the one who has been editing his work and writing. And it's not apparently based on a true story, but kind of captures stories of many women. So as we come to an end, I like to often ask my guests. And I'm very curious to you, as an author, what you would say, but do you have any recommendations for our audience, the books, maybe two, three books that have influenced you.
Janice Kaplan: You know, I just reread Daniel Kahneman thinking fast and thinking slow, when it first came out. And I reread it and the stories are now familiar, they've been taught, many of them have been talked about a lot. It is a thick book. I think it's probably one of the best books on behavioral psychology that I have ever read, or that has been written. So much important breakthrough work again, some of it that we're now familiar with some of it, that still is surprising, and his way of explaining how we think about the world, how we perceive things, how we take in the world in different ways than we really believe we do is just so very, very powerful. So I highly recommend that Daniel Kahneman thinking fast and thinking slow. And if you've already read it, read it again. Thank you. Yes, yes, yes, yes. Another book that I just happened upon, which is a completely different book. But I recently read a novel, it's actually more of a memoir, but he calls it A Novel by a Doctor, who's a Pakistani writer. And it's just a wonderful book about seeing the world from different perspectives about finding home about what home means about what America means. And I just found it quite very, very compelling. And he's a wonderful writer. I knew I knew I knew some of the theater works that he had done. And this is the first novel I've read hits. So I would recommend that also lovely well realized I suggested two books by Matt.
Sucheta Kamath: You have to suggest one book by a woman.
Janice Kaplan: Yes. How about this a fun book, a very fun, but by a friend of mine named Jean Hanff Korelitz. She wrote a detective story, a mystery called The Plot that got huge attention this past summer, and you must read it's it's wonderfully fun.
Sucheta Kamath: Oh, that's great. That's so funny. Now that you've become this is how you become aware, isn't it?
Janice Kaplan: I was shocked to to do that.
Sucheta Kamath: But But again, thank you for amazing, amazing at time, your brilliance and, and thank you for writing this very powerful book, your gratitude diary, I wish we could talk, you know, have another conversation just about the gratitude diary, as well. But I thought this was such a pertinent topic, to so many of us who are interested in educating girls and kind of trying to tell them, they can be all that they wish to. But we have to become the champions of their effort, because there are definitely roadblocks, some invisible and some totally tangible and visible roadblocks. So with that, that's all we have for today. Listeners, thank you for tuning in. If you love what you're hearing, do share this episode with your friends and colleagues and and your family and particularly if you have a girl, you must read this book and imbibe it, I would really highly, highly recommend it. And lastly, take a moment Leave it leave us a review and keep coming back. Once again. Janice, thank you for being with us and being an amazing guest on Full PreFrontal.
Janice Kaplan: Thank you so much.