Goodwin Insights June 01, 2020

Author Janice Kaplan Casts an Overdue Spotlight on Distaff Genius

In her book, The Genius of Women, journalist Janice Kaplan explores why women have rarely been recognized for their genius, and deconstructs the blueprint of those exceptional careers that have achieved notoriety.

She spoke with Goodwin’s Linnea Cipriano in a May 7th webinar about the inspiration behind her latest work, and what she discovered.

“I was interested in how it is that in every generation, no matter what obstacles they have faced, some women have managed to soar so high and achieved so much, and I wondered what it was that set them apart from other women.”

A lunchtime conversation with analytics guru Mike Berland, who shared his finding that 90 percent of Americans believe that geniuses are almost always men, set her on a two-year path that culminated in the publication of her book.

“What do you think is going on here?” Mike asked her. He picked up the check, and Kaplan spent the next two years trying to come up with an answer.

While conducting her research, Kaplan encountered Cambridge Professor Charles Jones, who gave her a key insight into what constitutes genius in the public consciousness:

“Genius, that would be where extraordinary ability meets celebrity.”

According to Kaplan, “He meant that, lots of people do extraordinary work whether you are a lawyer, an academic, an artist, but not all of it gets recognized.”

“You can’t have an impact if your work doesn’t get noticed,” she said “Women have always had the extraordinary talent, but they have not always had the recognition, the attention and the celebrity.”

View our Q&A with Janice below, hear stories of extraordinary women who were recognized for their genius despite the odds, and how the consistent presence of a mentor or champion can tip the scales in a woman genius’ favor.