Archive for February, 2013


Not Your Mama’s Book Club!

retro book clubThere is no denying the progress that woman have made in the United States. Watching the engaging and well researched PBS series The Makers:  Women Who Make America, which chronicles the major achievements of the women’s social movement, it’s apparent that women have more political power and economic opportunity than ever.

At the same time, a firestorm of controversy was set off by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer for abolishing its work-at-home policy and ordering everyone to work in the office.  While the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that an equal number of men work at home than women do, working women may benefit most from the flexibility that work at home arrangements provide.  While many men work from home, it is women who still prepare more family dinners, and remain the chief child care givers.

As a member of a book club consisting primarily of working women in the prime of our careers, most who have raised children or still have children at home, the issue of child care is fresh in our minds.  At a recent book club meeting, the conversation was lively when we discussed two books with central themes focusing on women’s rights.  Mad Women: The Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue in the ’60s and Beyond, by Jane Maas is the biography of the Madison Avenue advertising executive who thrived at a time with men dominated the boardrooms.  Her navigation of her role of mother and high powered career woman was of interest to the group who marveled at her honesty in confessing that she wanted to make enough money so that she could pay a nanny to spend time with her children because she didn’t want to stay home.  In The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued their Bosses and Changed the Workplace, we were reminded that no matter how well women wrote, they were often relegated to the role of researcher for the male writers.

As the evening went on our conversations turned personal and each of us recounted our own lives and the feelings we have about motherhood, work and our place in society.   One theme that kept re-emerging was the feeling that raising children and staying in the workforce is a challenge.  Those of us at the end of our child rearing years feel a sense of relief, but we still wonder if it had to be as hard as it was.  The easier path at the time might have been to stay home, put our careers on hold and hope that we can catch up once our children went back to school.  Some women who stay home might say that it is harder to stay home than to be in the workforce.    For me, a first-generation college educated person in my family, that didn’t seem like a smart option.  I didn’t feel I had the luxury to take the time off and hope that when I got back into the workforce opportunities would still be there.  Like Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook COO is urging, I felt the need to “lean in,” enrolling in a Ph.D. program just after giving birth to my second child.    My bit of stand up at the end of the night in the early years was the line:  “They are alive!  I did my job!”  Still makes me chuckle.

Regardless of our choices as mothers and fathers, two things became clear as our stimulating book club meeting came to a close:  our country can do better to support families.  Of all the countries in the world, the United States is one of the least supportive to families who have children.    And, options are what we want in the end.  Whether we go work full or part time or we stay home with our children, what we want most is the luxury of choice.

What is exciting is that many of us feel a new sense of opportunity as our children turn into adults.  I feel like I’m just getting started.


Barbara Walters Should Know Better

Hillary ClintonWhen Hillary Clinton was interviewed by Barbara Walters for the 2012 most fascinating people special, I appreciated learning about the number of countries former Secretary of State Clinton visited,  what she plans to do next, and what she thinks is the answer for Middle East peace. But I was disappointed to hear Walters ask the “very personal question” about how Secretary Clinton styles her hair.  Clinton was very gracious in her response and more magnanimous than I would have been in that position.

Of all people, Barbara Walters, who has been in television news perhaps longer than any other woman on television should know a sexist question when she asks one.

It may seem like a simple, innocent enough question, but I think it is at the root of why we have not had a woman president in the United States.

Asking her about her look doesn’t have any place in your line of questioning. So Barbara Walters, please don’t ask brilliant women leaders about their hair or any other aspect of their appearance.  You should know better.  We never *do* ask the men that question and we expect more from you.


The Really Big Game: Will Hillary Clinton Run for President in 2016?

It is a bit like playing parlor games trying to guess whether or not Hillary Clinton will run for president in 2016 but I suppose journalists just can’t help themselves from asking Hillary Clinton  and anyone who has ever written about Clinton.

A journalist recently ask me the ubiquitous “Will she or won’t she” question and  “How do I know?” was my answer, though I said it as sweetly as possible so as not to seem annoyed by the question.

Instead of asking “Will she run?” a better question might be “Why would she or why wouldn’t she run?”

So, here is my take on those (better, in my opinion) questions:

Why Hillary Clinton would run:

1. Because she may win.  She knows what it is like to mount a presidential campaign as the candidate and now she’s prepared (or prepared as anyone can be) for the  abusive press treatment.

2. She wants to lead with her vision for America.    She has been a loyal soldier in Obama’s army, but she would do things differently.  This would be her chance.

Why she won’t run:

1.  To work on women and girls’ initiatives full-time.

She may be able to do more for the causes she cares about, such as fighting for the rights of women and children out of office. A review of her significant speeches show her passion for this mission field.  We can learn a lot from speeches.

A huge part of her farewell speech as Secretary of State was devoted to women and girls’ issues:

…where women and girls are treated as second-class, marginal human beings. Just ask young Malala from Pakistan. Ask the women of northern Mali who live in fear and can no longer go to school. Ask the women of the Eastern Congo who endure rape as a weapon of war.

And that is the final lever that I want to highlight briefly. Because the jury is in, the evidence is absolutely indisputable: If women and girls everywhere were treated as equal to men in rights, dignity, and opportunity, we would see political and economic progress everywhere. So this is not only a moral issue, which, of course, it is. It is an economic issue and a security issue, and it is the unfinished business of the 21st century. It therefore must be central to U.S. foreign policy.

One of the first things I did as Secretary was to elevate the Office of Global Women’s Issues under the first Ambassador-at-Large, Melanne Verveer. And I’m very pleased that yesterday, the President signed a memorandum making that office permanent.

In the past four years, we’ve made – (applause) – thank you. In the past four years, we’ve made a major push at the United Nations to integrate women in peace and security-building worldwide, and we’ve seen successes in places like Liberia. We’ve urged leaders in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya to recognize women as equal citizens with important contributions to make. We are supporting women entrepreneurs around the world who are creating jobs and driving growth.

Read the whole transcript here. In 1995 then first lady Clinton gave a passionate speech on behalf of the rights of women and girls in Beijing, China

2.  We want a new drug, so to speak.

She isn’t an exciting, new candidate. We are a fickle voting public and Secretary Clinton’s star turn as the secretary of state will recede quickly from many voters memories.

I believe that one of the reasons Barack Obama was successful is because we were swept away with his new, fresh face and his compelling story which we hadn’t heard before.  We know (or think we know) Secretary Clinton’s story, almost by heart!

3.  Why go through it?

It is a brutal slog, that running for president gig. And though some of us think she got more right than wrong with her last effort, she still lost. What a pain.

4.  Help the party while having a life.

She can help the nominee more than almost anyone else in the Democratic party without taking it on as a full-time job.

5. Finish her formal career on a high note.

Hillary Clinton Clinton Holds Major Address On U.S. - China Relationshas transformed the role of first lady, been a respected senator, a highly effective secretary of state,  and the first non-symbolic female to run for president. She almost won the Democratic nomination.

Before we know it candidates for 2016 will begin to line up and perhaps Secretary Clinton will be among them.   OK, I took my turn at the parlor game of the moment.  Your turn.

February 2013
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