Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Review: Dee Dee Myers' Why Women Should Rule the World

I first picked up Dee Dee Myers' Why Woman Should Rule the World after hearing about how she experienced the wage gap in her role as press secretary to President Clinton from 93-94. I also knew that she consulted with The West Wing and that she was the inspiration for the character C.J. Cregg (who I loooove).

Myers discusses how her position in the Clinton Administration was often a conflicted one - she was given increased responsibilities but no authority in her role as deputy press secretary under Stephanopoulos. By positioning Myers under Stephanopoulos, it decreased the importance of the press secretary. So while Myers was de facto press secretary and the press held her to the standard set by prior press secretaries, she was given less resources, less staff members, and was paid less.

Additionally, Myers describes how another deputy assistant to the president was making more money than her, even though she outranked him and had more responsibility as press secretary. When she asked for a pay raise to equal his, she was denied on the basis that he took a pay cut from his prior job to come to the White House and he had a family. If this happened today, Myers could take action under the newly signed Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. But it didn't and she didn't recieve equal pay - more like less pay for more work.

Myers' argument in her book is that the world would be a drastically different place if woman were more actively involved in various sectors of life - foreign policy, health issues, executive jobs, etc. Although the book was written pre-2008 Democratic primaries and Hillary Clinton was still a potential for president, Myers' case for increased female participation are still pertinent. She suggests that in some cases, the institution and "way things are done" needs to be altered and modified to incorporate more women. She cites the work of Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman who made the university a more mother and female-friendly place. Tilghman instituted policies that made tenure a longer process to ease the timing of children, as well as a Back-Up Care program where anyone could call and request help for cheap - babysitter, someone to wait for repairs, etc.

Myers covers lots of ground and deftly argues her case. I'm not quite sold on all of her assetions - I question the claim of decreased violence in the world if women were more actively involved in foreign policy (due to their mothering). She's got research to back it up, but I'm hesitant to jump on board any argument that uses motherhood as such a large reason for why the world wouldn't be violent if women were in charge. Perhaps it's because I'm not a mother, but I don't think it's a fail-safe reason. I'm iffy on this point, but she makes many good ones in her book; and on many, I agree with her. The book is well researched, yet the academic in me wishes her sources were footnoted or generally easier to reference.

Although her title suggests that women should be ruling the world, she's suggesting that women become significantly more involved in making major decisions in the public sphere. I have to admit, Why Woman Should Rule the World is way more catchy than Why Woman Should Be Equally Represented in Politics, Education, and Basically Everything. But Myers' has me sold. Check out her book if you're interested in a quick, engaging read that will make you want to run for public office or generally become more involved in the public sphere.

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