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Posts Tagged ‘Hillary Clinton’

Apparently, having a wife helps. But we’ll get back to that.

Yesterday we addressed the lack of girls in the boys’ locker room, namely the late-night comedy writers club. Which led Alison to comment:

Are we setting our sights too low by wishing there were more women in late night? Let’s follow the lead of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Jenna Elfman, Courtney Cox, etc., and go after PRIME TIME slots for hilarious women! The un-funny old men can keep making their lame jokes after we’ve gone to sleep for the night!

And so today, we’re aiming at another boys’ club, this one close to the top of the food chain: the rarefied air of foreign diplomacy, and what the Washington Post dubbed “the Hillary effect,” which it cites not only as the cause for the increase in women in our own foreign service, but for the increase in female ambassadors to the United States as well. And the numbers certainly put those of the late-night writers’ rooms to shame:

More than half of new recruits for the U.S. Foreign Service and 30 percent of the chiefs of mission are now women, according to the State Department. That is a seismic shift from the days, as late as the 1970s, when women in the Foreign Service had to quit when they married, a rule that did not apply to men.

As for the foreign diplomats, the Post reports:

There are 25 female ambassadors posted in Washington — the highest number ever, according to the State Department.

“This is breaking precedent,” said Selma “Lucky” Roosevelt, a former U.S. chief of protocol.

Women remain a distinct minority — there are 182 accredited ambassadors in Washington — but their rise from a cadre of five in the late 1990s to five times that is opening up what had been an elite’s men club for more than a century.

It makes sense when you think about it, especially since women traditionally have been thought of as peacekeepers. The Post further points out that Hillary has been responsible for championing women’s rights across the globe, which is a good thing. Diversity at the top has also been cited for more open-minded decision making processes and, in some cases, a stronger focus on poverty, health care, and the marginalization of girls in many nations, especially when it comes to education:

[Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine] Albright said she guards against saying that women focus on “soft issues.” “They are often the hardest issues: poverty, discrimination, education and health,” she said.

On the other hand, what’s good for the world may not always be so easy for the women who are changing it. (The fact that the WaPo’s powers-that-be chose to play this story in Arts and Living, rather than the front section, is pretty telling in and of itself.) Various ambassadors are quoted in the piece, some saying that being a woman gives them a certain special status–that of a curiosity (so much for the blending-in act those joke-slingers are attempting). Or, as Singapore’s ambassador Heng Chee Chan, who arrived in Washington in 1996, told the Post, being presumed to be a man:

When a table was booked under “Ambassador Chan” and she arrived asking for it, she was told, ‘Oh, he is not here yet.’ “

Many said they are still often bypassed in receiving lines and the male standing beside them is greeted as “Mr. Ambassador.”

“Even when I say I am ambassador, people assume I am the spouse,” said [India's first female ambassador Meera] Shankar, who has represented India in Washington for nearly a year.

And — here comes the wife part — there’s a certain lack of support, as well:

While male ambassadors are usually accompanied by wives, female ambassadors are often here alone. Of eight interviewed, four are divorced and four said their husbands did not accompany them to Washington because of their own jobs. …Ambassadors’ wives have historically played a huge role in entertaining – a key part of an envoy’s job – so that duty falls to the female ambassadors. ‘We need a wife, too!’ several remarked.

There’s even a tinge of Groucho Marx, who famously said he’d never join a club that would accept him as a member, in this statement from Susan Johnson, president of the American Foreign Service Association:

Johnson said the rise in female diplomats coincides with what she sees as a shift in investment away from diplomacy and toward defense. ‘Is the relative feminization of diplomacy indicative of its decline as a center of power and influence?’

Clearly, we hope not, though her quote smacks a little of the “newsmommy” drubbing aimed at Diane Sawyer when she was selected to take over World News Tonight. Still, Johnson says she is encouraged to see the shift.

And so am I. As is true with all boys’ clubs, whether it be late night TV or the highest echelons of power, it takes guts, if not a wife, to pave the way for the rest of us. No wonder they call it the Hillary effect.

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I say we leave it up to the kids. More below.

Writing in The Nation last week, Katha Pollitt threw some love at Julie and Julia, the feel-good foodie movie about Julia Child and Julie Powell, the 20-something blogger who tried to channel Child by cooking her way through “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” What Pollitt liked most about the movie was the fact that it was about adult women finding meaning through work:

What I loved most of all, though, was that Julie & Julia is that very rare thing, a movie centered on adult women, and that even rarer thing, a movie about women’s struggle to express their gifts through work. Not a boyfriend, a fabulous wedding, a baby, a gay best friend, a better marriage, escape from a serial killer, the perfect work-family balance, another baby. Real life is full of women for whom work is at the center, who crave creative challenge, who are miserable until they find a way to make a mark on the world. But in the movies, women with big ambitions tend to be Prada-wearing devils or uptight thirtysomethings who relax when they find a slacker boyfriend or inherit an adorable orphan. Among recent films, Seraphine, Martin Provost’s biopic about an early-twentieth-century French cleaning woman and self-taught painter, is practically unique in its curiosity about a woman’s creative drive. More usually, a woman’s cinematic function is to forward, thwart, complicate or decorate the story of a man. As Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s elusive girlfriend in (500) Days of Summer, Zooey Deschanel has all the external trappings of individuality–aloofness, a sly smile, vintage clothes and indie tastes–but she has no more inner life than Petrarch’s Laura. She’s there to break the hero’s heart and rekindle his ambitions. What will she become? Someone else’s wife.

I read this piece after a long Sunday afternoon of a breakneck email back-and-forth relating to Marcus Buckingham and the happiness gap, which Shannon wrote about so eloquently yesterday. Much of the backchat centered around sexism: Why on earth would we look to a male to define, understand and proffer solutions for our own particular brand of angst? The answer was the obvious. We’re still living in a man’s world. Or, if you prefer the loaded term, a patriarchy, where most of the social structures were set up by men — to benefit men. Men dominate for the simple reason that they can.

Which made me wonder: some 50 years after Betty Friedan ignited the second wave of the women’s movement by writing about the “problem that has no name”, why are we still pleasantly pleased to find a movie about grown-up women who have lives apart from their significant others? Why do we let men (and the editors who publish them) take our conversations away from us? Why were we shocked and amazed that Hillary made it so far into last year’s primary season — all the while secretly acknowledging to ourselves that she could never win the presidency? Why do we still earn 71 cents on the dollar — and then come home and do the laundry? Why, in fact, do I still use terms like “Why women” (just hit search) in my posts?

No wonder we are undecided.

I came of age during the bra-burning era — which, by the way, never happened — at a time when I was known as a “women’s libber.” That dates me, yeah? At my first job out of college, my co-workers (mostly women several years older than I) were almost all involved in consciousness-raising groups, and brought those conversations into the lunch room and break rooms. There was momentum: we were prepped for change, and by god, we were going to make it happen.

But see above. We didn’t. And having been along for most of the ride, I’m frustrated that the movement seems to have stalled.

Why are words like “patriarchy” still part of the lexicon? Why, after Pat Shroeder broke ground in 1973 by becoming the first woman from Colorado to be elected to the U.S. house of representatives – and the first woman to make a legitimate run for president — why are women so woefully underrepresented in the House and, primarily, the Senate? Why are we tempted to use the same loaded  rhetoric of 50 years back without realizing that, just maybe, we need to change strats?

Back in the day, feminism was fueled, to a certain extent, by anger. And it was appropriate: Wake up, women! Embrace your oppression! Fight the patriarchy! That, we got. But moving from anger to constructive action? Seems to me the movement might have gotten so stuck in the rhetoric that it not only closed the tent, but couldn’t pull the trigger.

(As an aside, these are questions for the next generation: What was the last thing you read about NOW? What do you know about EMILY’s list — and do you even know what EMILY stands for?)

One of my friends who was part of Sunday’s bang-a-thon is from Sweden, where this type of conversation is probably close to obsolete. In her country, where there is both gender parity and equality, she suggests, it may be due to their social-democratic-ness: “It’s normal to look at society as a structure and ask yourself who will benefit — and how it can be changed to benefit other groups.”

Why didn’t we think of that? Is it possible that the anger that was so successful as a wake-up call ended up immobilizing us as much as complacency might have? Rather than building a coalition, as President Obama, who achieved the impossible last November, was able to do, did we end up alienating those we needed as allies?

I have no answers. Which is why I’m hoping the twenty and thirty-somethings might pick up the mantle and go forward with some fresh ideas.  Third-wave feminism has been dubbed by some “do-me feminism” or “Sex and the City feminism.” I have to wonder: do we need a fourth wave?

I vote yes.

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Yes, we know. That old yellow wood is the time-worn commencement cliche — not to mention perhaps the first crystallization of the choice conundrum that plagues us all.

But in her 2009 commencement address, Barnard grad Sarah Besnoff takes that old metaphor and peppers it with generous dashes of insight– and hope — for a generation of Undecideds.

And that makes all the difference.

Listen for the resonance. She starts by telling the audience that when she was younger, “.. my mom would tell me, ‘When I grow up, I want to be Sarah Besnoff.’” At first, she didn’t get it.

As a child, I would dismiss this statement as something my mom told me to make me laugh. As a teenager, I thought she said it just to empower me. Now, I understand that it was more than that; it was a reminder that I have been given opportunities that she never had. The love and support of my mother and my father, and their parents before them, have given me more chances for high achievement and greater access to places and people than they ever had…

Later, talking abut the challenges that confront the typical Barnard student, she defines what she calls the “culture of choice.”

The hardest challenge, though, was always how to choose what to do: so many interesting classes to take, too many internships, every student organization imaginable. The challenge of too many options is also one that plagues us upon graduation: grad schools, non-profit or private sector jobs, eventually the choice of raising a family. It is this culture of choice that is our generation’s unique opportunity, a blessing that our mothers were not given in equal measure.

Did you hear it? Therein lies the difference between two generations of women, mothers and daughters, and, for that matter, between men and women: the reason that, for so many of us, deciding what to do with our lives is a lot more fraught than picking a path in a yellow wood. The remedy, Besnoff suggests, is shared experience and a sense of sisterhood:

So when two roads diverge in a yellow wood and I’m sorry I can’t travel both – I’m not concerned. I know my Barnard sister who chooses to take the other road will call me and tell me what she saw, who to avoid, where to turn and what lies at the end. Her distinct path will not be divergent from mine, rather it will add to the map of our joint experience. She will empower me with knowledge should I ever want to take that path too. She will share her time on that road with me should I never be able to travel it myself. Our sisterhood in this culture of choice allows us all to become trailblazers without fear of the roads not traveled.

And with this sisterhood of trailblazers, we are uniquely positioned to take on the continuing inequalities that women face in our society. We can each forge new paths to equality, calling our sisters along the way to find unexpected intersections. We can be pioneers as we reassert a gender consciousness within our generation. This is the Barnard sisterhood – supportive, collaborative, competitive sure, but conducive to our collective achievement. We need to create this Barnard sisterhood with all women and male allies, so that we can turn assumed equality into actual parity. We stand here today with a woman who put 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling. Well, we, the Barnard College Class of 2009, have been given the opportunity to break the damn thing.

Oh, about those 18 million cracks? Did I mention that she shared the stage with Anna Quindlen and Hillary Clinton?

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Yesterday’s New York Times Magazine was devoted to women, and if you’ve not read it yet, I implore you to do so. Granted, it won’t be much fun, but I think the issues it raises are critically important for all women. The cover lines give fair warning of what’s to come, as well as why it matters: “In many parts of the world, women are routinely beaten, raped or sold into prositution. They are denied access to medical care, education and economic and political power. Changing that could change everything” and then, in larger font: “Why Women’s Rights Are the Cause of Our Time.”

Inside are no end of reasons to be appalled, outraged, shocked, devastated. Among them: “The Daughter Deficit,” which outlines why–at first pause, counterintuitively–development in India and China (where, ironically, a saying asserts that “women hold up half the sky”) has led to even more discrimination against girls. And, in this case, “discrimination” means killing and neglect, while “development” means more education and money and lower birth rates with little change to these societies’ traditional patriarchal values–making the birth of a daughter for a family that will likely only have a couple of children an out-and-out “disaster”–and access to ultrasounds, which leads to frequent abortions of female fetuses.

In the cover piece, by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, you will read about Pakistani, Burundi, Indian, and Rwandan women who’ve overcome unfathomable injustices–and emerged on the other side, educating themselves and turning microloans into successful businesses with which they’re able to support their families.

In “Lives: Truck Stop Girls,” you’ll read about prostitutes in Swaziland, including a 16 year-old, HIV positive orphan who wants only “Someplace safe. Someplace to be a girl.”

And in “A School Bus for Shamsia,” you’ll read about Afghan girls who risk everything for their education, including Shamsia, who had battery acid thrown on her face on her way to school one day. In that piece, Dexter Filkins writes of a visit he made to Mirwais Mena School, which Shamsia continues to attend:

I sometimes sensed a revolution was quietly unfolding. In a second-story classroom, one teacher, Mohammed Daoud, stood before 25 girls and delivered what was ostensibly a talk about Islam. But after a while, the talk turned into something else.
‘You should work,’ Daoud told the girls. ‘You should serve your country-serve the people. You should strive to do great things,’ he continued, ‘and you should try to be independent and self-reliant.’
The girls looked on, wide-eyed.
‘A woman can do whatever she attempts,’ he said. ‘But she needs skills, she needs effort and learning… A woman should have self-confidence,’ he told the girls, ‘and she should trust in herself that she can do anything.’

You’ll also come across some seriously empowering stuff. Like this:

A series of studies has found that when women hold assets or gain incomes, family money is more likely to be spent on nutrition, medicine and housing, and consequently, children are healthier.

And this:

Aid has often been most effective when aimed at women and girls; when policy wonks do the math, they often find that these investments have a net economic return. Only a small proportion of aid specifically targets women or girls, but increasingly donors are recognizing that this is where they often get the most bang for the buck.

(That section goes on to cite echoing studies and statements from the likes of Larry Summers, Bill Gates, and Goldman Sachs, not to mention the Hunger Project, the Center for Global Development, and CARE.)

And then there’s this:

Greater female involvement in society and the economy appears to undermine extremism and terrorism.

Up front, in a Q and A with Liberia’s (female) head of state Ellen Johnson Sirleaf by Deborah Solomon, Sirleaf does more than hint that the world might be a safer place with women at the helm:

Q: If women ran the world, would wars still exist?
A: No. It would be a better, safer, and more productive world. A woman would bring an extra dimension to that task-and that’s a sensitivity to humankind. It comes from being a mother.

And what does this all have to do with us, priveledged souls burdened primarily with more choices than we know what to do with? A lot, I should think. Because we, the latte-swilling, cubicle-dwelling, work-and-life balancing (underpaid, underrepresented) millions, while still not at the finish line, are leading the way for our sisters around the world. And who better to speak to this interconnectedness than Secretary of State Hillary Clinton? As she puts it in a Q and A with Mark Landler:

I happen to believe that the transformation of women’s roles is the last great impediment to universal progress…. So-called women’s issues are stability issues, security issues, equity issues.

And then, the grand finale. Landler asks, “is there any lesson from your presidential campaign that you can take to women elsewhere in the world?”

An excerpt from Madame Secretary’s answer:

My campaign for many reasons gave a lot of heart to many young women. It is still the most common comment that people make to me: ‘your campaign gave me courage’ or ‘your campaign made a difference in my daughter’s life’ or ‘I went back to school because of your campaign.’ So, it is unfinished business and young women know it is unfinished business. The vast majority of them will never run for political office… But they may decide to seek an education that their family doesn’t approve of, or move away for a job that is a little bit frightening to them, but which they feel they’ve got the skills to do. Or, you know, stand up and speak out against an injustice they see. And it is all of that ripple that is building and building –and is unstoppable.

Here’s to building that ripple. It seems the world depends on it.

 

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Apparently, pot bellies are the new cool. If you happen to be a young male hipster.

Stay with me here: This is all about the way the media treat women as opposed to men, and why it appears that women can’t win.

According to The New York Times Style section, the Ralph Kramden look is In. And the growing presence of women in the workplace is as much to blame as Pabst Blue Ribbon. I don’t make this stuff up. From the story:

Too pronounced to be blamed on the slouchy cut of a T-shirt, too modest in size to be termed a proper beer gut, developed too young to come under the heading of a paunch, the Ralph Kramden is everywhere to be seen lately, or at least it is in the vicinity of the Brooklyn Flea in Fort Greene, the McCarren Park Greenmarket and pretty much any place one is apt to encounter fans of Grizzly Bear.

What the trucker cap and wallet chain were to hipsters of a moment ago, the Kramden is to what my colleague Mike Albo refers to as the “coolios” of now. Leading with a belly is a male privilege of long standing, of course, a symbol of prosperity in most cultures and of freedom from anxieties about body image that have plagued women since Eve.

Until recently, men were under no particular obligation to exhibit bulging deltoids and shredded abdominals; that all changed, said David Zinczenko, the editor of Men’s Health, when women moved into the work force in numbers. “The only ripples Ralph Kramden” and successors like Mike Brady of “The Brady Bunch” had to demonstrate were in their billfolds, said Mr. Zinczenko, himself a dogged crusader in the battle of the muffin top. “But that traditional male role has changed.”

Does this mean Macy’s double-truck ads of edgy young men will feature beer bellies, unbuttoned shirts, straining T-shirts with ironic sayings and girl-cut jeans that nonetheless sag below the gut? The new measure of cool? Oh, the irony.

Because for women, the reverse is still painfully true. We may have begun to bring home the bacon — but clearly, we’re not supposed to look like we eat any of it. At least as far as media images are concerned.

We all know that photo retouching has long been a staple of women’s mags, and other kinds of advertising. Need a reminder? You’ll find a before and after retouching of Faith Hill on a Redbook cover, courtesy of Jezebel, here. And don’t forget the way Katie Couric was retouched in the CBS News promos right before she took over as anchor. Like magic, she lost a quick 20.

But nothing brings the point home faster than the latest cover of Self Magazine, where the photo of normal-woman-sized Kelly Clarkson has been retouched to make her look sleek and svelte in — what else — white jeans. You want irony? How about the teaser running across the bottom of the cover — and Clarkson’s thighs: “Total Body Confidence.”

You want more irony? Salon.com’s Broadsheet not only posts a video of the real life Clarkson, as opposed to the glamour shot, but also quotes editor Lucy Danziger’s rationale for the retouch:

As she explains, a fashion photograph of a hair-styled, made-up, retouched celebrity is “not, as in a news photograph, journalism.” Fair enough. But while insisting that “the truest beauty is the kind that comes from within” and that “Kelly says she doesn’t care what people think of her weight,” Danziger explains that the cover photo is meant to “inspire women to want to be their best.”

…After boasting of altering Clarkson’s appearance to make her look her “personal best,” Danziger says “in the sense that Kelly is the picture of confidence, and she truly is, then I think this photo is the truest we have ever put out there on the newsstand.”

… Adding fuel to the dustup, Self’s editorial assistant Ashley Mateo blogs furthermore that “No one wants to see a giant picture of some star’s cellulite on the cover of a monthly mag — that’s what we have tabloids for!”

Wait. There’s more. We all know how supermodels Cindy Crawford, Amber Valetta et al. appear on the page. Usually. Here’s how they look sans make-up and retouching courtesy Harper’s Bazaar, courtesy New York Magazine. Still beautiful. Yet, fashion mags still taunt us with their retouched images of impossibility.

And there’s this: Politics Daily heralded Hillary for sticking up for herself in the Congo. Then wondered, in WTF Fashion, what the Daily Beast’s Tina Brown was thinking in an interview later with Joe Scarborough:

Sadly, despite feminism’s long strides in the political evolution of our species, the way some women respond to other women still has a ways to go. I wasn’t surprised when I heard from a colleague Thursday morning that celebrity editor Tina Brown, while seemingly being supportive of Mrs. Clinton, had just called her contemporary superwoman “fat.” In the actual quote on Morning Joe, the Daily Beast editor-in-chief, who is a slim 56 years old, said she believed after a seven-nation, 11-day tour of the formerly dark continent, the sexagenarian secretary must be “feeling fat.” Brown posited to Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski that perhaps Clinton, having stayed in Mogadishu a day too long, needed to “get back to the gym.”

Finally, there’s this, from the Daily Mail online: When it comes to women’s tennis, center court at Wimbledon goes to the pretty girls, rather than the top seeds. And according to Jessica Faye Carter on True/Slant, the emphasis on looks, rather than ability, is starting to infiltrate women’s golf as well.

Funny, when you juxtapose this all with those pot-bellied hipsters. But not really.

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Or, “Why Women?” redux.

Apparently, women on the job greatly underestimate their bosses’ opinion of their work. That’s the word from a new study out of the University of New Mexico Anderson School of Management.

Scott Taylor, the study’s author, found that men tend to assume their bosses think more highly of them than they actually do. For women, on the other hand, the reverse is true. According to Taylor, the difference between how they predicted their bosses rated them and their actual ratings was three times greater for women than for men:

What accounts for these results? “The most obvious answer, lack of confidence, can easily be ruled out,” Prof. Taylor says. “How do we know? Women rated themselves just as highly as men rated themselves, an encouraging development from the norm of two or three decades ago.”

Closer to the answer, he thinks, is that “women are so accustomed to decades of being ‘disappeared’ and hearing histories of women whose contributions went unnoticed that they assume these conditions exist to the same extent today. As a result, women in our sample predicted others would not notice their work, when in reality others rated them higher than men on a whole range of emotional and social competencies basic to leadership.”
The study measured nine characteristics: communication ability, initiative, self-awareness, initiative, empathy, bond-building, teamwork, conflict management, and trustworthiness. Here’s what’s interesting: when we go about gender stereotyping, don’t we associate many of those traits with women?
And yet.
That women are rated higher than they think — that’s encouraging. But nonetheless, when that inner voice tells you that, no matter what you think of yourself, you’re underappreciated at best — and wearing the invisible cloak at worst — does it hamper your performance on the job? Tear into your job satisfaction? And is that just one more reason why for women, the workplace structure is more difficult to navigate?
Maybe we can’t get over that feeling that we’re always being judged. Or maybe it’s because we were never socialized to slay the dragon. But I also wonder if one explanation might be the differences in the ways women learn to communicate. According to Santa Clara University Communication Professor Laura Ellingson, Ph.D., a scholar in gendered communication, research shows that women are more tuned into other people’s expressions and underlying meanings when they communicate. In other words, they take in much more information, do a lot more processing, and search for a lot of signals — Is my boss pleased? Does my boss expect me to do this or that? – that may or may not be relevant.
All of which not only makes decision-making more difficult but may also account for the reason why we are always feeling judged. And why we may in fact, as this study shows, misread the cues.
The moral of the story? Can’t say, other than this: if you think you deserve a raise? You probably do. Go in and ask for it.
Meanwhile, speaking of women at work, one more brick in the wall: Surely by now you have heard about the insulting question asked of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and her response, when in the Congo on Monday, and the ridiculous media flurry that followed. Here’s a comment from tk on Shannon’s last post to put this all in perspective:

I am a male, and I proudly call myself a feminist. At 62 I have lived through the entire “feminist” movement, but all it takes to remind me of what a great distance still has to be travelled is one question to Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State (for God’s sake), about policy: What does your husband think about this?

What the hell is that????

Come in and smell the Chanel #5.

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Here’s a newsflash. Women and men are different. This, I realize, is likely not news to you, but an item I came across yesterday might be. The piece in question, “Why Corporate Women Are More Likely to Blow the Whistle” by Maureen Tkacik, appeared on Slate’s DoubleX, and saw me go from zero to completely riled up by the end of the first page. In it, Tkacik talks about “a veritable Davos of Bitches Who Told You So,” including Enron whistleblower Sherron Watkins, Brooksley Born–former chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, who spent three years pushing for derivative regulation only to be shushed by Alan Greenspan, Larry Summers, and Robert Rubin; Sheila Bair, the only government regulator who can credibly claim to have seen the crisis coming; and Genevievette Walker-Lightfoot, an SEC attorney who smelled a rat in Bernie Madoff-land, way back in 2004.

Such examples are all the more amazing when you consider not just Who and What these women were speaking out against, but when you consider how few women there are in the position To speak out on such issues in the first place. But back to Watkins, who, post-Enrongate, was named one of Time magazine’s 2002 “People of the Year.” At that time, when asked whether she thought women were somehow more ethical than men, Watkins said no. But it seems that, with the passage of seven years, came a change of heart. And perhaps a willingness to claim la difference. Tkacik writes:

She thinks women are more likely to blow the whistle than men, for reasons that have as much to do with nature as with nurture…. Watkins became convinced whistle-blowing was one of the few types of “risk” that come more naturally to women after meeting Judy Rosener, best known for a somewhat controversial 1990 Harvard Business Review article that encouraged working women to stop imitating men and embrace a “women’s way of leading.”

Now, it’s long been believed that, in the battle of the sexes, men are the natural-born risk takers. But, according to Rosener, it depends on what kind of risk we’re talking about: one, which one takes with the encouragement of an audience (think Deal or No Deal… or shortsighted shareholders) is where men tend to excel. The other, which Rosener calls “moral risk” is the kind that one takes in spite of the audience’s disapproval. And that kind is where women excel. Tkacik continues, saying:

In addition, when women see wrongdoing, they try to fix it within their own organizations. Men, by contrast, tend to alert the media–even though women whistleblowers are the ones more often portrayed as opportunistic “media darlings” chasing Erin Brokovichian adulation.

So yes, in that respect, women are often damned if we do, and damed if we don’t. But that’s not my point (today). Today, my point is this: plotted against a timeline of the modern workplace, women are relatively new to the game. And it made sense that, upon our initial entree, our strategy was to blend in, to play like the boys, even to look like them (one word: shoulderpads). We downplayed our differences, fearing that, if the men smelled fear, insecurity, or Chanel #5, we’d be at an immediate disadvantage. Or maybe kicked out of the club for good. But it seems to me that every time we choose not to own our womanness — and all the differences (like the willingness to blow the proverbial whistle and the tendency to be discreet about it, all despite the fact that we’ll likely be vilified for it) inherent to that womanness — we do ourselves and our gender as a whole a disservice. Several months ago, I came across this interview with Elizabeth Lesser, founder of the Omega Institute, which really gets to the core of the issue. Among other things, Lesser considers how Hillary Clinton’s reluctance to have a “Gender” speech on par with Obama’s “Race” speech — a legacy of the early working woman’s Pretend You’re One of the Boys mantra, perhaps — as a significant factor in her undoing. (On the other hand, look at the treatment Sotomayor received for being forthright on the subject, and who can blame Madame Secretary?) When asked about the recent formation of Omega’s Women’s Institute, Lesser says:

We’ve had centuries of power and leadership where men have been at the helm. There’s some real serious gaps in representation in the world. And also the world’s in trouble. What would happen if women became empowered and could lead from their core basic values? Not just let’s put women into a structure that is about up-down power, like I have power over you. But what if women could actually influence the way power was wielded in the world, from a core feminine place. … The conversation we need to have now is no longer about women assuming positions of leadership within the existing power structure, it’s about the power structures themselves, it’s about how to go about assuming power, how to change the structures.

Which leads us right back to Rosener’s words about embracing a “women’s way of leading,” nearly twenty years old, and still, so much easier said than done. And she and Lesser are talking about change on the macro level. But I think it’s relevant on the personal level, as well. Because it’s a choice — and maybe acknowledging who we really are and where we’re really coming from is one way to make every other decision we face just a little bit easier.

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