As you may know, because I couldn’t resist telling everyone , I had the privilege of talking with the former White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers yesterday, who recently authored the book Why Women Should Rule the World and is on a speaking tour. So of course, it follows that I have to blog about it. She’s easily one of the coolest, smartest political women I have ever met, has years of experience in politics and seems to know everyone, too. And she had a lot to say about women in politics — one of my favorite topics. There are definitely still problems that women face when trying to make it in politics and business, but the fact that women like her are doing and saying something about it is really exciting to me. Some of the most interesting things I’ve learned from her…
Women get paid less than men, in part, because women are less likely to ask. Especially young women. Myers cited a fascinating study from Carnegie Mellon University that studied a bunch of graduate students who were going out into the world to find their first post-college jobs, and found that men often got higher starting salaries were an astonishing seven or eight times more likely to just ask. And did you know, that by failing to negotiate that first salary, women stand to lose $500,000 by the time they’re sixty? Women, apparently, are much more timid when it comes to negotiating their salaries and asking for what they’re worth.
There still aren’t enough women in politics, business, science, and academia. Women currently occupy 75 seats out of 438 in the House, and 16 of 100 seats in the Senate. 77 percent of university presidents, in a 2006 study, were male. Women held 14.7% of all Fortune 500 corporate board seats in 2007.
What would happen if women ruled the world? The main argument that Myers is making is that if women had more access to power, the world could be a better place. Women are exceptionally talented at communication, relationship-building, negotiation, and leadership (and she cites plenty of studies to back that up– read her book if you want all the evidence). Getting more women in positions of leadership in politics and business could lead to fewer wars, it could give a huge economic boost to developing countries; it could improve the environment, economy, and education system, which could have a huge ripple effect. Communities could be healthier, businesses more productive.
It’s also worth noting that she’s not a man-hater, although I’m sure she’ll get called that, since most feminists get called that at some point. In fact, I doubt you can be a really successful, notable feminist without being called a man-hater, bitch, or whiner at some point. But despite that, it is worth noting that she is a feminist but NOT hating on men. She thinks women should rule the world…but alongside men, not without men.
I often get a lot of questions and funny stares when people, particularly people in college, find out I write for a political website specifically for women. Is it feminist, people ask? No. So then why do women need their own site? Well, in part because when men talk about politics they claim to speak from a universal point of view, but when women talk about politics it’s still seen as a “minority” point of view — or I wouldn’t get such reactions in the first place. A political website written for and by women still elicits a double-take from most people because it’s still an uncommon thing. But it’s a necessary thing — and that’s why we’re doing it.
When men talk about politics as if they are experts, people listen and believe them. When women talk like experts, even when they are experts, they have to prove their credibility first and then people listen (maybe — but if they have a bad hair day or something, forget it). The problem Myers highlights in her fantastic book is exactly the problem that CJP exists to fight: the tired belief that women can only succeed in the corporate world and political world by becoming more like men and hiding the things that make women different.
Instead, what needs to happen is that women need to own their differences and talk about how our differences are positive, instead of hiding them. And people, particularly women themselves, need to recognize that our differences can actually make the world better.
Hear, hear! That’s what we’ve been hollering about at CJP forever!
(The official video interview will be posted on CitizenJanePolitics by about 10 am EST Thursday. Check it out!!)