What's become of the women of the Harvard Business School class of 1975, the first to be ten percent women? The question was...


WOMEN LIKE US: What Is Happening to the Women of the Harvard Business School, Class of '75

What's become of the women of the Harvard Business School class of 1975, the first to be ten percent women? The question was inevitable--and Gallese, with eleven years in the Boston office of the Wall Street Journal behind her and a baby on the way, has given it intricate, involved-and-involving study: she interviewed 82 of the women, and selected six to focus on; she interweaves her perceptions of them (dress, homes, demeanor, defenses) with their perceptions of one another. The result has the emotional drama of college-and-after fictions--along with these conclusions: two-fifths of the group were ""ambivalent or frankly not ambitious about their careers""; few if any seem headed for top management. They are less ""committed"" than men--but why? To an extent, the individual stories are typical of 1980s retrenched-feminism, the ultimate findings banal: the women, married or not, didn't want to give up ""what is uniquely theirs, their femininity."" But, as Gallese notes, this is not a matter of who'll-do-the-housework, or even who'll-relocate; there's no correlation, indeed, between marital status and ambition--of the two most likely to succeed, one was both unmarried and impersonal (""just like a man""), one was crazy about her husband and had three children. However--and this is where some readers may squirm--""impersonal"" Suzanne Sheehan is seen living in musty Victorian surrounds and admitting to humility, to doubts about ""belonging""; while Holly Lane Pfeffer, who seems to have it all, has a strong husband who gave her strategic pushes. . . but is also pulling away from marriage-and-fatherhood. Another of the six (the least credible, applicable story) is deemed too much a ""maverick"" for corporate life--though potentially the most creative. Yet another is shown, more convincingly, to have taken a route upward-from-poverty that didn't really suit her. (She's oriented toward accomplishment, not advancement--""I'm a believer""--and affiliates with a charismatic sect.) Also to the point is the successful, supportive husband who notes, most tenderly, that his star-quality wife puts the needs of others before her own. Gallese engages in a certain amount of talk about sexual breakouts on the part of the ""asexual female executive,"" and strives mightily to find a viable wife/mother/career synthesis (in her own history too), a better and brighter tomorrow; but apart from the sheer women's-interest charge of the reportage, there are soundings here of highly personal, variegated issues.

Pub Date: Jan. 29, 1984


Page Count: -

Publisher: Morrow

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1984