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WONDER WOMEN by Debora L. Spar

WONDER WOMEN

Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection

By Debora L. Spar

Pub Date: Sept. 17th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-374-29875-3
Publisher: Sarah Crichton/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Barnard College president Spar (The Baby Business: How Money, Science, and Politics Drive the Commerce of Conception, 2006 etc.) uses her experiences of the feminist revolution of the 1960s as a scaffold for evaluating the situation of young women today.

The author explains that despite the many benefits she obtained as a result of the sexual revolution and the second-wave struggle for the equality of women, launched by Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan and other feminist leaders, she repudiated feminism and steered clear of their political agenda. One of only a few women to become a tenured professor at Harvard Business School, she reveled in her success in a man's world. Over the ensuing years—as the mother of three, she has balanced the demands of family life with the challenges of her career, especially since becoming the head of an all-women's college—her perspective has shifted. The author explains that she “became increasingly convinced that the goals of the early feminists remain relevant for women today, even for those like me who had either ignored the struggle or disagreed with the tactics.” Still, today, “only twenty-one companies on the Fortune 500 are run by female chief executives,” and a similar situation exists in politics. In the upper economic strata, most working women accept the “mommy track,” trading less on-the-job responsibility (as they race “between board meetings and ballet recitals”) for time to devote to family. Spar addresses many issues facing working women—e.g., maintaining a fashionable appearance, sexual identity and aging in a world of shifting mores. For younger women who have accepted their entitlement to full equality with men, the conflicting demands of the roles expected of them, and their own “quest for perfection,” can be devastating.

A wise, worthy companion to Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In (2013).