How women effect change once they reach a critical mass.
As a political correspondent for TIME, journalist Newton-Small investigated the response of women senators to the government shutdown in 2013. Her article about their bipartisan efforts to foster negotiations led her to a broader investigation into women’s influence in government, the judiciary, business, police forces, and the military. Interviews with more than 200 women inform her thoughtful, often inspiring debut book. The author argues that once women’s participation reaches at least 20 percent of a group, they can “change the culture and influence outcomes.” She found this “critical mass” in Congress, now 20 percent female; the current presidential administration (30 percent), and federal judgeships (35 percent)—but not in the private sector. On corporate boards, “women who served alone were often ignored…and their views discounted” until they numbered three or more. Many of her subjects are prominent, outspoken, and recognizable: Nancy Pelosi, for example, who “played politics on a man’s field and played it better than any of them,” and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. But Newton-Small also explores the contributions of Tulsi Gabbard, who served in Iraq, was elected to Congress from Hawaii, and educated her male peers about women’s military experiences; Erie Meyer, who left the “frat-boy culture” of a tech firm to work in the Ohio Attorney General’s office; and Elizabeth Bondurant, a New Jersey police chief who believes that women are more likely than men to defuse a hostile situation through talking. From these conversations, the author concludes that women bring particular skills and perspectives to any culture, including facility with communication and propensity to listen, compromise, and form alliances. She also finds “a good deal of evidence that women are inherently risk-averse,” making it less likely that the scandal incited by Lehman Brothers would have occurred at Lehman Sisters.
A cogent argument for gender parity and a revealing look at cultural change.