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

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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. 29th, 1984
Publisher: Morrow