Singer (A Simple, More Efficient Tax Collection System for America, 2005, etc.) offers a memoir that intertwines the story of her career with the battle for gender equality.
Born in 1944 and raised in Kennebunk, Maine, Singer grew up with little money but plenty of determination. An excellent student, she had hopes of entering the law profession, but she found no law school financial aid available to women. So in 1968, Singer found her place as a COBOL programmer at the Portland, Maine–based Union Mutual insurance company. She made small but steady cracks in the glass ceiling, she says, as she became more and more valuable to the company, and she was eventually promoted to the position of senior systems analyst in 1974. At that point, she decided to fulfill her dream of becoming a lawyer. She worked for the Peat Marwick accounting firm part time while studying for her degree. She discovered a passion for tax law, especially as it related to American expatriates working abroad and foreign expats working in the United States, and she became an expert in this field. Ultimately, she and her second husband formed their own business, Massachusetts-based Windstar Technologies, in which they combined their programming and legal skills to develop and sell proprietary software. The author devotes long sections to details of computer programming and specifics of tax law cases. Fortunately, she breaks these up with short, vivid vignettes that illustrate different types of sexist discrimination that she personally experienced. For example, she says that at an annual get-together for Peat Marwick employees, held at the men-only Portland Club, the women attendees were told: “We’re pleased you ladies will join the party, but you’ll have to enter the club through the back door.” Singer also slips in numerous tributes, in the form of one-paragraph biographies, to dozens of well-known women who inspired her, including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and astronaut Sally Ride.
A worthy review of sexism during the second half of the 20th century, although readers may find some sections on tax law and computer programming to be too technical.