Kirkus Reviews QR Code
PAY UP by Reshma Saujani


The Future of Women and Work (and Why It's Different Than You Think)

by Reshma Saujani

Pub Date: March 15th, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-982191-57-3
Publisher: One Signal/Atria

The founder of Girls Who Code calls for a “radical reinvention” of the American workplace in ways that would help mothers and other women.

Saujani writes that when she wrote Brave, Not Perfect (2019), she “was still in the throes of promoting the feminist propaganda of having it all via leaning in.” Her view changed during the pandemic—which exposed social and emotional fault lines in her life and others’ and which forced 12 million women from the labor force—and here, she adjusts her course. Expanding an essay for The Hill that called for a “Marshall Plan for Moms,” the author proposes a sweeping array of solutions in an uninspired book comprised of part rant, part self-help, and part “call to action” rooted in three “critical public policies”: affordable child care, paid parental leave, and cash payments to parents. Many ideas appear on bulleted lists called a “Playbook for Employers” and “What Women Can Do,” and while some are worthy, too many are overfamiliar, underdeveloped, or unimaginative. (Managers should “Lead by example,” and women should “Get enough sleep,” an idea that may seem ludicrously impractical to any mother of a 6-month-old.) The writing is merely serviceable, and many of Saujani’s ideas are surprisingly conservative or tame. She never suggests, for example, that working mothers might benefit from joining a labor union or pushing for a higher minimum wage. Worse, while Saujani pays lip service to second-wave feminists’ efforts, she slights them in subtle and seemingly ill-informed ways. For example, she writes that feminists “forgot” to work for “equality in the home via compensation for the unpaid labor we do.” In fact, they fought for it on many fronts, including, among numerous other examples, the Wages for Housework campaign. Saujani mentions her important work with Girls Who Code only briefly; a more enlightening book would have more deeply explored what that experience taught her.

A disappointing take on what America’s working women need.