SEX & POWER by Susan Estrich


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A discouraging assessment of how far women have come, and how far women have left to go.

Estrich—the first woman to get tenure at Harvard Law School—opens with some bracing recollections. When she was a girl, she was told that only boys could read from the Torah or take shop; years later, college degree in hand, she was asked at an employment agency how fast she could type; and when she arrived at Harvard Law School she was told that the female students rarely distinguished themselves. A great deal has changed, of course. Today, the law of the land guarantees women equality—before the law. But much remains the same. Of the 2,500 highest-ranking corporate executives in America, we are told, only 63 are women (and only three Fortune 500 companies are headed by women). Women hold less than 10 percent of the nation’s congressional seats and direct less than 10 percent of Hollywood’s films. What they need, the author maintains, is more collective action. All those companies with men at the top have three women somewhere near the top; they won’t get much accomplished working alone, but they might accomplish a lot if they pool their resources and work together. One huge issue for women, of course, is motherhood: can one simultaneously have a job, a marriage, and well-cared-for kids? Taking substantial periods off from work or shifting to part-time employment often spells an end to many careers, but Estrich urges mothers to fight the status quo and rebel against mommy-tracking and lower pay. Another problem is what the author calls the “Comfort Factor”: in the world of business, deals are made and connections are forged on the golf course and in other male preserves where women may not feel comfortable. The next step in the revolution is to “change the game to one women can play.”

A bold outline of the problems women face, but pretty thin when it comes to solutions.

Pub Date: Oct. 2nd, 2000
ISBN: 1-57322-124-4
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Riverhead
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2000