Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection



Feminism gave women of my generation an infinity of choices and opportunities to lead. We could cheer for the boys and play alongside them; look effortlessly elegant while chairing a board meeting, performing surgery, or saving the world. And never for a second did we doubt we would have it all. But then we grew up and the life we were supposed to handle flawlessly in 5-inch heels suddenly became considerably more complicated. Today, women are regularly trapped in an astounding set of contradicting expectations:  to be the perfect mother and manager, the comforting spouse and competent boss. Not only do we strive to be the perfect person, and the perfect leader, but we blithely assume we will achieve it all.  And when, inevitably, we don’t, we don’t blame the media, or our mothers, or the clamoring voices of others.  We blame ourselves. Below is an excerpt from my newest book, Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection, addressing the issue:

“Women are still sorely under-represented at the top of the professional pyramid: only 15.2 of the board members of Fortune 500 corporations, 16 percent of partners at the largest law firms, 19 percent of surgeons.  Indeed, there seems to be some sort of odd demographic guillotine hovering between 15 and 20 percent; some force of nature or discrimination that plows women down once they threaten to multiply beyond a token few.”

Are today’s female leaders trying to be Wonder Women? Although you aren’t putting on the cape and costume everyday, watch here to see a glimpse into the theme of my new book, and see if you can somehow relate.

How did we get here, trapped into a very small corner by a movement that was supposed to free us? When did being good become being perfect? And, most importantly, where do we go from here?  As women in leadership, it’s up to us to bravely raise these questions, and, most importantly, demand answers and fight for solutions.

To read more, and for information about purchasing the book, please visit www.wonderwomenthebook.com.

This post originally appeared onwww.wonderwomenthebook.com

About the Author

Debora Spar is president of Barnard College and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection (to be published in September 2013). She has also written Baby Business: How Money, Science, and Politics Drive the Commerce of Conception (2006); Ruling the Waves: From the Compass to the Internet, a History of Business and Politics along the Technological Frontier (2001); The Cooperative Edge: The Internal Politics of International Drug Cartels (1996). Spar has also written extensively for publications such as The Daily Beast, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and New England Journal of Medicine. A political scientist by training, Spar is a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and received a doctorate in government from Harvard. Prior to her arrival at Barnard in 2008, Spar was the Spangler Family Professor at Harvard Business School, where her research and teaching focused on political economy and the various ways in which firms and governments together shape the rules of the global economy. During her time at Harvard, Spar was also a Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Research. Currently, Spar serves as a Director of Goldman Sachs and trustee of the Nightingale-Bamford School. Debora Spar is married to Miltos Catomeris, an architect whose specialty is academic, institutional, and corporate campuses. They are the parents of three children. For more information, please see thePresident’s Page on the Barnard College website.