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Exploring Leadership in the News with Steven Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti

Our leadership crisis: Where are the women?

In spite of Sarah Palin's prominence as best-selling author, Hillary Clinton's stature as Secretary of State, and 51% of the workforce now being female, we still face a crisis in women's leadership, according to The White House Project's just-published study, Benchmarking Women's Leadership.

The majority of Americans are comfortable with women leading in all sectors, but the reality is women hold only 18% of leadership positions across the 10 sectors we examined, including politics, business, law, sports, academia, journalism, religion, film/TV, nonprofit, and military.

In politics, for example, women have lost ground in the last decade as elected statewide executive officials and have made only incremental gains in Congress, where they currently comprise 17% of leadership. On a global scale, the U.S. ranks a dismal 71st out of 189 countries, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, in terms of women in legislatures, trailing behind nations such as Pakistan, Cuba, and United Arab Emirates.

At Fortune 500 companies, women hold only 15% of board seats, 16% of corporate officer positions, and a mere 3% of CEO positions, while women of color make up only 3% of board officers and 1.7% of corporate officer positions.

Even in sectors that have traditionally welcomed women - such as the nonprofit field - the numbers reflect the same disparity. Women comprise 75% of nonprofit employees, but hold only 26% of leadership positions. Women nonprofit CEO's make only 74% of what their male counterparts earn.

The list goes on: from sports and military to religion and journalism, women are underrepresented in the halls of power and underpaid when they get there. So why does this matter, particularly when our nation faces such trying economic times?

As our Benchmarks report illustrates, the rose-colored lens through which we have examined gender in the workforce clouds this grim reality: women - and particularly women of color -- are far from achieving parity in the arenas in which their participation and inclusion matters most: positions of leadership. And contrary to the popular talking points of today, the cultural ideal for women has not shifted to an all-encompassing and gender-neutral space, but remains firmly embedded in models of wifedom and motherhood. If anything, there is evidence that this cultural ideal is becoming further entrenched as the economy triggers anxieties about gender roles within both the public and private spheres.

I have been an advocate for women's issues for over 30 years. From the feminist and civil rights movements of the 1960s and 70s to today's "post-modern" struggles for equality, I have learned three important things: increasing numbers and changing culture are not mutually exclusive but mutually reinforcing vehicles; action must be taken from the top down and the bottom up; and instituting change cannot be limited to one sector, but must be tackled in every sphere.

When we set out to write The Benchmarks Report, we were determined not only to puncture the conventional wisdom that women are leading in record numbers, but to poll experts in each sector and determine what steps need to be taken to achieve a critical mass of women leaders across the board. Here are our recommendations for closing the leadership gap:

Work to achieve a critical mass of women in leadership roles in every sector. A critical mass of one-third or more women in leadership positions is essential for implementing and maintaining the changes recommended in this report.

Use financial resources strategically. In choosing which firms to hire or which non-profits to fund, look through a gender lens, considering the representation of women, and women of color, on the board and in top leadership.

Amplify women's voices in the public arena. Prominently include women leaders in public forums and media so that they in particular--and women in general--are recognized as role models and considered for boards and other top-level positions.

Collect and analyze the data. Surprisingly little information exists regarding the representation of women, and particularly women of color, in positions of leadership in individual organizations. Regular tracking and reviewing of the numbers - including the wage gap --- are essential for setting benchmarks and monitoring progress.

Maintain accountability through setting targets. If you lead an organization, set specific goals for including women in leadership. Create a timeline to achieve targets and impose actual consequences for failure to meet these targets.

Improve flexibility in workplace structures. For women and men alike, increased flexibility--and a recognition of the need for work-life balance--promotes career satisfaction and job retention.

Nothing has surprised me more in working to advance women's leadership than women's own measurement of personal success and the routes they must navigate to get there. As a young woman in a major financial firm told me, "They watch you here, and if you are perceived to be too involved with your children, you are not seen as a good candidate for leadership. If you are not involved enough, you are seen as a bad mother and not to be trusted." I was shocked to hear that an older woman pulled her aside after the meeting and remarked, "There are lots of children you can love; go find them. But if you want to succeed here, don't have children of your own."

Unfortunately, that naysayer seems to be right. Perhaps that's why so many executive women who have been on the leadership track have chosen to never marry or have children (52% and 61%, respectively, according to a UCLA-Korn Ferry study; for executive men, 5% and 3%, respectively). The sacrifices women must make to ascend the leadership ranks are still disproportionate to those made by their male peers. Numbers like this show that the lack of flexibility and childcare in the U.S. is not improving fast enough to allow the numbers of women stuck in the pipeline to really ascend. Instead, they remain in lower positions or opt-out completely from the workforce. In either case, the pool of ideas, talent, and experience among our decision makers shrinks.

Over the long term, I am optimistic about making change. Three polls conducted over five years as part of our Benchmarks report revealed that 90 percent of Americans are comfortable with women leading across the ten sectors profiled, from business and politics to film and journalism. As a 2008 Pew Research Center study found, the public thinks that women - even more than men - have what it takes to be leaders in today's world, scoring women higher than men in five of eight character traits they value highly in their leaders. The recent report from Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress, "A Woman's Nation," shows that, by and large, everyone believes that the inclusion of women at all levels, from government to business to our faith communities, is good for our economy and our country.

The acceleration in moving women into leadership will only occur if there is a thoughtful, creative, and committed approach to doing so. We must promote a national dialogue that sees women not as competitors for male jobs, but as allies in building a stronger economy and better institutions.

Most importantly, we need a cultural shift that values the unique leadership traits and diverse perspectives that both genders - men and women -- bring to the table, and a commitment to having them work side-by-side to tackle the challenges we collectively face. These are difficult times, indeed. Yet history has taught us that these are the moments which are ripe for greatness, if we dare to imagine and embrace a new way.

By Marie Wilson

 |  November 20, 2009; 5:47 AM ET
Category:  Women in Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Hey sterlinggo1

That's the problem neither Sarah nor Hilary should be in the Whitehouse.
It is O.K for a woman to be president.
Just neither of those two.

Rice / Romney 2012!

Posted by: rexreddy | November 23, 2009 10:49 AM
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Well my dear liberal Marie:
I concur!

That’s right! An ultra conservative rouge “Knuckle dragging Neanderthal NeoCon”
Is agreeing with you.

My wife is a top performing IT Pro.
At what she does, she just leaves the rest of the pack.
No contest.

She was recently passed over for a job by a guy from California.
The only distinction between the two was he had male body parts.

The guy worked there for three months and imploded.

They must have flushed thousands and thousands of dollars right down the toilet!
Relocating him and then getting him up to speed and opssss!

Now they have to start all over.

Smooth move !

Posted by: rexreddy | November 23, 2009 10:40 AM
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you forget one thing - feminists don't ask for women to be included in the draft because we are completely against the drfat and would not want men to have to sign up either. Equality to me means no one has to register because going into the military is 100%. So no hypocrisy there!

I also think you do not know many feminists then if you say the things you do in your next part. The women I have been friends with my whole life have always asked guys out, paid for dates etc. And the person who holds the door open is the person through it first. period. In my particular situation, I am the one who owns our home (husband has bad credit), I earn maybe 3 times as much as he does and am paying to put him through college. This doesn't bother either one of us. My sister is the Dr in her relationship. This is the kind of person I have always been around, so I think you are either 20 years or more out of date in your comments or need to expand the women you interact with.

Posted by: EAR0614 | November 23, 2009 9:43 AM
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You outline a nice social engineering project. Why not just do our best to provide equal opportunity and prevent discrimination in the workplace and then let the cards fall where they may?

Posted by: hipshot | November 23, 2009 6:39 AM
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You lost me at "crisis". You have good, well composed thoughts which drive debate, but let's be honest; it's not a crisis. The term "crisis" has been abused more than the Redskins offense! Leadership shines through regardless of gender. Until we grade on merit and not race or gender, we're at all stop. Once we start introducing quotas, we've lost. "No one cares how many storms you encountered along the voyage; only that you brought the ship to port safely". Who do you want in command? Someone who will bring you home safely or someone hired because of their gender or skin color??? I thought we were past that..........

Posted by: CocnutTelegraph | November 21, 2009 12:36 AM
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I'm sorry, but if you are using Sarah Palin as a prominent role model to be held up as a beacon for the aspirations and hopes of women worldwide, then you have set back the movement for every measure of balance in our society for women by at least a century.

Posted by: rbaldwin2 | November 20, 2009 11:55 PM
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Personally, I think women are their own worst enemy when it comes to equality.

I believe in equality - TRUE equality: get the best person to perform the job, even if that means a disproportionate percentage of the people are male (or female). I'll start believing women want true equality when I hear the women advocacy groups clamoring for women to be included in the draft. Strange, isn't it, that all these women groups demand men accept women as equals and, yet, don't seem to believe women should stand an equal chance of being called upon to serve?

Another question: if women view themselves as equals, why do women invariably expect men to pay for dates and to do the pursuing? Ladies, ask yourselves, are you willing to ask a guy out on a date? How about just going up to a guy who piqued your interest and starting a conversation? Are you willing to pay for the entire date? If not, just how deep does your conviction towards equality run? Does it reflect unfavorably on a male date if he doesn't hold doors open for you? Would YOU hold open the door for your male date? Some women would do all that but, in my experience, the vast majority of women expect to be pursued, expect the man to at least offer to pay the full freight, and wouldn't dream of asking a guy on a date unless she'd already been on several initiated by him.

Posted by: SeaTigr | November 20, 2009 11:26 PM
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Most of the women that I've seen in leadership positions are in health care.
Most of them don't like men.

Posted by: n7uno | November 20, 2009 10:20 PM
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oops. i should have mentioned the THIRD "pseudo" female leader... nancy fancy panties pelosi.. you remember. the speaker of the house? the bimbo that DEMANDED her own wide body jet when she was granted that position, but was told 'FORGET IT BIMBO.. YOU WILL GET USE OF A MILITARY JET WHEN ONE IS AVAILABLE". yes... nancy fancy panties pelosi.. she couldn't stay off of cheney's lap during the last term state of the union. i was only wondering while watching that discusting display, is it "legal to give a lap dance to a vice president during a state of the union? nobody answered me, but cheney didn't budge with his bull stare, but the bimbo did.. she got all gushy and flush faced.. why was that? the big O from the big CHENEY? LOL

Posted by: AuthoritativeAuthoritarian | November 20, 2009 10:10 PM
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the story reads, "In spite of Sarah Palin's prominence and Hillary Clinton's stature.."


well, i think you hit the nail right on the head. we HAVE no female leaders. palin, a right wing NUTCASE, and hillary, a left wing SCHIZO who thinks snipers are firing at her...

you can't explain these TWO WACKOS any better than that.

Posted by: AuthoritativeAuthoritarian | November 20, 2009 10:03 PM
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The numbers of males born in the United States and Canada continue to decline (and have over then past 30 years); in addition, life expectancy of men is less than that of women. Consequently, the higher male birth rate has no impact on the population numbers, thus, women make up 50% of the population.

Just out of curiosity, do you have a college degree? Post graduate degree? What is your profession? How much do you earn? Our daughter earned an MBA; and at age 33 earns a very nice 6 figure salary; is provided a very nice company car, outstanding pension plan, excellent health benefits package; and other really nice “prizes” from her company like luxury box seats to a top NFL team. Oh, did I mention she completed her two-year MBA program in one year with a 4.0 average?

She hasn’t reached her father’s level of success (he’s run companies with hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and 10,000 employees), but we believe one day she will exceed his level of success. So what say you about your contributions to the male gender? You are quick slam women, but you don’t give indication of your personal contributions to the success and advancement of your gender. More important, what brilliance have you demonstrated the world and what "prizes" did you earn for your brilliance?

Posted by: jandcgall1 | November 20, 2009 8:28 PM
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Women may be under-represented in leadership positions in relation to their gender, but over-represented in relation to their efforts.

Posted by: RealTexan1 | November 20, 2009 7:53 PM
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RE "In spite of Sarah Palin's prominence as best-selling author, ".
"Palin", Prominence" and "best selling author"

Can an oxymoron only be between two words?

Including Palin in this comparative narrative might explain why women are not in more leadership roles. If Palin is an example of what women offer in terms of leadership skills this world is in serious trouble. Using Plain as an example of 'leadership' denigrates real leaders, and intelligent effective women.

Posted by: stodayxx | November 20, 2009 7:47 PM
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I cannot agree. I believe that there should be no discrimination, none, against women. But if the process is absolutely fair, the outcome is the outcome. No quotas, for anyone. "Targets" is the new "quotas."

Posted by: gbooksdc | November 20, 2009 7:43 PM
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We women need to stop blaming the men—men control everything because we women let them control everything.

Women make 80% of consumer purchases--that is phenomenal power. We need to use that power to benefit more women in the workforce.

Nothing will change until we women snap shut our wallets, then demand the very companies we’ve been doing business with start hiring more women at all levels. Boycott and demand equality in the workplace.

We need to organize; to use the power in our wallets to create a more equitable economy—the sooner we realize the power in our wallets, the sooner we change our economic and political status in the world.

Women also make up 50% of the population; thus, we need to organize and vote more women into political office.

Bottom line: Men control everything because we let them control everything.

BTW, I’m not sure what “leadership” role Palin models by writing a book and offering it for sale for a profit that only benefits her—seems totally self-serving to me. Clinton’s role as Secretary of State is what I consider a leadership role.

Posted by: jandcgall1 | November 20, 2009 7:38 PM
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You certainly take the lead, ladies, in spending money on your own bodies, with all the preparations, the products, the garments, the decorations you adorn yourselves with, and you lead the way on that, hands down. You lead with unprecedented and unchallenged acumen in all things 'you'. I see it as a self-centered thing, and you're the leaders in these things, too. Congratulations! Don't give up hope! Smile!

You also lead the way in unnecessary health care expenditures, according to some Health care professionals.

Mammography and pap smears - you lead the way in these things to be afraid of and excessive medical exams. That makes you the leaders on spending and inflating the costs of health care. Good work! It's all about you, anyway - right ?

And you think you're not leaders ?

think again.

And to think that soon, women will overtake men in the workforce as some have recently reported, soon you will have the power and the need to lead in all things woman.

Too bad you so very often give birth to males. That's gotta suck bigtime for you, huh?

It would be so very perfect if you could fix that, putting men in their places for once, and ruling the world entirely for yourselves.

I know that you won't stop until you've completely overshot your target.

You will lead, but what, I ask, will be left to lead?

yourselves, and yourselves alone.

so take it away - let's see you lead in physics, let's see you lead in astronomy, and try and rival the life's work of the great thinking men that bought you clothes dryers, microwave ovens, and washing machines to make YOUR lives easier, and how about taking the lead on the internet, instead of 'installing' yourselves into it.

How about a modern wonder of the world - too many appointments ? oh well.
A nice thing would be to see you lead the way in things more challenging than simply running a 'business'. Everyone does business -how mundane.

how about you finally show us what you're made of, and when you succeed - you'll get the prize.

Sorry, the prizes aren't being handed out for just 'being a woman'; you have to actually DO something notable, first.

I'm not saying that you're not capable, it's just that so very few women go there to begin with, what do you really expect ?

Posted by: pgibson1 | November 20, 2009 7:08 PM
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Clinton's stature? Pure B.S.
She's a vacuous slug who has no ethics, no integrity and no morals.
She and her so called husband, the predator, are two of the most corrupt individuals in the country.
What a pile of horse manure.

Posted by: LarryG62 | November 20, 2009 4:27 PM
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Where are the women in leadership positions?

Well, Palin left "leadership" to write a book (ie. cash in) blaming everyone else for what went wrong during her short tenure. She's not a very good example is she. If you did some homework, you could have found some women out there actually leading (other then Clinton), but you decided to mention a "meat eatin', gun lovin' straight shooter". Even that nut Bachman would have been a better choice. At least she doesn't "cut and run".

Posted by: janeway1 | November 20, 2009 3:55 PM
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Comrades: So, when will there be Braille speedometers on automobiles? Why aren't blonds or redheads proportionately represented in THE Congress? Why doesn't a class of 100 students produce 110 US Presidents? Once letter grades are abolished nationwide (in the works; please refer to PG County public schools, among others), then at least the graduating students will be qualified as being academically well prepared, as measured by their individual grades . . . and the students will feel good about it!

Posted by: rep15 | November 20, 2009 3:41 PM
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Sarah Palin is a hottie. Hillary has a wrecked face and thunder thighs and her own huband flies to other states just so he doesnt have to bed her. Michelle Obama looks like Klingon from Star Trek.

Nobody takes Palin seriously as a politician. She will become the next Sean Hannity or Harpo.

Posted by: Italiaxxx | November 20, 2009 3:15 PM
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This article reminds me alot of the "78 cents for every $1.00" argument that is constantly touted by feminists as yet another example of sexism against women. Little do most people know that the methodology used to come at this number is suspect.

Men and women have different interest and priorities. Perhaps women are deciding not to take such positions so that they can spend more time with family. Men on the other hand tend to be drawn to such positions, where they work long hours; (often taking away from family time) towards an early death.

Posted by: moebius22 | November 20, 2009 3:13 PM
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I have named the phenomenon / groups you refer to as "Talibaptists". Your point is well taken on preaching of intolerance, hatred, & inequality right here in the USA, BUT there are plenty of differences between baptists and taliban. A Taliban woman in the most backward, Southern "Talibaptist" congregation would probably be warmly accepted and feel like she was in heaven compared to the station in life she has come to expect in Afghan society.

The Southern Baptist convention has already stated that women cannot teach if there are males in their classrooms. Tell me the difference between Baptists and the Taliban? NOTHING!


Posted by: dkbain1 | November 20, 2009 2:34 PM
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JHALL1: A female cannot be cuckolded. The term is applied exclusively to males.

Posted by: kalixmd | November 20, 2009 1:59 PM
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Since when is quitting your job early a sign of leadership?

Palin left to make money and avoid ethics charges. What kind of leader is that???

Posted by: AxelDC | November 20, 2009 1:21 PM
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Hello all, a long time ago in a time far away there came frustration, an evil self absorbed beast of acquirement and consumption. So clever was this beast it could come in many disguises the most hideous of which was the division of three. For you see there had been a union between she and he and they traveled together through tough times and rough but found one another always close at heart. Though the travels as I said, would be all that they could bear they found what true love shares.
That it did not matter who lead or was the host it did not say which throne held the most.
It did not put one above the other or think one was the better mother, nor bother to decide what suit made the better father.
No in this time the they sought to hold all that love could unfold and not just what frustration sold.

Will there come a time when this returns, this hope of what love confirms, I can tell the not thee but only hope to say, it would be the brightest play of the day.

Posted by: pent123 | November 20, 2009 1:19 PM
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Hillary?? The cuckolded first lady who was elected Senator by the idiots of New York??


Posted by: tjhall1 | November 20, 2009 1:08 PM
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To compare Women's leadership to Sarah Palin is utterly idiotic. This news article lost all relevance when the start itself was based on such false premise. Palin got elected in a state known more for snow and forest than people. She can barely talk sense. Yes, people have lined up to read her book. Most of them, like her, hardly have any worthwhile education to speak of. Is this the kind of leadership America wants for women? I do not think so.

Posted by: hughes_168 | November 20, 2009 12:46 PM
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While we are talking about white women being left out of leadership, what about Black men? Black men do not have even an eight percent representation as Black profesionals represent only 3 percent of the working population.

Black's repesent (13%) thirteen percent of the total population with Black men at 45% ratio leaving about 5.5 percent of Black males in the population with less than one percent of leadership counting the White House.


Posted by: patmatthews | November 20, 2009 12:42 PM
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To include Sarah Palin as an example of a successful woman is idiotic. Yes she did manage to get elected as governor of Alaska, a state with more polar bears than people. And she quit when the going got tough. The 18% figure is probably about right. To force it up to 50% out of some sense of political correctness would further destroy our country.

Posted by: RichardinPasadena | November 20, 2009 12:33 PM
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When the government was downsized in the 1990's, women AND minorities were disproportionately impacted. Any Supreme Court test would have identified prejudice. Women Engineers and scientists were given pink slips disproportionately. Out of 100 pink slips delivered to the agency I worked for, half were female scientists and engineers. What was remarkable was we were a minority, less than 10% of the pool of scientists and engineers. So 50% of a 10% minority were sent packing. There is a reason why the slips are referred to as "PINK" we used to joke. Also performance reviews for women were far lower than their male counterparts. Yet most female engineers and scientists were top in their class which is why were accepted in engineering school because during the Cold War, the pool of potential male candidates were so poor. Contacting the EEO Office of OMB, The National Organization of Women and calling the Inspector General and calling the Washington Post got us nowhere. My experience is that men believe that men are the breadwinners and that women are just bringing in a 2nd income. Whatever progress was made was lost in the 1990's because the one's deciding who was going to go were men with stay at home wives. Then to make matters worse when they downsized the government of female professionals, we were replaced by hispanic men because a deal was made somewhere. There is no way this country is going to change by "do-gooders". We need to follow the example of Norway and just mandate 50% representation by women. Otherwise, women will always be treated as disposable workforce and second class citizens.

Posted by: griffin3 | November 20, 2009 12:21 PM
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1. Women have suffered from Female Apartheid Syndrome (FAS) for their existence on earth. Female Apartheid Syndrome is a cancer that destroys the unification of women causes, then, they never have the wind to complete the marathon to the White House. Women are their own worse enemy because they hold about 60 percent of all registered voters yet can not make the run to the White House. Ladies something is wrong!
2. Women must become more focus, direct and determine to seat them at the throne. It is a travesty that Ms. Clinton or Sarah Palin are not residents of the White House. As history shows the self-inflicted wound starts bleeding during the Presidential elections. Ladies, bring the first aid kit during these trying time so you can finish the race, word. Ladies it is your world, win the race.

Antonio the Sun

Posted by: sterlinggo1 | November 20, 2009 11:45 AM
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The Southern Baptist convention has already stated that women cannot teach if there are males in their classrooms. Tell me the difference between Baptists and the Taliban? NOTHING!

Posted by: GenuineRisk | November 20, 2009 11:18 AM
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Women account for 20 percent of the military both officers and enlisted (or there abouts). This appears to be a better percentage than business or politics.

The military recruited very vigorously to get from 2 percent in the 1970s to 20 percent. And STILL in my chosen career area, aircraft maintenance, we have only 6 percent women officers and 2 percent women enlisted. (I am a woman and was both officer and enlisted). Most women "preferred" administration, personnel or medical career areas.

Today's young men have no advantage over today's young women to go into a field like aircraft maintenance (Dads no longer fix cars with their sons to give them the hand up on tools and how machines work). The prejudice is in the parents---honestly. Parents influence their children more than they think; the idea of their daughter working with engines, weapon systems etc makes parents think that this work is "below" them. And now a days even young men's parents believe the same.

This isn't the issue of not coming into the military because of the classist view that the military is for poverty level losers (that's also a parent influencing their children). It's the idea that nothing done with one's hands is a worthwhile profession. Interestingly in the military men have started to pick-up in numbers in the medical professions usually filled by women, many coming from careers outside the military first.

May we should stop trying to think of politics, business, the military etc as areas that aren't for young "ladies" and start realizing that there are gifted people of both sexes that can make these professions re-invigorated with the American spirit.

oh and to the "home cooking stay at home crowd"--I have been married for over 30 years, raised a son and a daughter, living on and experiencing three continents with my family AND cooked and cleaned. Guess what--both my husband (also military) and my children figured know that home life is based on their input to what the home was like as well as mine i.e. they cleaned and cooked too. Again--I'm guessing if you believe women are the ones who cook, clean and make your life livable that your mom and dad never said you should be part of the family and contribute. Oh wait you are being sarcastic (like I haven't heard this in the last 30 years....)

Posted by: mil1 | November 20, 2009 11:15 AM
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Look, can we please stop using Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton in the same light to make a point about anything relating to leadership or intelligence! Hillary Clinton is an intelligent accomplished woman; Sarah Palin is an bugaboo idiot...where is the comparison? STOP IT--PLEASE!

Posted by: Beingsensible | November 20, 2009 11:02 AM
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The Gender Wars-or more mildly, "The Gender Leveling"-of our Culture continues. It is highlighted by the images of male football fans on their "arses" listening to female gridiorn analysts and interviewers. Meanwhile, a gross disparity exists in the number of fatalities and casualties from contemporary military warfares between men and women.

It is more and more my perception that the Middle Eastern/Moslem-related bloodsheds of today have a Gender Specific element. Traditional Moslem males in countries like Afghanistan are really also fighting to maintain their primacy and slave-holding rights over women as much as anything else.

It is ironic that so many males, in proportion to females, are dying and being maimed in a fight that may lead to better conditions for women over there.

The unanswered question remains: If women want to acquire men's roles and status, what sacrifices are involved? What should men's role be?

Posted by: Spectator | November 20, 2009 10:59 AM
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I support women in leadeship roles. Just the other day I put a $10 in the garter belt of the Lead stripper at Camelot.

Posted by: Italiaxxx | November 20, 2009 10:35 AM
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Men have abdicated their thrones.They have given up their status in order to sit on their arses watch football & become slobs. Wow how attractive to the womenfolk. This will continue until men take their place again. Any of you little wenies out there (males) that downplay the importance of the Woman in the home, listen up. I am a 72 year old man. I am single and who adopted two children years ago. I raised them by myself and had a big job to boot. Whoops, I mean I had Two BIG jobs to boot. Homemaker and Banker. My banking job took 8 hours a day. My Homemaker-maid-childraiser commitment-took many more and on call 24/7. So, take your place guys, grow up and be male then the Womenfolk with the greater job, homemaker can be appreciated. They can do both, can you? (can't even boil water I bet)

Posted by: eaglehawkaroundsince1937 | November 20, 2009 9:45 AM
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To be honest with you Hillary, Sarah, Nancy Pelosi- these are not women that I would, or would want my daughters to aspire to be. Hillary has successfully, for the moment, maneuvered herself away from controversy, but there are a lot of women who think she is where she is because of her relationship to her husband and because of some, frankly illegal things. Sarah Palin is a joke that the media is following around because she is like a circus performer. She's harsh, inflexible, evasive and has proven to be not very well informed- and not interested in information. Nancy Pelosi may be a wonderful woman, but she has bad PR and she comes across like a cartoon- and she speaks very left wing when we all know that she and her husband have more money than they know what to do with. It is easy for the rich to tell others that more should be done to help the homeless and the insurance-less, and no one argues that they wish ill on anyone, but most of us are just trying to get by and we literally cannot afford to do more with out becoming homeless. The women who have aspired to this special limelight have a need for celebrity that supercedes the kind of woman who could make a real impact and be the model for crushing the glass ceiling at the highest levels. I have advanced degrees, have raised two children and am a manager in a DC area company. None of the three represent anything that has to do with my life, or my value system. I wouldn't vote for any of the three. There's the problem, because I am not unique.

Posted by: poppysue85 | November 20, 2009 9:31 AM
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Re WAPOSTISRIGHTWINGRAG, it is a sad thing that so many women who do "make it" do not have children of their own to pass along their life experiences (see reference below to mentoring). Among my peers I am one of the very, very few that has children (I have both sons and daughters). Re my children, I have done my best to teach them well (who else can do this but parents -- certainly not the government -- and those individuals who are trusted enough to provide guidance?) the values you listed as important, and then some. It is a mixed blessing. Oh I am proud and they do well in what matters. They find it difficult to fit in completely, however, and have noted the trends you identified (pursuit of less than admirable life goals -- to be considered "hot," to have a rich boyfriend/girlfriend, to make lots of money without working very hard (and with no desire to make things better for the next generation). They eventually find like-minded souls and form small but significant circles of friends (they moved often as children because of my job, and are college-age or beyond now). I have mentored some of my children's friends and acquaintances (teachers, for example) and go out of my way to help others in the office. I have seen some of my childless peers do the same thing, find ways to mentor. There are of course the stereotypical female managers out there who -- having achieved their own success -- want to protect it jealously. Although Ms. Wilson expresses optimism, near the end of my career I am feeling less so. How much more I could have done if only given the chance (it is a bitter pill to swallow)? Anyway, I suppose the important thing is to not give up. When I do retire I will be looking to devote my time to an organization like Ms. WIlson's. I'm not as optimistic, but neither am I willing to give up.

Posted by: VirginiaReader1 | November 20, 2009 9:27 AM
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Re WAPOSTISRIGHTWINGRAG, it is a sad thing that so many women who do "make it" do not have children of their own to pass along their life experiences (see reference below to mentoring). Among my peers I am one of the very, very few that has children (I have both sons and daughters). Re my children, I have done my best to teach them well (who else can do this but parents -- certainly not the government -- and those individuals who are trusted enough to provide guidance?) the values you listed as important, and then some. It is a mixed blessing. Oh I am proud and they do well in what matters. They find it difficult to fit in completely, however, and have noted the trends you identified (pursuit of less than admirable life goals -- to be considered "hot," to have a rich boyfriend/girlfriend, to make lots of money without working very hard (and with no desire to make things better for the next generation). They eventually find like-minded souls and form small but significant circles of friends (they moved often as children because of my job, and are college-age or beyond now). I have mentored some of my children's friends and acquaintances (teachers, for example) and go out of my way to help others in the office. I have seen some of my childless peers do the same thing, find ways to mentor. There are of course the stereotypical female managers out there who -- having achieved their own success -- want to protect it jealously. Although Ms. Wilson expresses optimism, near the end of my career I am feeling less so. How much more I could have done if only given the chance (it is a bitter pill to swallow)? Anyway, I suppose the important thing is to not give up. When I do retire I will be looking to devote my time to an organization like Ms. WIlson's. I'm not as optimistic, but neither am I willing to give up.

Posted by: VirginiaReader1 | November 20, 2009 9:27 AM
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Hey MBJohnson. Men are better suited to lifting heavy objects and keeping their uneducated mouths shut.

Women are left out of leadership because society is not comfortable with women making decisions for others, including men. If you look at the 2008 election, we voted in a junior senator with no executive experience because we liked him. We had more experienced women who would have made better decisions for our country, but we were too prejudice to see that.

Hey MBJOHNSON, you want jobs, prosperity and food on the table... yeah, vote for a woman.

Posted by: etriscari | November 20, 2009 9:07 AM
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Thank you, Ms. Wilson. The ongoing disparity (of women in leadership positions) is alive and well in WDC. Rather than addressing it forthrightly and with the intent of changing it, however, there are many efforts at window dressing. Various government agency heads from time to time make statements about how diversity is improving in the Federal Government. Often these statements focus on hiring (which HAS improved) but not on the career progression of women and minorities once onboard, which tends to fall off at a key juncture (usually journeyman to expert level, which varies from agency to agency). Regarding leadership stats, in order to obscure poor performance, the stats often are jerry-rigged to lump together career paths in which women DO progress (HR, personnel, etc) with the more operational side of the organization -- the positions that generally carry significant authority -- where women are seldom seen. Even those who do make it to positions of greater authority, as you point out, often have sacrificed much (never married, never had children) OR (sadly but true) there is much suspicion -- perhaps warranted -- that their success is rooted in a family connection (father, husband worked in the same organization) or is a result of the Letterman effect. We have had mentoring programs, affinity groups and informal networking out the wazoo. For decades these programs were billed as successful. They are not, clearly. Something much more proactive needs to be done but alas the status quo serves those in leadership positions (they will face less competition from 51% of the workforce). Also, Ms. Wilson, what about that persistent presence (I would say 5-10%) of working men who no matter what do not and will never believe women should work (and by default can never be more talented than men -- already your column has evoked a response from one such individual). In a more than quarter of a century career I don't think I have ever held a management position in an office that didn't have at least one of these guys. They identify what they believe is a like-minded more senior officer and they do everything they can to bad-mouth or undermine the women who do hold those positions of authority. I have never worked for a perfect man, and I can aspire to but I will never be a perfect woman. To know that there is someone waiting to identify and capitalize on my mistakes -- viciously, with the intent to harm -- is very stressful. Equally, however, there are many women who don't want to work for other women. Do you really believe society has changed enough that acceptance of women as leaders is simple (I do not)?

Posted by: VirginiaReader1 | November 20, 2009 8:57 AM
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There is a great disconnect between women Ms. Wilson's age and young women. Young women want material success, but they want to be sexy and even "hot" more than anything. Young women think they "can have it all".

The feminists in the late 60's and then through the 70's did make progress. However, the basic template is unsustainable. Sec. Clinton was no friend of the women Bill accepted as concubines. Sarah Palin uses her attractiveness to get where she is. The next generation of these two families has women who are typical: Chelsea wants the money and the Palin girls, being from a lower middle class, want the studly guys.

There is no continuity among women, and there is no solidarity among women. Recall how Hillary Clinton accused the Media of being at war with Bill, which they were, when Bill denounced Monica Lewiinsky as "that WOMAN!!!!" pounding his fist..."Ms. Lewinsky!!!!" And she knew after so many others that he was lying when he asserted he did not have sex with her.

It is sad, but women will keep women down, just as they have.

Posted by: wapoisrightwingrag | November 20, 2009 8:44 AM
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My workplace is well gender-balanced, but almost every work team is 80-90% one gender or the other. Let's admit that men and women have different talents and interests, and stop trying to measure women's success by male paradigms.

Posted by: WmarkW | November 20, 2009 8:13 AM
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Looks like Queen E and Margaret Thatcher didn't get the memo, MBJohnson.

It's obvious men are better suited to provide leadership because the system within which they are asked to provide leadership caters to them, and their needs. This necessarily requires women to make greater sacrifices.

A system that made room for women and minorities would feature more women and minority leaders. The idea that the US provides an equal playing field for everyone is rather absurd. The comments made about Hillary Clinton when she was campaigning for the nomination were jaw-dropping. Women and minorities tend to be accepted when they are willing to at least partly assume the identities of white males. As soon as gender-specific realities get in the way (ie, raising children), women are all too quickly left behind. Similarly, a leader who identifies too closely with his own ethnic group immediately risks alienation. Fact: It's a white man's world.

Lest we forget, when given the opportunity, women have made significant and irreplaceable contributions within and to our country and around the world. Stay-at-home moms and fathers who support them benefit from these contributions which enable their own lifestyle choices. Besides this, a country that marginalizes 50% of its workforce is one that can't compete with those who don't.

Posted by: zhnjg | November 20, 2009 7:49 AM
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It's obvious men are better suited to provide leadership. A womans place is in the home cooking, cleaning and raising the family.

Posted by: mbjohnson | November 20, 2009 6:53 AM
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