A Review – “Why Women Should Rule the World”

Imagine the following scene: At 10 am in the golf clubhouse, Younger Golfer approaches Older Golfer.

Young Golfer: “Lynn! Good to see you! Haven’t seen you since last summer!”

Older Golfer: “Jordan! Well look at the Incredible Hulk! What did you gain? Ten pounds?”

Younger Golfer: “Fifteen! At least!” (Smiles, saunters away, flexing muscles.)

Are Lynn and Jordan women or men? If you guessed the latter, you deserve a cash prize in excess of your Economic Stimulus Check, which you have probably already blown on $4 per gallon gas. If you guessed the former, perhaps you should read Dee Dee Myers’ Why Women Should Rule the World. Much of the book deals with the differences between the sexes, and posits the theory that women making significant strides in business, medicine, media, and politics would be beneficial to us all, not in spite of women’s psychological, emotional, and cognitive differences from men, but because of them.

Dee Dee Myers was White House Press Secretary in Bill Clinton’s administration, a feat she achieved at the young age of 31. Making it – and successfully – in the ultimate Old Boys’ Club of Washington politics has perhaps made Myers more adept than most of us at separating the gender-specific wheat from the chaff. Why Women Should Rule the World takes as its thesis that, were women represented in greater numbers in the upper echelons of politics, medicine, corporate boardrooms, and executive positions in media, the world would be healthier, more peaceful, more productive and…well…better.

Of course, since women are still woefully in the minority in all of those fields, Myers has to avoid conjecture as to what the global economic and political picture would be, say, if women presidents, CEO’S, medical researchers and media moguls achieved parity in numbers with men. Instead, she focuses most of the book on the differences between the genders – cognitively, behaviorally, linguistically, and biologically – and uses impressively marshaled research to shore up her position that a predominance of female leadership is what the world needs to right its social, economic and political wrongs.

If this is the case, why don’t women rule the world? According to Myers, women’s tendency to “tend and befriend” works against them, at least in terms of their competition with men in the workplace. In short, women are caretakers and are loath to sacrifice a friendship to better themselves in the office, university or lab. Women are about, she says, “establishing connections with others and preserving relationships” while men strive to “figure out the pecking order and improve their place in it.” Does women’s caretaking propensity mean, then, that they are too touchy-feely for the hard-nosed worlds of business and politics? On the contrary, it’s women’s ability to work well interpersonally that makes them uniquely adept at getting the job done. Women, says Myers, “are slightly more likely to be ‘transformational’ leaders, collectively setting goals and empowering their teams to achieve them.”

Men, however, “are more likely to be ‘transactional’ leaders, letting subordinates know what is expected, rewarding them for their successes and holding them accountable for their failures.” So which style is better? Myers’s fair attitude and objective style aside, she tips her hand by including the following re-write of a very old story: “If the three wise men had been women, they would have asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, brought practical gifts and there would be Peace On Earth.” In other words, women’s ability to network, intuit and respond to the feelings of others would have benefited the Mother of God more than, say, a bigger helping of myrrh.

So how can women rule the world, or at least improve their collective place in it?

Women need to ask for what they want. A woman’s failure to negotiate a beginning salary or to ask for subsequent pay raises can cost her $1,000,000 over her working life. Not asking for other workplace essentials – computer upgrades, staff increases, greater lab space, or more authority – also hampers women’s career advancement.

Finally, though, Myers believes that until a critical mass of female political leaders is reached, little is likely to change on the world stage. She points out that only fifteen countries have legislatures that are one-third or more women. (Only one-sixth of U.S. legislators are women.) Of the few countries with female presidents, many have come to power as a result of the deaths of their spouses. Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka and Corazon Aquino of the Philippines became prime minister and president, respectively, after their husbands’ assassinations.

But regardless of how women leaders rise, Myers has found that female-majority legislatures improve conditions for both genders worldwide. In Scandinavia, the legislature passed greater allocation of resources for childcare and parental leave. In Rwanda it changed laws that prevented women from owning and inheriting property. In South Africa it guaranteed that resources don’t disproportionately benefit men. In short: female-dominant legislatures level the political playing field and greatly improve health, education and economic well-being for women and children.

So as you plan your summer reading list, make sure to add Dee Dee Myers’s insightful, thought-provoking and often humorous book. As the sun has set on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, the need for women (or anyone who cares about them) to educate themselves politically and to strive for empowerment has never been greater. Why Women Should Rule the World can help women to vote smarter, to gain ground in the workplace, and to assure a better, more economically and socially independent, future for themselves and their families.