A friend recently told me about an interview he conducted for an open position at his company. He recounted a promising candidate’s many strengths and one glaring weakness. The problem, as he explained it, was that his company was looking for a more diverse candidate to fill the position—that is, someone other than a straight, white male. I expressed my sympathy, which prompted him to reassure me: “It’s okay, we’ve had a good run.”
It does seem as if we’ve arrived at a moment of great visibility and support on at least one of those measures: gender equality. On television, Claire Underwood stands on the precipice of the presidency in House of Cards, while Offred forces us to imagine a world where the rights our mothers and grandmothers fought for are taken away in The Handmaid’s Tale. 2 Dope Queens rule comedic podcasts, Samantha Bee speaks truth to power atop the Late-Night ratings, and on the big screen, Wonder Woman flies her first-ever, big Hollywood, theatrical live-action entry into the superhero franchise marketplace.
Some observers point to the First Daughter’s recent book, Women Who Work, as another blow struck in service of the zeitgeist, but her scattered collection of other people’s thoughts (which amounts to a kind of intellectual theft, rather than actual work) does not do this cultural moment justice. Indeed, this “women’s moment” should not be squandered by accepting platitudes and pretense in place of real progress. As we all know, there remains much to be done (and it should be noted that the First Daughter is still in a position to roll up her sleeves and address these issues), including equal pay for equal work; maternity policies that are humane; paternity policies, period; subsidized daycare; coverage for gynecological services; access to birth control, and so much more.
As a working mom, I want to hear about managing challenges from women who really do work and have experience to impart, not from pampered elites who charge jet rides to their AmEx Black, who have ghostwriters, and the means to pay others to make decisions for them, in the office and at home. I want to hear from the women who need to get more sleep, who fight for time to connect and be present with loved ones, and who are constantly, precariously, and gloriously juggling the demands of work, family, and self to create a balance that is sustainable and, if lucky, satisfying.
More importantly, I want my daughter and other girls in her generation to be inspired by women they can relate to, young women and girls who are boss, meaning they have made sacrifices, taken risks, and overcome their fears to make things work. I want our daughters to learn about go-getters who have had to figure out everything from balance sheets to workplace collaboration, from social media aggregators to mentorship. I want girls to read about women who have fought hard to succeed at something because they saw no other option. And that’s why I teamed up with Stacy Kravetz to get the book She’s So Boss published.
I met Stacy, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who had written a book called Girl Boss in the 1990s, a few years ago. We agreed it was time to rewrite the rules of female self-invention by seeking out and highlighting the experiences of today’s assertive, ambitious, intuitive, and relentless young women. It wasn’t difficult to find them—from Alyson Greenfield, who knew at the age of six she wanted to be a musician and by her 20s had launched the indie and female Tinderbox Music Festival, to Niharika Bedekar, who created a non-profit called “Power Up” dedicated to making puberty a positive experience for girls rather than the tormented one she endured, to the Iron Maidens of Bronx Science High School, one of the only all-girls robotics teams in the country - we discovered there were bosses out there everywhere!
She’s So Boss is a book I am proud to hand to my daughter, or any daughter. Reading it decreases the odds of Atwood’s “breeding class” from becoming a reality. Thinking about what makes you, your daughter, and young women everywhere boss, will minimize the impact of the mansplainers Bee (so justifiably) critiques every night. And it greatly increases the chances that one day soon (though not soon enough) we can join in that ‘good run,’ and work to include other under-represented individuals with us.