Sheryl Sandberg Gives TedWomen Talk on Why So Few Women in Leadership Positions

I came across an article written Anne-Marie Slaughter, who is a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University called “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All,” when I saw the name of Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg. Anne-Marie Slaughter had referenced her TedTalk and I was interested in hearing what she had to say about why there are so few women in leadership positions today. The talk is very inspiring and offers a strong message to women to stay in the labor force, even with the difficulties of having children. One of the most interesting parts Sheryl talks about is the study that a researcher at Colombia University implemented [7:33-8:58]. Essentially, he took the case of Heidi Rosen, who was a very accomplished women, and changed her name on the case to say the name Howard. It shows that when students had to choose who to work for, given that Heidi and Howard each had the same qualifications, and the fact that Howard didn’t even exist, Howard was chosen as the person they wanted to work for. Heidi seemed “too selfish, assertive, and highly political.” It’s so interesting to see the bias that still exists today in the 21st century. Perceptions have a powerful impact into how we think and and act and this “belief barrier” that Heidi is seen as “selfish, assertive, political,” has implications that have a huge impact on women and their ability to progress through all levels of society. While America loves assertive and dominant men as leaders, if women possess such qualities, they are seen and depicted in a negative light. It’s not fair and shows how gender stereotypes still persist in our society today.

Furthermore, I think that Anne-Marie Slaughter is right in her article when she states that in this day and age, women just really can’t seem to have it all. She talks about how the company culture in America is “always on,” as a mode of working. She talks about how to be in a senior position, “it is expected that you be available more than five days a week… and available 24-7 with no visible caring responsibilities.” This has made it difficult for women to reach top leadership roles. In fact, her research shows that women have been having kids in their late 30’s or choosing to freeze their eggs because they do not want to lose out on promotions or be forgotten when they are on maternity leave. The work culture in America does not allow for an even balance between being a mother and being in the workforce as I have mentioned in my Nordic Countries Vs. USA blog.

I think that if women want to have a family, then they should have one whenever they want, and not have to put that on hold because of career choices. I think that they should be able to have a family and still have the career they desire. Anne-Marie Slaughter addresses that if more women could “strike this balance” then there would be more women in leadership positions, yet we still live in a society where we believe that good mothers are always with their children. Of course, Anne and Sheryl would have to disagree with this since they are both working mothers who are very successful and powerful women, but they do admit that it is difficult to balance work and family life.

Here is a link to Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article on “Why Women Can’t Have It All,” it is a very interesting read!



Interview with Professor Eileen Pollack

Interview with Eileen Pollack on Gender Discrimination in Academia and the Workplace

I had the privilege of interviewing Eileen Pollack, who is currently a Creative Writing Professor at the University of Michigan. She has very interesting experiences that pertain to women in education, particularly in the sciences (biology, chemistry, physics), and she was able to share some of her experiences in this interview. The interview is tailored around six questions that I felt were necessary to fully capture Professor Pollack’s experiences. It was difficult for me to come up with these questions because there was so much more I wanted to ask, but I think limiting it to these 6 questions (which are shown below) worked very well for the purposes of this blog. As I mentioned earlier in my blog, Professor Pollack currently wrote an article called “Why Are There So Few Women in the Sciences,” so this interview talks about her article as well as her experiences at Yale, while at the same time describing the gender discrimination that still exists in the 21st century for women in the sciences.

I hope you enjoy this interview, I know I did!

Questions for Eileen Pollack:

1. For people that have not yet read your article, can you talk a little bit about your experiences at Yale, while earning a bachelor of science in physics?

2. In the article, you say that many men you wanted to date were put off by your physics degree, would you say this type of bias still exists today?

3. “Perceptions of discrimination are evidence of nothing but subjective feelings.” This is what Judith Kleinfeld said in your article, what is your reaction to this?

4. “The most powerful determinant of whether a woman goes in science might be whether anyone encourages her or not,” is what you emphasize in the article. If you could say a few words to women pursing a degree in the sciences (physics, chemistry or biology), what would you say to these women?

5. In the article, you talk about how you walked away from your dream and why so many other women still walk away from theirs. If you could go back and do it again, would you make the same decisions?

6. You are currently working on a book about women in the sciences. Would you say this is your way of encouraging women to pursue a career in the sciences or to warn them of the hardships?

I would like to thank my group member Gabrielle Valentic,  who was able to capture this interview for me. Also, if you would like to learn a little more about the difficulties women face in academia while at the same time trying to maintain their feminine qualities visit Belle’s Blog here.


Videographer/Editor: Gabrielle Valentic

[This is a private interview conducted with Professor Eileen Pollack at the University of Michigan for classroom use in English 340: The Historical Hinge. Usage for other purposes is strictly prohibited].

The Colbert Report: Interview with Malala Yousafzai

“Education is very important. Education is a power for women and that is why the Taliban terrorists are afraid of education, because with education, women will become more powerful.” This statement is said by 16 year-old Malala Yousafzai, who is a strong activist for women’s education, and was shot by the Taliban because she became an instant threat to their regime. I am absolutely astonished by the bravery she has shown by speaking up for women’s rights in her country since she was 11 years old in her Pakistani hometown. She spoke to every media channel and newspaper that would listen to her, in order to inform others of the negative impact the Taliban have imposed for the women in her community. She describes the struggle of being confined to the four walls in her house and being forbidden to go to school and learn. Malala shows us how women in the Middle East in general are struggling to for their freedom to be educated and just how much these women want to learn and pursue higher education.

In the United States (US) we are so incredibly privileged because women are able to go to school and are told they can be anything they want to be. However, as Eileen Pollack’s article has shown us, there is still a bias that exists and it not just men that think such things, but also women themselves. There is this mindset that still thrives in our American society that men are more competent than women and at times this prevents these women from pursing their dreams, such as occurred to Pollack and many others in her field. I think that if Malala read Pollack’s article she would be appalled at how many women in the sciences do not follow their dreams because of the lack of encouragement, lack of self-esteem that comes from professors, their families, and others. From seeing this three-part interview, it is clear that if Malala were to speak to these women giving up their dreams, she would say “women are more powerful than men,” which she confirms in the Daily Show. She truly believes that women and men are equal in every aspect of life, and women in the US need to think this also, because anything can be achieved through hard work and perseverance.