January 5th, 2015 §
Call For Papers
“Giving for Global Poverty Relief: Ethical and Empirical Dimensions”
Stanford University, April 8th-9th, 2015
The Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society
The McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society, Stanford University
Peter Singer (Princeton University and University of Melbourne)
It is widely acknowledged that global poverty is a matter of great moral concern, and that efforts to alleviate it ought to be pursued. But there is a great deal of disagreement about a range of ethical and empirical issues concerning aid. The purpose of this conference is to explore these issues and to foster ongoing discussion and collaboration.
Possible questions to be addressed include (but are not limited to):
• What values ought we be aiming at in our efforts to aid the poor?
• What are appropriate or inappropriate means of promoting these values?
• Which types of aid efforts are most effective?
• If we should be focused on certain kinds of efforts rather than others, is this for fundamental moral reasons, or because of more “pragmatic”
considerations (e.g. certain approaches will motivate more people to contribute, or to contribute more, or the beneficial results can be more easily
• What should efforts to increase giving by others focus on, and why (e.g. should the primary aim simply be to alleviate poverty as much as possible, or
does this aim need to be balanced against others)?
• Which strategies for increasing giving by others are most effective?
• What explains why many well off people don’t contribute to poverty relief at all, and why others don’t give more than they do?
• Should we focus more on increasing giving to the most effective existing efforts, or should we prioritize efforts to develop new mechanisms for
• How demanding are our obligations of aid (as individuals, collectives, states)?
Please send an abstract of approximately 500 words to Brian Berkey at firstname.lastname@example.org. Abstracts should be formatted for blind review. Your name, affiliation, and e-mail address should appear in the body of your e-mail. The deadline for submissions is January 15th, 2015. Authors of accepted abstracts will be notified by January 30th.
Speakers will have 30 minutes to present, followed by 45 minutes of Q&A.
Grants will be made available to help offset the costs of attendance for participants traveling from outside the Bay Area.
Questions can be directed to any of the conference organizers:
Brian Berkey: email@example.com
Alex Levitov: firstname.lastname@example.org
Brad McHose: email@example.com
Emma Saunders-Hastings: firstname.lastname@example.org
Claire Zabel: email@example.com
October 20th, 2014 §
Publishing Director for the Stanford Social Innovation Review
The Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) is looking for a new publishing director with the creativity, energy, leadership, and skills to help take the media group to the next level. Since SSIR’s inception in 2003, it has grown to become the leading media group in the field of social innovation. Through its award-winning magazine, website, webinars, conferences, social media, and podcasts the SSIR media group reaches hundreds of thousands of people monthly—leaders of nonprofits, foundations, business, academia, and government from around the world.
As a part of the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS) SSIR has grown rapidly in size and influence, but the organization has only begun to reach its full potential. The new publishing director, working closely with the SSIR and PACS teams, will help SSIR continue to improve the quality of its products and services, reach a larger audience, have a bigger impact on the field of social innovation, and improve its financial performance. One of the most important opportunities, and challenges, that the publishing director must deal with is the increasing role of digital media.
The publishing director, together with the managing editor, co-leads the SSIR media group, both reporting to the executive director of PACS. The publishing director is responsible for managing to a break-even bottom line on approximately $1.5 million in earned income during the coming fiscal year. To accomplish this goal, the publishing director is responsible for new business development and generating revenue from paid subscriptions, conferences, webinars, advertising, reprints, and other products and services. The goal is to achieve year-to-year earned income growth of approximately 12-15%, to be achieved while (1) managing to a mission and strategy (2) controlling expenses and (3) maintaining financial sustainability. This position manages a team of two (total SSIR full-time staff is six). The position is full-time and exempt, located at the PACS’ offices at Stanford Law School.
The publishing director needs to have a variety of skills and qualities, including:
• Operate and grow the SSIR Media group while adhering to the organization’s mission: To inform and inspire leaders of social change.
• Think strategically as well as pay close attention to critical details.
• Show a track record of personally creating budgets and driving revenue on multiple projects as well as controlling expenses and managing to a bottom line.
• Generate and gather new ideas, choosing the best ones and working with the SSIR team to implement them.
• Work effectively and collaboratively with the SSIR and PACS teams as well as work independently.
• Partner with many different people and organizations externally and internally to find win-win opportunities for SSIR.
• Understand how to manage and market SSIR’s brand in the social sector.
• Have supervisory experience managing and developing staff to grow in their careers.
• Manage multiple complex projects simultaneously and prioritize conflicting demands.
• Work at a fast pace and get things done.
• Communicate clearly and quickly understand who needs to know what when.
• Manage with a strong customer service orientation.
• Manage to hard deadlines.
Strategic Leadership. The publishing director, together with the managing editor and working closely with the academic editor and SSIR and PACS teams, sets the strategy for the SSIR group. The publishing director must be keenly tuned in to emerging ideas in the social change field to determine how the SSIR group can best serve and lead the field. At the same time, the publishing director needs to have a good understanding of how media works and important trends in media.
Revenue Generation. The publishing director is responsible for managing all revenue generating aspects of the media group, including circulation, conferences, webinars, advertising, sponsorships, reprints and additional projects. This responsibility requires knowledge and experience in many of these areas. The publishing director is also responsible for new business development and creating new revenue-generating projects so that the group continues to grow at an annual rate of 12-15%.
• Financial – Responsible for overall financials including budgets and year-end reporting. The publishing director manages to a bottom line.
• Management – Manages a team of two full-time staff and a part-time financial analyst.
• Marketing – Holds lead role in enhancing and growing the visibility of SSIR.
• Digital – Helps SSIR adapt to a media landscape in which digital plays an even more important role.
• Print – Serves as primary liaison with magazine printer.
• Promotion – Attends conferences and occasionally moderates or speaks at industry events.
This position requires a four-year college degree and 7 to 10 years of experience in media or a related field. Experience can be with nonprofits, for profits, or government. Candidates must show solid experience in driving revenue and managing businesses to a bottom line. The ideal candidate will be able to show professional examples of the having the following experience:
Leadership position. Has held a leadership position in an organization where the candidate led strategy development for a new business or project, developed the operating plan, and ran the business to a budgeted bottom line.
Leading to a mission. Candidate ran projects or businesses that supported the organization’s mission (whether for profit or nonprofit).
Respect for quality content. Worked in a group where the importance of quality content was highly weighted, and quality content helped achieve financial goals.
Financials. Managed financials of multiple projects and businesses, creating own spreadsheets and working on templates. Has shown flexibility and creativity in overcoming the inevitable dips in some revenue lines by enhancing or developing other revenue streams to meet budgeted goals. Has worked with institutional challenges. Has show the ability to control costs and manage to the bottom line.
Business development. Candidate has conceived of and swiftly rolled out successful projects or businesses, small and large. Has experience writing and presenting proposals over the phone and in person. Comfortable writing MOUs. Has sales or development experience with a track record of results.
Digital. Candidate will have built and managed projects or businesses with a strong digital component. Should be knowledgeable about media trends, including digital delivery, paywalls, search, customer engagement, and content marketing. Can demonstrate experience using social media—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+—to grow a project or business.
Work style. Candidate will have shown excellence in (1) working with others in a collaborative/team environment (2) working independently and prioritizing and juggling conflicting demands (3) working under deadline pressure (4) handling inquiries quickly (5) paying attention to detail. Candidate works well at all levels of the organization.
Partnering skills. Candidate has worked with partners where the relationships have been long and the successes have been win-win. Candidate has experience identifying contractors and project partners, negotiating terms, taking to contract, and building long-term relationships.
Marketing a brand. Candidate has had experience managing a brand and understands protecting and building brand image.
Supervisory experience. Candidate has supervised staff and can show examples of staff development.
Communication skills. Has excellent writing, editing, and grammar skills. Excellent verbal communication. Experience writing marketing copy. Can represent the group whenever needed.
Customer service orientation. Candidate has worked in an environment with a customer service focus and is used to making customer service a high priority.
Interests. The ideal candidate will exhibit enthusiasm and a strong interest in social change through his or her job or volunteer activities.
Please include a detailed cover letter with your application.
To be considered an official candidate for consideration, you must apply formally through the Stanford Careers website: http://stanfordcareers.stanford.edu/job-search and enter in Job Number 64340 for this specific requisition.
October 9th, 2014 §
Stanford’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society invites applications for a one or two-year postdoctoral fellowships. The Center will award up to three fellowships. Applications are welcome from scholars across the humanities, social sciences, and social science related professional schools.
Each fellow will be affiliated with the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society and potentially a department or school at Stanford University. The postdoctoral fellowship provides scholars with the opportunity to pursue original research related to philanthropy, social innovation, civic engagement and civil society (whether at the national or global level). Fellows will work closely with a Stanford faculty member, while participating in Center activities, including an interdisciplinary workshop on philanthropy and civil society and some public events. There will be ample time for fellows to pursue their independent line of scholarship and to participate in workshops and activities outside of the Center, although it is also expected that they will collaborate with Stanford scholars and pursue research in tandem with their faculty sponsor.
Stanford University faculty members who are potential sponsors of a postdoctoral fellow include the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society Faculty Co-Directors Paul Brest, Woody Powell, and Rob Reich. A longer list of potential faculty is available on the website under the link for the faculty steering committee. The Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society is an affiliate of the Institute for Research in the Social Sciences (IRiSS). Since 2006, the Center has supported PhD students and undergraduates from across the university. The post-doctoral fellowship program, begun in 2010, is an effort to fund research from outside Stanford. The Center also sponsors a Junior Scholars Forum every June in which postdoctoral fellows participate.
The annual fellowship stipend is $50,000, plus the standard benefits that postdoctoral fellows at Stanford University receive. The fellowship program falls under U.S. Immigration J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa activities. The start date of the fellowship will be September 1, 2015, unless otherwise agreed.
Applications should be submitted electronically by Jan. 9, 2015 to the Stanford University Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society via email to firstname.lastname@example.org using the subject line “PACS Post-Doctoral Fellowship.” Please include the following information in your application:
Cover letter: detailing the reasons for the applicant’s interest in coming to Stanford and an indication as to which faculty members they would be interested in working with should that faculty member have a reciprocal interest. Curriculum Vitae.
Fellowship proposal: detailing the research that the fellow would undertake while at Stanford (five page limit).
Writing sample: consisting of either a dissertation chapter or a recent published paper.
Graduate Transcript: with proof that applicants have completed all the requirements for the PhD, or a letter from their PhD advisor stating they will do so by June 2015.
Two Letters of Recommendation
Please disclose if you have additional funding arrangements.
To assume a Post-Doctoral Fellowship, you must have a PhD in hand by July 1, 2015. We cannot consider applications from scholars who earned a PhD earlier than May 1, 2012.
The deadline for submission is January 9, 2015 by 5:00pm PST.
Questions about the application should be directed to Sam Spiewak, at email@example.com.
Inquiries about the program can be directed either to Kim Meredith, Executive Director, or Faculty Co-Directors: Rob Reich, Paul Brest, and Walter Powell.
Current Postdoctoral Fellows
Ruth Levine (JD/MA, Stanford University)
Yan Long (PhD, Sociology and Women’s Studies, University of Michigan)
Emma Saunders-Hastings (PhD, Government, Harvard University)
Past Postdoctoral Fellows
Chiara Cordelli (Lecturer, Politics – University of Exeter; Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Politics – Princeton University)
Valeska Korff (Junior Professor, Dept. of Economics and Social Sciences – University of Potsdam)
Andrew Woods (Assistant Professor of Law – University of Kentucky College of Law)
September 30th, 2014 §
The Center for Ethics in Society Postdoctoral Fellowship, Stanford University
For 2015-2016, we seek up to four new postdoctoral fellows.
We welcome candidates with substantial normative research interests from philosophy or political science. We are especially interested in candidates with research interests in inequality, education, international justice, environmental ethics, and ethics of technology, but we welcome all applicants with strong normative interests. Applicants must have a PhD in philosophy or political science; scholars with a JD are also eligible so long as their research interests focus on ethical issues with an applied dimension. Postdoctoral fellows teach one class per year, interact with undergraduates in the Ethics in Society Honors Program, and help foster an interdisciplinary ethics community across the campus.
The appointment term is September 1, 2015 – August 31, 2016; however, the initial term may be renewed for an additional year. Applicants must have completed all requirements for their PhD by June 30, 2015. Candidates must also be no more than 3 years from the awarding of their degree (i.e., September 2012).
The application deadline is December 8, 2014 (5:00 pm Pacific Standard Time).
Stanford University is an equal opportunity employer and is committed to increasing the diversity of its faculty. We welcome applications from women and members of minority groups, as well as others who would bring additional dimensions to the university’s research and teaching missions. Salary is competitive.
Full details here.
Please submit a cover letter, CV, a writing sample (no more than 25 pages), three letters of recommendation, a one-page research statement, and a teaching portfolio.
Applications will be collected via Interfolio. Please refer to the Center’s website for information about how to submit your materials:
September 10th, 2014 §
Joshua Cohen and I will serve as conveners of the 2014-15 Political Theory Workshop at Stanford University. We have a terrific line-up of local and visiting scholars. Detailed information about the workshop and archives of previous guests available at http://politicaltheory.stanford.edu
This quarter we’ll host:
Jason Stanley (Philosophy, Yale University)
Christopher Lebron (Philosophy, African American Studies, Yale)
Lisa Herzog (Ethics in Society, Stanford)
Josiah Ober (Political Science, Classics, Stanford)
Megan Blomfield (Ethics in Society, Stanford)
Ryan Pevnick (Politics, NYU)
Adam Sandel (Social Studies, Harvard)
Seana Shiffrin (Philosophy, Law, UCLA)
March 19th, 2014 §
It’s been a good year for Sheryl Sandberg. In January, she became one of the youngest billionaires in the world, joining the small group of women on the list and the even smaller group of women who made their own fortunes. The value of Sandberg’s bank account pales in comparison, however, to the worth of the global conversation launched by her best-seller, Lean In, published a year ago in March 2013.
The book is still on multiple best-seller lists, and will be a perennial gift every June during commencement season. There’s even some chance the book will be made into a movie. Sony Pictures acquired the rights and hired Sandberg’s co-author, Nell Scovell, to write a script.
Despite all this—or perhaps because of it—Sandberg has been the object of scorn and anger. It began before the book was even published, with Jodi Kantor writing a snarky portrait in the New York Times in February 2013. Kantor’s article described the book as a welcome evolution beyond the mommy wars, in which stay-at-home mothers criticize working women and vice versa. But the article did not quote a single male, opting instead to highlight what Kantor called a “notable feminist row” between Sandberg and Anne-Marie Slaughter. Lean In was not to be understood as a discussion with men and women about the barriers to female success, but as a cat fight between women.
Maureen Dowd followed suit a few days later, proclaiming that she was leaning out and that the book was nothing more than a marketing device for the brand of Sheryl Sandberg.
A year later, a bizarre attack piece arrived by Rosa Brooks. “Recline!, or Why I Hate Sheryl Sandberg” was published in Foreign Policy and republished in the Washington Post. Brooks catalogues the many reasons she hates Sandberg, including the fact that Sandberg has nice hair and taught aerobics in college. Brooks blames Sandberg for urging women to work hard and suggests that the world Sandberg aims to bring about is all work, no family, and no play. But Sandberg says just the opposite, advocating for time spent with children, partners, and on oneself. What’s most shocking: Brooks is no linkbaiting hack. She’s a law professor at Georgetown.
And so it goes. Lean In and Sandberg have become a touchstone for intra-feminist squabbles. One needs to take a side. Are you for her or against her? Do you like her or not?
It’s as if Kantor, Dowd, and Brooks hold Sandberg more responsible for the inequalities and injustices faced by women in the workplace than they do male sexism. The irony is that all three female writers are high achieving women, exactly the sort of female role models I think Sandberg champions.
For me, Lean In is not a feminist manifesto. It makes no pretense to novelty in crafting a feminist position. Sandberg is animated by what one could call a familiar and elementary feminist premise: the idea that women are the moral and political equals of men. Starting from this unobjectionable position, Sandberg asks why women are not the equals of men in leadership positions or in compensation in the workplace. And while acknowledging the problems of failed public policy and institutional sexism, Sandberg trains her attention on what women themselves can do to improve gender equality: negotiate harder for salary and job position, choose a partner who is willing to share in domestic labor, reject the myth of doing it all. As Anne Applebaum wrote in one of the more interesting reviews of Lean In, Sandberg’s achievement is not an advance in feminist thought. Her achievement is in writing “the first truly successful, best-selling “how to succeed in business” motivational book to be explicitly designed and marketed for women.” What’s to dislike about this, much less inspire hate?
None of this is to suggest that Sandberg should be exempt from criticism. But let criticism not be ad hominem, and not levied only by women, as if men had nothing at stake, or no responsibility, in promoting gender equality.
Goals vs Tactics
Sheryl Sandberg’s goals are, it seems to me, unassailable: she’s in favor of gender equality in the workplace, equal pay for equal work, and more female politicians. What’s worthy of debate are her tactics, and Sandberg welcomes such debate. Does Sandberg provide smart recommendations? Does Lean In support savvy public relations efforts?
When Lean In appeared last year, it was accompanied by the Lean In organization, dedicated to promoting female aspiration and workplace equality. Sandberg recruited men and women to shares stories on video and supported the creation of so-called Lean In Circles. Kantor’s New York Times article seemed skeptical that many such circles would come to exist, but in twelve months more than 13,000 circles have been created in dozens of countries.
A few months ago, Lean In partnered with Getty Images to make available a collection of images depicting women and girls as leaders. “Woman” is the most commonly searched term on the Getty site, and the new collection is welcome step beyond stockphoto galleries of women seemingly thrilled to be eating salad.
Less impressive, to my mind, is the most recent effort by Lean In. On the one year anniversary of the book’s publication, Sandberg launched an effort to ban the word “bossy” from use in describing girls and women. Replete with celebrity endorsements, a social media campaign, and a partnership with the Girl Scouts, the ban bossy effort certainly made a big splash.
A better move would have been an effort to co-opt “bossy” in order to de-stigmatize the word. Several others have noted as much, including Margaret Talbot, who wrote, “Banning is really only for words that solely degrade or demean, and even then you want to proceed with caution because you’re depleting the expressive richness of the language.”
Follow instead the example of groups who re-appropriated derogatory words. Gays and lesbians, for example, co-opted a far more injurious term, “queer”, as in “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.” Or less dramatically, Stanford students gleefully adopted an identity as “nerds”, branding themselves “Nerd Nation.” Stanford athletes are the prime movers behind the effort, even making several excellent videos about it.
My reservations about Ban Bossy notwithstanding, I count myself as a strong supporter of Lean In. I have seen the book inspire and encourage many students, both female and male. I admire Sandberg’s courage in undertaking an effort she certainly didn’t need to do and that she must have known would be controversial. The book’s sales figures are testimony to its reach. And the Lean In organization continues to grab headlines and define an agenda. May the second year be as successful as the first. And may the debate about the book focus on tactics rather than goals, strategy rather than personality.
September 5th, 2013 §
Glamorous and lucrative school auctions to support wealthy suburban schools have become a stock feature of popular writing about Silicon Valley. David Kaplan opened his 1999 book, The Silicon Boys, with an account of the over-the-top excesses of the annual charity auction of the Woodside School Foundation. And George Packer’s recent article in the New Yorker updated the scene:
The Woodside School Foundation now brings in about two million dollars a year for a school with fewer than five hundred children, and every spring it hosts a gala with a live auction. I attended it two years ago, when the theme was RockStar, and one of Google’s first employees sat at my table after performing in a pickup band called Parental Indiscretion. School benefactors, dressed up as Tina Turner or Jimmy Page, and consuming Jump’n Jack Flash hanger steaks, bid thirteen thousand dollars for Pimp My Hog! (“Ride through town in your very own customized 1996 Harley Davidson XLH1200C Sportster”) and twenty thousand for a tour of the Japanese gardens on the estate of Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle and the country’s highest-paid chief executive. The climax arrived when a Mad Men Supper Club dinner for sixteen guests—which promised to transport couples back to a time when local residents lived in two-thousand-square-foot houses—sold for forty-three thousand dollars.
Were Woodside an anomaly, it would be easier to ignore the phenomenal amount of private giving to public schools. In an op-ed in the New York Times, Not Very Giving, I chose the Hillsborough Schools Foundation as an example of the trend. (Its 2012 Live Auction Catalogue is really quite something.) And it would be easy to point to similarly outsized fundraising efforts by local school foundations in Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Orinda, and Los Altos. The same is true elsewhere in the country: in pockets of New York City, in Montgomery County outside Washington D.C., and so on.
Kaplan and Packer see the fundraising galas thrown by school foundations as an opportunity to shine a light on the excesses of our current tech titans. In the current overheated Silicon Valley economy, in an age of growing inequality, school auctions only scratch the surface of such opportunities.
But the problem with school foundations goes much deeper than exposing the follies of fundraising galas among the one percent. The problem is that such activity actually exacerbates inequalities in funding between public schools, widening the already large gap between rich and poor. And it is carried on under the name of, and legal recognition as, charitable activity.
Here is a case where charity does not aid the poor, is not indifferent to the poor, but actually confers additional advantage to the already well-off. For those who understand charity to mean something about alms-giving and support for the poor, it is surprising how little of the roughly $300 billion given away annually in the United States is directed to the needy. (A few links on this: report from the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, Wonkblog post, a 2007 Wall Street Journal op-ed by Sheryl Sandberg, and a new, but gated, article I wrote on the topic here.)
In the case of school foundations, I don’t blame well-intended parents. They are seeking quite naturally to support the education of their own children. Punishing parents by banning or curtailing their support for their children is no answer, but neither is publicly subsidizing behavior that encourages activity which predictably worsens inequalities between the educational opportunities of rich and poor kids.
The problem here is policy, not parents. So the focus should be on public policy, on the basic framework that defines, structures, and governs philanthropy. This is the topic of much of my recent research. What role should philanthropy play in a democratic society? What norms should inform the policies that govern the philanthropic sector?
Such questions are also core to the work of the scholars and practitioners at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society and in our magazine, the Stanford Social Innovation Review. In 2005 I wrote there about the perverse incentives in tax policy that structure charitable giving, A Failure of Philanthropy: American Charity Shortchanges the Poor, and Public Policy is Partly to Blame. The piece has some data about the extent of private giving to public schools in California and discusses a range of public policy problems and solutions. Earlier this year, I contributed to a forum in the Boston Review on the topic What Are Foundations For? And I am completing a book, entitled Just Giving, that seeks to provide a full treatment of the role of philanthropy in democracy.
August 15th, 2013 §
The New School for Social Research hosted a conference in December 2012 on Giving: Caring for the Needs of Strangers. It was an eclectic and interesting gathering, including presentations from tax lawyers, economists, journalists, religious studies scholars, evolutionary psychologists, nonprofit leaders, and philosophers. The journal Social Research has just released a special issue with some of the papers from the conference.
My contribution examined two things:
1. As an empirical matter, is philanthropy directed at caring for the needs of strangers?
2. As a normative matter, should public policy for philanthropy favor caring for the needs of strangers?
Many people believe that charity is primarily an activity that supports the needy and disadvantaged. But this is untrue: very little charity is alms-giving. The annual Giving USA reports show the same distributive pattern year after year: the bulk of charitable giving goes toward religion, trailed by higher education and health. Giving to support the poor and disadvantaged amounts, at most, to one-third, of all giving, and is very likely far less. (See here and here, for instance.)
The articles are gated for six months, but with university access you can likely download them here. If you want a copy just of my piece, email me.
March 27th, 2013 §
I’ve been writing about the role of philanthropy in democracy for the past few years. Through my work with the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, I’ve come to understand a little better the work of one significant component of American philanthropy: private philanthropic foundations.
Foundations are institutional oddities in democratic societies. They are largely unaccountable, non-transparent, permitted to exist in perpetuity, and the beneficiaries of significant tax breaks. Why create such an institutional form in democracy? What are foundations for?
That’s the question I explore in a new forum in the current Boston Review. There are interesting responses from Stanley Katz, Diane Ravitch, Christopher J. Coyne, Deborah Fung, Paul Brest, Rick Cohen, Scott Nielsen, Tyler Cowen, Seana Shiffrin, Pablo Eisenberg, Larry Kramer, Eric Beerbohm, Robert K. Ross, Gara LaMarche, and Emma Saunders-Hastings.
Lead paragraph of the article below the fold.
» Read the rest of this entry «
February 24th, 2013 §
The New York Times ran a front page story by Jodi Kantor on Friday about Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In, and her effort to create a women’s social movement through the Lean In foundation. The book won’t be out for another two weeks, but the framework for thinking about the book is being formed now by journalists. We are to think of Sheryl Sandberg’s book and organization as a salvo in a war (or, worse, a catfight) with Anne-Marie Slaughter. An intra-feminist debate.
The issues raised by Sandberg (and Slaughter) are of the first importance, and I’m glad to see major publications like the New York Times and the Atlantic give them prominent attention.
Yet it’s a terrible framework, and I think Kantor’s article has some pernicious, even if unintended, consequences.
First, it doesn’t surprise me when hacks reduce large and important social issues to personal squabbles between high profile people, but it does surprise me when smart and significant journalists do so. It is a mistake to make Sandberg’s book and mission into a personal disagreement between her and Anne-Marie Slaughter. It is a mistake to suggest, as Kantor does, that this has the makings of “perhaps the most notable feminist row since Betty Friedan refused to shake Gloria Steinem’s hand decades ago.” It seems to me to stoke controversy for the sake of selling newspapers and making headlines. It turns the debate from the tensions between feminism and reigning social norms into an intra-feminist squabble. And it mistakes the personal interactions of the authors rather than the substantive issues that divide or unite them for the real story.
There will be plenty of people — men especially — who will seek to make any feminist argument into a story about women fighting other women. Smart journalists like Kantor shouldn’t aid and abet that cause. On the very broad map of attitudes about feminism in our society, Anne-Marie Slaughter and Sheryl Sandberg are in much closer proximity than a story about a “the Sandberg-Slaughter match” would suggest.
Second, on the substance of Sandberg’s book, I’d like to see more people say the following in print. The basic premise of the book — indeed of feminism in general — is completely unassailable: women are the moral and political equals of men and deserve equal opportunities for success. When we see educational achievement by females exceed that of males, and yet we see stalled progress in female representation in the workplace and in politics, a natural question is to wonder why.
People can differ on strategies to realize the basic feminist premise, but the premise itself seems to me beyond criticism. THAT is worth reporting on. THAT is a central lesson of the book.
And what of the strategies? It’s true that many strands of feminism have explained women’s unequal success in the workplace and in politics as a consequence of both background gender discrimination by men and the failure or absence of social policies (e.g., child care policies) to support working parents. Sandberg, by contrast, calls attention to the psychology and ambition of women, asks women to look inward at themselves in addition to looking outward to social policy or cultural norms. Sandberg’s book is alive to gender discrimination and she’s hardly against ending cultural stereotypes about women or advocating for policy change. It is false to suggest (not that Kantor did so) that Sandberg thinks women themselves are the whole problem by failing to “lean in”.
John Stuart Mill in his 1869 “On the Subjection of Women” famously wrote
“I deny that any one knows or can know, the nature of the two sexes, as long as they have only been seen in their present relation to one another. Until conditions of equality exist, no one can possibly assess the natural differences between women and men, distorted as they have been. What is natural to the two sexes can only be found out by allowing both to develop and use their faculties freely.”
Is it not possible that — as a consequence of centuries of gender discrimination, cultural stereotypes about women’s proper place, and the failure of social policy to grant men and women equal opportunities for success — that some women have internalized attitudes about their proper place? Is it not possible that they have, as social scientists call it, “adaptive preferences”?
As I read Sandberg’s book, she is exhorting women to show the courage of the basic feminist conviction — that women are the moral and political equals of men — and that they can and should make decisions large (about the kind of partner they want in life) and small (negotiating for a salary increase) with this in mind.
The message I take away is that women should “lean in” to careers and not let themselves be the “fall guys” (girls) for the bind that happens when kids come. That men should play a role at home, that social policy needs to change to accommodate two working parents, that women can learn to negotiate better at work to achieve salary parity. These are not radical ideas.
Are Lean In Circles a good strategy? I have no idea. Maybe they’ll flop. But is it an idea worth trying? Hard to criticize Sandberg, or the book, for the effort.
This paragraph in Kantor’s article is the important one, but it comes at the end, after the earlier parts have the feel of a catfight story:
The Slaughter-Sandberg match may represent what some may see as a welcome new phase in the debate over work and motherhood. The “mommy wars,” with working and stay-at-home mothers sniping at one another’s choices, may have finally run their course. Instead, Ms. Sandberg, Ms. Slaughter and many others are arguing about the best strategy for fulfilling feminism’s promise.
So let scholars study and journalists examine Lean In Circles, and lots of other strategies too. Let’s hear from academics and journalists about other stuff too. More Joan Williams: Slaughter vs. Sandberg — Both Right.
Let’s not turn this into a catfight. It’s not a catfight. It’s a situation where two prominent, influential women are talking — a lot and influentially — to two different audiences about the same problem. Young women, listen to Sheryl Sandberg. Corporations, listen to Anne-Marie Slaughter. And let’s bring men into the conversation. Until men feel they have more freedom to buck the ideal-worker norm, ladies, nothing’s going to change.
In addition to Jodi Kantor and Maureen Dowd, let’s see David Brooks, Eduardo Porter, Joe Nocera, and Ron Lieber write about the Sandberg book.
It seems to me that Anne-Marie Slaughter may feel the same way. A few hours after the appearance of the New York Times’ article, she tweeted: