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What Will It Take to Make A Woman President?: Conversations About Women, Leadership and Power

What Will It Take to Make A Woman President?: Conversations About Women, Leadership and Power

by Marianne Schnall

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“I would love for my younger fans to read What Will It Take to Make a Woman President? by Marianne Schnall. It’s a collection of interviews and essays by great women, including Maya Angelou, Gloria Steinem, and Melissa Etheridge. They will inspire you to become a better leader.” —Beyoncé

Prompted by a


“I would love for my younger fans to read What Will It Take to Make a Woman President? by Marianne Schnall. It’s a collection of interviews and essays by great women, including Maya Angelou, Gloria Steinem, and Melissa Etheridge. They will inspire you to become a better leader.” —Beyoncé

Prompted by a question from her eight-year-old daughter during the 2008 election of Barack Obama—“Why haven’t we ever had a woman president?”—Marianne Schnall set out on a journey to find the answer. A widely published writer, author, and interviewer, and the Executive Director of Feminist.com, Schnall began looking at the issues from various angles and perspectives, gathering viewpoints from influential people from all sectors.

What Will It Take to Make A Woman President? features interviews with politicians, public officials, thought leaders, writers, artists, and activists in an attempt to discover the obstacles that have held women back and what needs to change in order to elect a woman into the White House.

With insights and personal anecdotes from Sheryl Sandberg, Maya Angelou, Gloria Steinem, Nancy Pelosi, Nicholas Kristof, Melissa Etheridge, and many more, this book addresses timely, provocative issues involving women, politics, and power. With a broader goal of encouraging women and girls to be leaders in their lives, their communities, and the larger world, Schnall and her interviewees explore the changing paradigms occurring in politics and in our culture with the hope of moving toward meaningful and effective solutions—and a world where a woman can be president.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Schnall (Daring to Be Ourselves), founder and executive direction of Feminist.com, poses the title question to 29 diverse contributors including sociologist Michael Kimmel, journalist Soledad O’Brien, songwriter Melissa Etheridge, lawyer Anita Hill, and spiritual teacher Marianne Williamson. The inclusion of seven elected officials, six congresswomen, and one governor provides instructive insight into just what it takes to succeed. Not surprisingly, former secretary of state Hilary Clinton and President Barack Obama are referenced widely, as are Sheryl Sandberg’s 2013 bestseller Lean In and Jennifer Siebel Newson’s 2011 award-winning documentary Miss Representation; both Sandberg and Newson are interviewed as well. The format is conversational, with Schnall as engaged as her subjects. Answers to the governing question vary. Some look inward: “When it comes to politics, women have an internal glass ceiling.” Most take a critical look at the roles of media and money (for example, the expense of campaigning). Read in one gulp, the book feels repetitive, but that’s appropriate given Schnall’s mission of “encouraging women and girls as leaders and change agents in their lives, their communities, and the larger world.” Agent: Tracy Brown, Tracy Brown Literary Agency. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
“Intriguing interviews exploring the role of women in American political leadership. . . . Barack Obama smashed down one long-closed door in 2008. This book makes a compelling case for another shattering of barriers sooner rather than later.” —Kirkus Reviews
Library Journal
Schnall, a journalist who runs the website Feminist.com, has asked 30 successful and well-known women—e.g., Gloria Steinem, Maya Angelou, Anita Hill, Nancy Pelosi—and a few feminist men why we have not had a woman president. Their answers are alike: the responsibility of women for family care, the expectation that leaders will be men, the failure to recruit women for political or leadership positions, women's lesser access to money, and the stereotyped presentation of women in various media. Their proposals to get more women to run for public office or to climb the corporate ladder are similar: women must demand more access, overcome self-doubt, put themselves forward, and shame leaders into supporting greater diversity. We need women in office because, the respondents say, women bring a different perspective, they encourage consensus and collaboration, and they pay more attention to building relationships. But some of the interviewees caution that voters must cast their ballots based on issues, not gender. As Jane Fonda puts it in the book, "It's less about gender sometimes and more about consciousness." VERDICT This title will best appeal to the uninitiated but curious.—Cynthia Harrison, George Washington Univ., Washington, DC
Kirkus Reviews
Intriguing interviews exploring the role of women in American political leadership. "When so many other nations have women presidents, why doesn't the United States?" Feminist.com founder Schnall (Daring to Be Ourselves: Influential Women Share Insights on Courage, Happiness, and Finding Your Own Voice, 2010) is a sensitive, perceptive interviewer who leads each of the more than two dozen conversations that she transcribes in this book with some variation on its titular question. The answers to this initial query tend to hit on a few unsurprising explanations: systemic sexism, the burdens of raising families that still tend to fall on women, and a lack of willingness of women to step forward and run for political office. The author effectively leads her interlocutors (mostly, but not all, women and mostly, but not all, liberal) through wide-ranging conversations that use the initial question as a springboard to more substantial discussions about women in politics, women's leadership more broadly and the changing state of American gender relationships. This makes the book worthwhile since the initial question is not especially interesting, or at least not as interesting as the larger context within which women politicians, business leaders and others operate. The book touts that Schnall's conversations are with "thought leaders," a label that may be generous to at least a few of them, but she does draw on an impressive array of politicians, business figures, entertainers and others to provide a snapshot of the roles of American women in the corridors of power. Of the many contributors, some of the more well-known include Maya Angelou, Olympia Snowe, Nancy Pelosi, Gloria Steinem, Anita Hill and Nicholas Kristof. Barack Obama smashed down one long-closed door in 2008. This book makes a compelling case for another shattering of barriers sooner rather than later.

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Read an Excerpt

What Will It Take to Make A Woman President?

Conversations About Women, Leadership and Power

By Marianne Schnall

Seal Press

Copyright © 2013 Marianne Schnall
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-58005-497-3

The word “female,” when inserted in front of something, is always with a note of surprise—female COO, female pilot, female surgeon—as if the gender implies surprise, which it does. I am a female leader. One day there won't be female leaders. There will just be leaders.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

A little girl interviewed me this morning, she said, “How did your family deal with all the negative things that the Republicans said about you?” I said, “Well, they didn’t really care that much, because I didn’t really care that much.” What I do care about is that it’s an obstacle to other women entering politics, because they’ll say, “Why would I do that? I have plenty of options.” And women with plenty of options are just the women that we want to be in politics and government.
Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader of the House of Representatives and former Speaker of the House

I think the reason that there are fewer women—that there is a gender gap in the media, there’s a gender gap in elected office, there’s a gender gap in high level corporate America—it’s all the same reasons. Because, until very recently, women have been the ones that bore the brunt of family and home responsibilities. And it’s not been until recently that that has begun to change and we are now in an era where shared responsibilities have become the norm, not the exception.
Ana Navarro, political strategist and commentator

I was hoping that it would be a liberal president, a female liberal, because England had Margaret Thatcher, but she was to the right of Ronald Reagan, and so I thought in this country, they’re going to pick a woman. But it’s probably going to be a conservative. Then, of course, the crop of conservative women were very disappointing. We had Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin, and people on the right would say to me, “Well, shouldn’t you support a woman just because she’s a woman?” No, no. You want a woman president, but you don’t want a woman president who’s going to fight women and who’s going to vote against women’s interests. So it can’t just be any woman.
Joy Behar, comedian, writer, actress, and co-host of ABC’s The View

Society is what it is. It’s probable that walking around female for twenty years, or fifty years, in this culture has given someone a set of experiences that men don’t necessarily have—in the same way that walking around as a black person or a Hispanic person or a gay person gives people a different set of experiences than a white, heterosexual person. Experience is everything. Somebody who has experienced something is more expert at it than the experts. We need politicians who look like the country.
Gloria Steinem, journalist and feminist activist

I think this conversation is important for everyone, because as much as we tend to focus on elite positions—like having Fortune 500 companies or the presidency or Congress—it’s about leadership in our own lives. All these kinds of skills, limitations, and hurdles we’re talking about are not just happening at the top levels, they’re happening in everyday workplaces, as well.
Jessica Valenti, feminist writer and founder of Feministing.com

If we really think that the majority of women in the world are also always in the kitchen and in the kindergarten and in the places just to look after the young and men, then we do ourselves and everybody a disservice. Because women offer so much more than it would seem we offer. It would seem we offer kindness and the chance to be cared for and nursed in more ways than just medical. And I think that the whole country needs to know that women are much smarter—we’re more than that.
Maya Angelou, author and poet

We were raised in this country to believe that we were the best. That this was the country that was going to save the world. We were the leader of the free. We were the world's leader. And now we look around and we're kind of like, “Wait a minute. We've got some problems here.”
Melissa Etheridge, singer-songwriter and activist

I think that if we don’t have gender diversity at the top of American politics and in corporate boards, then we’re just going to get weaker decisions, and I think that’s what we’ve been stuck with. And so I think that the great strength that women bring when they move into senior levels of politics is not that they’re more nurturing, caring, maternal figures, but that they will bring a certain level of different perspective, a different way of thinking, and that is just really valuable for all of us. This is not something that is going to benefit the women of America; it’s something that’s going to benefit all of America.
Nicholas Kristof, journalist, author, and Pulitzer Prize winner

Having a daughter and a son, and another daughter on the way, I want so badly to shift this and just create a healthier culture where we really just raise the boys to be true to who they really are—these authentic beautiful, emotional beings. But we as parents and as teachers and as educators in all forms . . . we’re so stuck in what we’ve accepted as normal. This is what it is to be a man. This is what it is to be a woman. And it’s increasingly then been pushed to extremes vis a vis media, which is perpetuated, and capitalism, which is all about sell, sell, sell, so let’s push these extremes because it’s much easier, for them at least, to market that way. We’re creating a very painful and lonely existence for both our men and our women.
Jennifer Siebel Newsom, actress and documentary filmmaker


Excerpted from What Will It Take to Make A Woman President? by Marianne Schnall. Copyright © 2013 Marianne Schnall. Excerpted by permission of Seal Press.
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Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Marianne Schnall is a widely published writer and interviewer whose work has appeared in a variety of media outlets such as The Huffington Post; O, The Oprah Magazine; Glamour; In Style; Psychology Today; Ms. magazine; The Women's Media Center; CNN.com; and a variety of others. She is the author of Daring to Be Ourselves: Influential Women Share Insights on Courage, Happiness and Finding Your Own Voice, which is based on her interviews with a diversity of well-known women, including Maya Angelou, Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, Madeleine Albright, Natalie Portman, Jane Goodall, Alice Walker, and more.

Marianne graduated from Cornell University in 1989 with a BA in English, and she is also a graduate of the Women's Media Center's Progressive Women's Voices media and leadership training program. She does a regular radio commentary for WAMC's nationally syndicated show 51% The Women’s Perspective, which is carried nationally on NPR, ABC, and Armed Forces Radio stations. She was a contributor to Robin Morgan’s anthology, Sisterhood is Forever: The Women’s Anthology for a New Millennium.

Marianne is the founder and Executive Director of Feminist.com, a leading women’s website and nonprofit organization. For over fifteen years, Feminist.com has been fostering awareness, education, and activism for people all across the world. She is also the cofounder of EcoMall.com, one of the oldest environmental websites promoting earth-friendly living. Through her writings, interviews, and websites, Marianne strives to raise awareness and inspire activism around important issues and causes.

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