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Women and Leadership

February 16, 2017 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm
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Deborah Rhode, Ernest W. McFarland Professor of Law, Stanford University, has recently published a new book, Women and Leadership.

For most of recorded history, men have held nearly all of the most powerful leadership positions. Today, although women occupy an increasing percentage of leadership positions, in the U.S. they hold fewer than a fifth of positions in both the public and private sectors. The United ranks 78th in the world for women's representation in political office. In politics, women comprise only 18 percent of Congress, 10 percent of governors, and 12 percent of mayors of the nation's 100 largest cities — despite the fact that they are a majority of the U.S. electorate. These percentages are not atypical. In academia, women account for a majority of college graduates, but only about a quarter of full professors and university presidents. In law, women are almost half of law school graduates but only 17% of the equity partners of major firms, and 22% of Fortune 500 general counsels. In business, women constitute a third of MBA graduates, but only 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs.

In Women and Leadership, Deborah Rhode focuses on women's underrepresentation in leadership roles and asks why it persists and what we can do about it. Despite the fact that many indicators suggest that when women hold positions of power in organizations, and the organizations perform better, women are still vastly underrepresented. Rhode explores the reasons, including women's family roles, unconscious gender bias, and exclusion from professional development networks. She stresses that we cannot address the problem at the individual level; instead, she argues that we need broad-based strategies that address the deep-seated structural and cultural conditions facing women. She surveys a range of professions — politics, management, law, and academia — and draws from a survey of prominent women to develop solutions that can successfully chip away at the imbalance. These include developing robust women-to-women networks, enacting laws and policies that address combatting work/life imbalances and training programs that start at an earlier age. While Women and Leadership cannot solve this persistent problem on its own, Rhode's clear delineation of the leadership gap and her sensible policy prescriptions will make this an essential book for anyone interested in leveling the playing field for women leaders in the U.S.

Deborah L. Rhode is the Ernest W. McFarland Professor of Law and the Director of the Center on the Legal Profession at Stanford University. She is the Vice Chair of the Board of Legal Momentum, the former president of the Association of American Law Schools, the former chair of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession, former director of Stanford’s Institute for Research on Women and Gender, and former founding director of Stanford's Center on Ethics. She writes primarily in the areas of legal ethics and gender equity and is the author or editor of 27 books. Her books on gender include Women and Leadership (2016); What Women Want (2014); Gender and Law (with Katherine Bartlett and Joanna Grossman, 2013); The Beauty Bias (2010); Women and Leadership: The State of Play and Strategies for Reform (with Barbara Kellerman, 2009); The Difference “Difference” Makes: Women and Leadership (2003), and Speaking of Sex (1997).

Event Sponsor: 
The Faculty Women's Forum, Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity; The Center on the Legal Profession, Stanford Law School; The Michele R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research.
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