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
Ana Navarro, political strategist and commentator
Anita Hill, attorney and academic
Don McPherson, NFL veteran, social activist
Donna Brazile, author, academic, political analyst, and Vice Chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee
Eleanor Holmes Norton, Delegate to the United States Congress representing the District of Columbia
Elizabeth Lesser, author and co-founder of Omega Institute
Gavin Newsom, Lieutenant Governor of California
Gloria Steinem, journalist and feminist activist
Governor Mary Fallin, governor of Oklahoma and former US Representative
Jennifer Siebel Newsom, actor and documentary filmmaker
Jessica Valenti, feminist writer and founder of Feministing.com
Joy Behar, comedian, writer, actor, and former co-host of ABC’s The View
Kathy Najimy, actor, writer, activist
Kay Bailey Hutchison, former US Senator from Texas
Kirsten Gillibrand, US Senator from New York
Marianne Williamson, New York Times best-selling author
Marie Wilson, author and founder of The White House Project
Maya Angelou, author and poet
Melissa Etheridge, singer-songwriter and activist
Melissa Harris-Perry, author, television host, and political commentator
Michael Kimmel, sociologist and academic
Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader of the House of Representatives and former Speaker of the House
Nicholas Kristof, journalist, author, and Pulitzer Prize winner
Olympia Snowe, former US Senator from Maine
Pat Mitchell, president and CEO of the Paley Center for Media
Senator Barbara Lee, US Representative for California's 13th congressional district
Senator Claire McCaskill, US Senator from Missouri
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
Soledad O'Brien, broadcast journalist
Plus 19 bonus interviews only available in the ebook edition.