Dee Dee Myers: 'Why Women Should Rule' A former White House press secretary for President Bill Clinton makes the case for the talents and skills of women in her new book. Dee Dee Myers looks at women in leadership roles — and how their choices differ from men.

Dee Dee Myers: 'Why Women Should Rule'

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Dee Dee Myers, White House press secretary for President Bill Clinton, has written a book called "Why Women Should Rule the World." Given that title and her connection to the Clintons, one might assume that the book is a treatise for Hillary Clinton's candidacy - it is not, and Myers is neutral in the presidential race.

Instead, the book is about what happens when women attempt to take on positions of leadership: The choices they make, the obstacles they face, the rewards and the disappointments. Myers is now a political consultant and she was a consultant to the TV show, "The West Wing." She has two young children and she says she grew up in a family of strong and opinionated women.

The idea for her book started with a question: Would the world really change if more women called the shots instead of men?

Ms. DEE DEE MYERS (Political Consultant; White House Press Secretary for President Bill Clinton; Author, "Why Women Should Rule the World"): And as I thought about it, what would really change things and as I looked around, I said, is there anybody that's really sort of doing what I'm sort of advocating which is trying to come together around solutions. And one of the places I found that I thought was happening that was very interesting was among the women in the United States Senate.

At the time there were 14 and, you know, these women have very little in common on paper. They come from left and right coasts, you know, big states and small states. They're liberal and conservative and sort of moderate. Some are married with children, others not. But they work hard to find excuses to work together. They'd look for common ground in the areas where it might exist and they're friends.

So I said, well, that's the solution, maybe if there were more women, we would have a more collaborative political culture and so I said, okay, that's what I'm going to write a book called "Why Women Should Rule the World." This is about three years ago. And then I said to myself, oh no, can I actually prove that? And I said, I have to find out and I think my research did, shockingly, support my thesis, which is that more women would in fact make the world better.

NORRIS: One of the things that I found interesting in the book - you cite all kinds of studies that suggest that women face real obstacles to taking law and positions of leadership, particularly in academia but also in politics and the corporate world. But in some cases they also hold themselves back, either because they choose to spend more time with their family, they choose jobs with more flexible hours or they're in some ways adverse to risk. And I can actually hear this argument - if that's the case, if women aren't pushing themselves toward these leadership positions, then why should they rule the world?

Ms. MYERS: Well, I think that women make different choices and I think that we should respect that and allow for that. But I mean, when you knew what I mean by rules that women's talents should be front and center and valued every bit as much as men and be allowed to make those kinds of choices. And I do think there's reasons that women hold themselves back, but I think sometimes that the obstacles are a combo of external and internal.

For example, one study was a Harvard Business Review article from about a decade ago where Deloitte Touche, the big consulting firm, the president of that company, a man - God bless him - said, you know why is it that we hire the same number of men and women out of college and 10 years later, so many of the women are gone? And the answer he got from his staffers was, well, they are leaving to have children. He said, I don't buy it. Let's go back and talk to them. So they did. And they found that a lot of women did leave to be with their families, but many, many more left because they felt they lacked opportunity. They felt like the big clients, the big accounts that were instrumental to really being promoted were never given to them and the bosses would say things like, well, that requires too much travel or it's an automotive account. She wouldn't be interested or that, you know, the head guy is an SOB and, you know, she wouldn't want to deal with him. They never asked the women.

And so a lot of women were leaving saying, it's one thing to bust your hump when you have a chance to make it to the top, but it's another thing when you're stuck in the middle.

NORRIS: Now, Dee Dee, the title of this book is "Why Women Should Rule the World." There are number of voters out there that are now asking themselves, should a woman actually run the White House? You worked for the Clintons, but you tred lightly in the book when it comes to Hillary Clinton. You mention her, but you don't talk a lot about her experience in the White House. She's actually barely mentioned in the book and I just want to quote you say, what would the White House be like if Hillary were president, if her power were rooted not in her marriage, but in the Constitution - time will tell. Time will tell, that's an easy way out.

Ms. MYERS: Yeah, because I don't claim to have a crystal ball. I do say that I think her years in the Senate might be instructive because she has seen in her Senate career where power more lightly, I think is how I described that she's worked really hard to learn the ways of the Senate. She's made common cause with people both in the Democratic Party and in the Republican Party who don't necessarily always agree with her. She's even worked to reach across the aisle and worked with former impeachment managers from the House, among them Lindsey Graham. And I think that says a lot about what Hillary Clinton might be like as a leader when she's free to be her own person and is not half of the Bill and Hillary team. And I don't mean to skate over it, I just don't think there's anyway we can know. But I do think there's clues in her past.

NORRIS: What are those clues?

Ms. MYERS: Well, I think, you know, I mean, they're both good and bad. I think what we saw in the health care process early on was somebody who is incredibly attuned to details, worked her heart out, but was in ways too secretive. I think she shed light on issues she focused attention on issues like early childhood education and diversity in the workplace that were I think important and that her mere presence was able to help highlight - she was taken very seriously as you know, when the first lady spoke, people listened. And I think she was able to do some really good things. She also happens to sit on the fault line of a lot of cultural issues in this country. And so she's controversial and there's no escaping that. And I don't think all of her problems are related to gender, but some of them I think are.

NORRIS: Dee Dee Myers, she's the author of "Why Women Should Rule the World."

Thanks so much for coming in to talk to us.

Ms. MYERS: Thanks so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

NORRIS: Dee Dee Myers argues that women bring different perspectives and priorities to politics. You can read about that in an excerpt from her book at our Web site, npr.org.

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