My book review of 'The Authority Gap' by Mary Ann Sieghart
The Authority Gap
Why are women still underestimated and overlooked in the world today? Why are they paid less than their male colleagues for doing the same job? Why are women often talked over in meetings or their ideas ignored until the same suggestions are voiced by a man?
If you think this problem is exaggerated, read on. Here is a shocking perspective of the unseen bias.
The author begins with an account of a meeting between Mary McAleese, then President of the Republic of Ireland, and Pope John Paul II on an official visit.
McAleese was in the audience room at the head of her delegation. As she was about to be introduced to the pontiff, he reached straight past her and held out his hand to her husband instead, asking him 'Would you not prefer to be President of Ireland rather than married to the President of Ireland?' .
McAleese reached past her husband and took the hand herself. She then introduced herself as the President of Ireland, elected by the people of Ireland. The Pope later claimed he was making a joke.
We would automatically respect a male head of state, so why not a female one? Because there is still an authority gap between women and men, this book argues. And this wasn't the only gasp-inducing example in a fascinating and intriguing book.
Each chapter tackles a particular aspect of this problem through the attitudes of women as well as men, through education and parenting, through business and politics. It is incredibly readable, a real page-turner in fact, though often I found myself pausing and drawing breath at how much the points raised rang true and are, as a result, so dispiriting.
There are interviews with many pioneering women included, lots of facts and figures to support the arguments, and there are also some practical suggestions and a sense of hope for the future.
Engaging and fascinating, this is a compelling read though it is despiriting that it is necessary.