Monday, July 9, 2018

Book Review: 'Influence: How Women’s Soaring Economic Power Will Transform Our World for the Better' by Maddy Dychtwald with Christine Larson

Influence: How Women’s Soaring Economic Power Will Transform Our World for the Better
Maddy Dychtwald with Christine Larson
Voice/Hyperion (2010)
The “soaring economic power” referred to in this book’s subtitle is the result of an “economic emancipation [as] women around the world [are] becoming financially powerful enough to stand on their own two feet and tip the power balance, starting with home life, extending to work life, and finally affecting the general society.” Maddy Dychtwald goes on to observe, “It’s hardly an exaggeration to say that for all of recorded history, women have basically been second-class citizens in a male-dominated world. And it’s not ideology to assert that the status of women is changing. What we’re seeing now – exponential gains toward self-sufficiency, soaring education rates, mass economic empowerment around the world – are facts. They are history rushing forward. Nothing more, nothing less.”
Throughout her narrative, Dychtwald draws upon what she learned during more than 100 in-depth interviews of “financially empowered” and “socially enlightened” women, sharing their insights and perspectives. “Three clear trends quickly emerged from out research – trends that were largely on the surface, already supported by private studies, but that hadn’t been probed as deeply before. We saw what was happening with women and their money, and with men and their money, but also began to understand why – and what it means for the future> The three trends? They are (1) Money means security to women, freedom to men; (2) Men see themselves as “warriors,” women as “worriers”; and (3) Women put the financial needs of others ahead of their own. Dychtwald discusses each of these trends in depth, correlating them with what she identifies as women’s five money profiles: Perceptive Planner (35% of U.S. women), Owner Partner (23%), Alpha Female (18%), Uncertain Searcher (16%), and Supportive Traditionalist (8%). “One thing is clear: Any woman who remains an Uncertain Searcher of Supportive Traditionalist faces clear and urgent dangers to her independence and perhaps even to her economic survival.
Dychtwald devotes a separate chapter to each of several major themes such “the entrepreneurial exodus” in business, “rewriting the rules from the outside in” in the workplace, why women ARE the market in the marketplace, “the future of men” at home, “mutiny on Noah’s ark” in the family, and “closing the leadership gap” in politics. She then shares her own thoughts as well as others’ about various legacies of “women’s soaring economic power,” legacies whose impact “will transform our world for the better.”
Of special interest to me is the Nobel Women’s Initiative led by the seven (of only twelve) women who have received a Nobel Peace Prize and are still alive. Their purpose is “to promote, spotlight, and grow the work of women’s rights advocates and organizations worldwide that address the root causes of violence.” At the group’s second international conference (in 2009), a declaration was adopted. It serves both as an affirmation of human rights and a call-to-action. “We are in search of democracy that transforms not just our lives, but all society – and we will not be silenced until it is achieved in every part of the world.”
In the Epilogue, Dychtwald offers ten specific suggestions as to what her female readers can do, now, to accelerate the progress of the “power shift” underway. My own opinion (and, yes, one man’s opinion) is that she misses a precious opportunity to solicit the active support of men, also. (Ironically, her eighth suggestion is “Enlist men.”) For too long, in too many societies, freedom and justice have been gender-specific. The human values Maddy Dychtwald affirms and the strategic goals she seeks are not gender-specific. The fact remains, expediting the progress of the “power shift” to economic emancipation which she frequently refers is best achieved by a global coalition of women and men.

Editor's note: This review was written by Robert Morris and has been published with his permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.