Editor's note: Sylvia Ann Hewlett is an economist and the founding president and CEO of the Center for Talent Innovation, a Manhattan-based think tank. For the last nine years she's directed the Gender and Policy Program at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. She's also co-director of the Women's Leadership Program at the Columbia Business School, and is the author of the forthcoming "Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor."
By Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Early in Dara's career, she was told by a coach that "honey attracts more bees than vinegar," so she took pains to rein in her natural candor and soften her opinions. But when she started her present job as vice president at a national retailer, her boss told her she was too nice. "Where's the balance?" Dara muses. "Do they want me to be harder or softer? With men or with women? With my superiors or my subordinates? It's tricky to figure out."
Call it the Goldilocks Syndrome. That's the double bind women too often find themselves entangled in when they try to prove they have what it takes to be a leader. They're called out for being either too this or too that: too feminine or too masculine, too self-deprecating or too self-aggrandizing, too frumpy or too provocative, too bossy (read: bitch) or too circumspect (read: cream puff). They're never "just right."
In short, smart women face tough choices. Should they try to be perceived as competent or likeable? A recent study suggests cheerfulness could hold back female leaders, which is just the latest in a body of research exploring the behavioral barriers women encounter on the road to the top.
(CNN) - With two former winners among the contenders for the 2013 Women's Prize for Fiction, this year's shortlist highlights the literary world's top female power players. Formerly known as the Orange prize, the £30,000 ($45,000) award for best female writing in English across the globe will be announced Wednesday.
CNN takes a closer look at the six women going head-to-head for one of the most celebrated literature accolades.
By Annalyn Kurtz @AnnalynKurtz, CNNMoney
(CNNMoney) - Moms are the sole or primary breadwinner in four out of 10 households with children, a record high according to an analysis of U.S. Census data by the Pew Research Center.
But that doesn't mean Americans approve.
Pew researchers surveyed about 1,000 Americans last month and found that 51% believe children are better off when a mom stays home with the kids and doesn't hold a job. Only about 8% say the same about fathers.
Half also said the increase in the number of women working for pay has made it harder for marriages to succeed. On the other hand, two thirds said it has made it easier for families to live more comfortably.
Curiously, 79% rejected the idea that women should return to their "traditional roles."
By Sarah LeTrent, CNN
(CNN) - Jes Baker is cutting retailer Abercrombie & Fitch down to size.
Baker, who blogs under the name "The Militant Baker" and wears a size 22, changed the brand's A&F logo to "Attractive & Fat" in a mock, black-and-white Abercrombie ad to challenge the line's branding efforts.
The photos come as a provocative response to contentious comments Abercrombie CEO Mike Jeffries made in a 2006 Salon article about the multibillion-dollar brand's target audience.
"In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids," Jeffries said. "Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don't belong [in our clothes], and they can't belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely."
The divisive remarks resurfaced earlier this month after a series of protests went viral, from Greg Karber's video of himself giving homeless people Abercrombie clothing to a Change.org petition for larger sizes by a teenage eating disorder survivor.
Editor's note: Christiane Amanpour is anchor of CNN's "Amanpour." This open letter to the girls of the world is part of the "Girl Rising" project. CNN Films' "Girl Rising" documents extraordinary girls and the power of education to change the world. Watch it June 16 on CNN.
By Christiane Amanpour, CNN
(CNN) - Dear Girls of the World,
There are more than 7 billion people in the world. Half of them are women and girls.
Just imagine the whole world rising, as it will, when all women and girls are empowered.
It has to start with education. All the number crunchers have it right on this one: education = empowerment, from here in the United States to Uruguay and Ulan Bator.
The United Nations, the World Bank and any organization you can think of say that an educated girl is a girl who can get a job, become a breadwinner and raise herself, her family, her village, her community and eventually her whole country. All the stories and statistics show that a healthy society is one whose women are healthy and productive.
Look at what women and girls are achieving for Rwanda, 19 years after the genocide there. The country leads the way in Africa in every way: education, health, the economy, the environment and in elected politics, powered by the force of its women. It is an amazing story. In contrast, the Arab world, which is so rich in natural resources such as oil and gas, is way behind in all development indicators, because half their populations, their women, are denied basic rights. It's why the Arab Spring must liberate and fully empower women, for the good of those countries.
By Kevin Liptak, CNN
(CNN) - The way the military has prosecuted sexual assaults within its ranks is deplorable, two congresswomen who have served in the armed forces said Sunday, calling for a new system for reporting those kinds of crimes.
Reps. Tammy Duckworth and Tulsi Gabbard, both Democrats, said last week’s report indicating a 30% rise in the number of service members anonymously reporting sexual assaults was an indication the military’s leadership has failed in its duty to protect members of the armed forces. “I want the military to be a place where women can succeed and thrive the way I was able to. And the military leadership at this point has shown that they have not been capable of fixing this problem,” said Duckworth, who represents Illinois and is an Iraq War veteran.
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) – Aparna Bhattacharyya opened her e-mail on April 16 and there it was: a note from the White House informing her she was a Champion of Change.
The 41-year-old Atlanta woman was surprised. But those who know her say she shouldn't have been.
She's been working for almost two decades with Raksha, an Atlanta-based organization that addresses a host of issues in the South Asian community. Over the years, Raksha has done the simplest of things, like helping someone set up online banking. But mainly, they've done a whole lot of heavy hitting by supporting victims of domestic and sexual abuse.
She is one of 15 Asian-American and Pacific Islander women who will be honored Monday at the White House for "doing extraordinary things to create a more equal, safe, and prosperous future for their communities and the country." The event is part of the White House's observance of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. FULL POST
In an exclusive essay the Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA, Fortune 500) chairman and CEO explains why women are key to America's prosperity.
By Warren Buffett @FortuneMagazine
Fortune) - In the flood of words written recently about women and work, one related and hugely significant point seems to me to have been neglected. It has to do with America's future, about which - here's a familiar opinion from me - I'm an unqualified optimist. Now entertain another opinion of mine: Women are a major reason we will do so well.
Start with the fact that our country's progress since 1776 has been mind-blowing, like nothing the world has ever seen. Our secret sauce has been a political and economic system that unleashes human potential to an extraordinary degree. As a result Americans today enjoy an abundance of goods and services that no one could have dreamed of just a few centuries ago.
But that's not the half of it - or, rather, it's just about the half of it. America has forged this success while utilizing, in large part, only half of the country's talent. For most of our history, women - whatever their abilities - have been relegated to the sidelines. Only in recent years have we begun to correct that problem.
London, England (CNN) - Cherie Blair, the UK's former first lady, is a leading barrister who holds the senior advocate status of Queen's Counsel. In 2008, she founded the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, where she devotes herself to supporting female entrepreneurs in Africa, South Asia & the Middle East.
She spoke with CNN's Leading Women team about her commitment to eradicating injustice for women, her rise from a working-class family and how she balances her charity work with her professional life.
CNN: What achievement are you most proud of?
Cherie Blair: Like every mother, it's my children, that's the first thing that makes me really proud. For my own part, it would be when I became a Queen's Counsel in 1995. I was the 76th woman ever to become a Queen's Counsel, so it was still a pretty rare thing.
Read: Blair, Gates, Amanpour: Things I wish I'd known at 15
CNN: What cause are you most passionate about?
CB: The thing I want to see before I die is women achieving full equality in the world. I'm very passionate about injustice against women and there's too much of it in the world. In so many parts of the world, women are not regarded as worthy or equal to men. In parts of the world women are bought and sold. We think that's just in the developing world, but women are bought and sold in our country, too.
(CNN) – At 7, Analouisa Valencia was crowned Palmetto Princess in Spartanburg, South Carolina. She relished it - and like a lot of little girls, she dreamed of becoming Miss America one day.
In a few months, Valencia, now 19, will take the stage for the Miss South Carolina contest, hoping for victory and a chance to compete for the coveted national title.
But she's no ordinary contestant. She will mark a first in her conservative home state.
Valencia's father is from Mexico; her mother, an African-American. Valencia came out as a lesbian when she was in the ninth grade and took her girlfriend Tamyra Bell to her high school prom.
She was already shredding stereotypes of beauty pageants because she's biracial. But a lesbian beauty pageant contestant from South Carolina?
"I just really wanted to be an advocate for equality for everyone this year," she says on the phone before heading off to classes at Spartanburg Community College. She eventually wants to earn a business degree at the University of South Carolina.
Her participation in the Miss South Carolina contest is in part a human rights campaign: she is promoting rights for people with special needs (she coaches Special Olympics gymnasts), for racial minorities, for gay people.
She has already thought about her answers if the judges question her on this score. She will be perfectly open and honest about who she is, about their opinions.
"I want to show the judges who I really am," she says. "I want to show them how passionate I am about my platform, how passionate I am for being an advocate for equality."
South Carolina ranks low nationally on LGBT rights. It bans same-sex marriage, does not afford employment, housing or hate-crime protections for LGBT people and has unconstitutional sodomy laws still on the books.
For Valencia to make a run for Miss South Carolina is "courageous," says Ryan Wilson, the executive director of the South Carolina Equality Coalition, a statewide LGBT civil rights group.
"I think it takes a lot of courage for any young person to live openly and authentically. We are extremely proud of Analouisa," Wilson says.
He says beauty pageant contestants can be stereotyped, but they can often afford young women a chance to show leadership.
"She can be a role model for LGBT youth," Wilson says.
There hasn't been negative feedback, Valencia says. So far.
But she's prepared to cope with ugliness if it surfaces. For the time being, she's enjoying her title of Miss Lyman, her hometown just a few miles from Spartanburg.
She's been taking voice lessons every Friday. At the Miss South Carolina pageant in July, she will sing Leona Lewis' "Footprints in the Sand." She's confident she will make an impression.
What defines you? Maybe it’s the shade of your skin, the place you grew up, the accent in your words, the make up of your family, the gender you were born with, the intimate relationships you chose to have or your generation? As the American identity changes we will be there to report it. In America is a venue for creative and timely sharing of news that explores who we are. Reach us at email@example.com.
Send Feedback | Subscribe