MONEY Portfolios

For $50 You Can Push For More Female CEOs — But Is It a Good Investment?

Indra Nooyi, chairman and chief executive officer of PepsiCo.
Indra Nooyi, chairman and chief executive officer of PepsiCo. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Two new products let you invest in companies led by female executives. Whether this is a good idea depends on what you hope to achieve.

On Thursday, Barclays is launching a new index and exchange-traded note (WIL) that lets retail investors buy shares — at $50 a pop — of a basket of large U.S. companies led by women, including PepsiCoPEPSICO INC. PEP 1.3835% , IBMINTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORP. IBM 0.624% , and XeroxXEROX CORP. XRX -0.2318% . This should be exciting news for anyone disappointed by the lack of women in top corporate roles.

After all, female CEOs still make up less than 5% of Fortune 500 chiefs and less than 17% of board members — despite earning 44% of master’s degrees in business and management.

The new ETN is not the only tool of its kind: This past June, former Bank of America executive Sallie Krawcheck opened an index fund tracking global companies with female leadership — and online brokerage Motif Investing currently offers a custom portfolio of shares in women-led companies.

The big question is whether this type of socially-conscious investing is valuable — either to investors or to the goal of increasing female corporate leadership. Is it wise to let your conscience dictate how you manage your savings? And assuming you care about gender representation in the corporate world, is there any evidence that these investments will actually lead to more diversity?

Here’s what experts and research suggest:

Getting better-than-average returns shouldn’t be your motivation. Beyond the promise of effecting social change, the Barclays and Pax indexes are marketed with the suggestion that woman-led companies tend to do better than peers. It’s true that some evidence shows businesses can benefit from female leadership, with correlations between more women in top positions and higher returns on equity, lower volatility, and market-beating returns.

But correlation isn’t causation, and other research suggests that when businesses appoint female leadership, it may be a sign that crisis is brewing — the so-called “glass cliff.” Yet another study finds that limiting your investments to socially-responsible companies comes with costs.

Taken together, the pros and cons of conscience-based investing seem generally to cancel each other out. “Our research shows socially responsible investments do no better or worse than the broader stock market,” says Morningstar fund analyst Robert Goldsborough. “Over time the ups and downs tend to even out.”

As always, fees should be a consideration. Even if the underlying companies in a fund are good investments, high fees can eat away at your returns. Krawcheck’s Pax Ellevate Global Women’s fund charges 0.99% — far more than the 0.30% fee for the Vanguard Total World Stock Index (VTWSX). Investing only in U.S. companies, the new Barclays ETN is cheaper, with 0.45% in expenses, though the comparable Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (VOO) charges only 0.05% — a difference that can add up over time:

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Note: Projections based on current expenses and a $10,000 investment.

If supporting women is very important to you, you might consider investing in a broad, cheap index and using the money you saved on fees to invest directly in the best female-led companies — or you could simply donate to a non-profit supporting women’s causes.

If you still love this idea, that’s okay — just limit your exposure. There is an argument that supporting female leadership through investments could be more powerful than making a donation to a non-profit. The hope is that if enough investor cash flows to businesses led by women, “companies will take notice” and make more efforts to advance women in top positions, says Sue Meirs, Barclays COO for Equity and Funds Structured Markets Sales in the Americas. If investing in one of these indexes feels like the best way to support top-down gender diversity — and worth the cost — you could do worse than these industry-diversified offerings. “Investing as a social statement can be a fine thing,” says financial planner Sheryl Garrett, “though you don’t want to put all of your money toward a token investment.” Garrett suggests limiting your exposure to 10% of your overall portfolio.

TIME Books

Can Hermione From Harry Potter ‘Have It All’?

11/00/2001. Film "Harry Potter and the philosopher's stone"
Hermione Grainger (Emma Watson) WEINBERGER K./GAMMA—Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

An aside by Rita Skeeter gets at a pretty profound question

It’s commonly accepted that “having it all” — the catchall phrase for a person, usually a woman, having a fulfilling career and family life all at once — isn’t easy. Anne-Marie Slaughter famously thinks it’s possible, but not in today’s world. The CEO of Pepsi, Indra Nooyi, says it’s just not possible. Kim Kardashian, apparently, believes it can be achieved if you work really hard — despite any evidence to the contrary.

But maybe it’s even harder than anyone thought — so much so that even magic doesn’t make it easy.

In her newly released update on the denizens of the Harry Potter universe, which arrived July 8 in the form of a Rita Skeeter gossip column posted to Rowling’s Potter hub Pottermore.com, author J.K. Rowling included this tidbit on the life of Hermione Weasley (née Granger):

After a meteoric rise to Deputy Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, she is now tipped to go even higher within the Ministry, and is also mother to son, Hugo, and daughter, Rose. Does Hermione Granger prove that a witch really can have it all? (No — look at her hair.)

This is unsurprising: Rowling has made clear in the past that the question of “having it all” is one with which she’s wrestled. Rowling has said in the past that Molly Weasley’s lack of a day job doesn’t make her “just a mother”; that there’s a level of equality possible in the wizarding world that’s rare in ours, since there’s no question that both sexes can be just as good at spells; and that Hermione — who Rowling says is an “exaggeration” of herself — shows how difficult it is to live up to external ideas of what’s expected of a woman. Those familiar with Rowling’s pre-Potter days will may also see a real-life parallel, as she’s described her status at that time as “full-time mother, part-time worker, secret novelist.” As Hermione and her creator—and even the actress who played her—have learned, fame and money can make working women busy in a different — but still imperfect — way.

But, in a way, the answer to the question of having it all is buried in that snippet about Hermione — and the answer is “yes.”

After all, Rita Skeeter, in whose voice Rowling has presented her latest story, isn’t exactly a reliable narrator. Rather, she’s invested in putting Hermione down, and her proof that Hermione can’t have it all is one that Rowling herself has already countered. Hermione’s hair is unruly, and we know that even witches are subjected to unrealistic standards of beauty (well, unrealistic for non-veela witches, at least), but we also know that there are magical ways to fit in. A little Sleekeazy’s Hair Potion could make Hermione’s hair lie flat, but in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Hermione notes that it’s just too much of a bother to spend a lot of time every day worrying about her hair.

If Hermione’s hair doesn’t match Rita Skeeter’s standards, that’s her prerogative — and that sounds, in terms of having it all, pretty magical.

 

TIME relationships

Princeton Mom: “Stop Acting Like Such an Entitled Princess”

Susan Patton knows what's ruining marriages (Hint: It's the woman's fault)

Susan Patton, the Princeton mom who advised female students to spend their college years searching for husbands, is back! And now she says she has the answer to all marital woes: Ladies, you aren’t appreciating your men enough.

“Stop acting like such an entitled princess,” Patton said on Monday’s Fox & Friends. (Patton was responding to a segment from Sunday’s show that focused on what husbands should do for their wives.) “Recognize that there are many women who miss their opportunity entirely to marry and have children. If you’re fortunate enough to have found a man to marry, respect him.”

And for those less fortunate women still waiting on a ring, don’t forget that your clock is ticking. “If you are in your mid-30s or older the idea that you’re going to find yourself another husband, almost impossible,” said self-described human resources specialist and life coach. “And if you don’t believe me ask your maiden aunt, she will tell you when she’s done feeding the cats.”

In order to avoid becoming a cat lady, Patton recommends staying in a marriage regardless of happiness. “Don’t even think that divorce is an option. You work on it. You make it work,” she said. She may have some regrets in that area—the Princeton grad recently finalized her own divorce.

TIME feminism

PepsiCo CEO: Women Cannot Have It All

Surprisingly frank statements from Indra K. Nooyi about how women are, as she said at the Aspen Ideas Festival, "screwed" because their biological and career clocks conflict.

On Monday, PepsiCo CEO Indra K. Nooyi spoke at the Aspen Ideas Festival about her work-life balance. “The biological clock and the career clock are in total conflict,” she observed. Just as women are reaching middle management, kids need the most parenting and attention. Then when women move up the corporate ladder, they must turn their attention to aging parents. “We’re screwed. We cannot have it all.”

She did say, however, that women can learn to cope with that reality. “If you ask our daughters, I’m not sure that they will say I’ve been a good mom,” she continued. She told a story about how she could not make it to the coffee meeting where moms would come to school with their children at 9 a.m. every Wednesday at her daughter’s school. Nooyi’s daughter would come home and criticize her for not being able to attend. Nooyi called the school to find out what other mothers were absent so she would feel reassured that other working moms also couldn’t make the meetings. “You have to cope because you die with guilt,” she said.

 

 

TIME politics

White House Pay Gap Hasn’t Changed Under Obama

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama pauses while speaking about transportation and the economy on July 1, 2014, at the Georgetown Waterfront Park in Washington. Charles Dharapak—AP

The average male employee earns over $10,000 more than average female employee

The pay gap between men and women working at the White House has not narrowed since President Barack Obama’s first year in office, according to a new report, despite Obama’s emphasis on pay equity ahead of the midterm elections.

Salary data compiled by the Washington Post found a 13% gap between the genders: The average salary for men in the White House is $88,600 per year, while the average salary for women is $78,400 per year, the Post reports. That gap has persisted since 2009, when male employees earned an average of $82,000, and female employees made $72,700.

One explanation for the gap is that there are more men than women in higher-paying, senior jobs at the White House: 87 male White House officials earn more $100,000, compared to 53 women. “At the White House, we have equal pay for equal work,” White House spokeswoman Jessica Santillo told the Post. “Men and women in equivalent roles earn equivalent salaries, and over half of our departments are run by women.” She added that the White House is working to place more women in senior positions.

Obama has argued throughout the year that raising the minimum wage would help women and has signed two executive orders that aim make workplace pay more transparent and allow women to discover if they are earning less for the same job. The executive orders only apply to federal contractors, but the president has also pushed the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would mandate the same transparency for the general workforce.

“A woman deserves equal pay for equal work,” Obama said in this year’s State of the Union address.

“She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job,” Obama added.

Other parts of the federal government have a similar wage gap. But the 13% gap is still better than that of the nation as a whole, which by one measure has a 23.5% disparity.

[Washington Post]

 

TIME politics

The Supreme Court Ruled in Favor of Patriarchy, Not Democracy

Supreme Court Issues Rulings, Including Hobby Lobby ACA Contraception Mandate Case
Supporters of employer-paid birth control rally in front of the Supreme Court before the decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores was announced June 30, 2014 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

The Hobby Lobby decision displays the profound depth of religious and male norms that deny women autonomy and the right to control our own reproduction.

On Monday morning, the Supreme Court delivered a severe blow to women in the United States when it ruled that “closely-held” corporations, such as Hobby Lobby, can refuse to provide insurance coverage for birth control based on owners’ religious beliefs. Liberal Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor partially joined Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg in a 35-page dissent against the majority decision of the five conservative, male justices.

That the Court ruled this way should surprise no one. What should surprise, however, is the continued expectation that we overlook patriarchal religious fundamentalism, its collusion with constitutional “originalism” and its discriminatory expression in our political system.

Most analyses of this case will parse the law and, in doing so, make no challenges to two fundamental assumptions: 1) that the law and the Court are both “neutral” to begin with and 2) that we should not question the closely held religious beliefs of judges and politicians, even when those beliefs discriminate openly against women. This is a judgment. And judgments come from norms. And norms are based on people’s preferences. The Court is made up of people who have beliefs, implicitly or explicitly expressed.

In the practice of many religions, girls’ and women’s relationship to the divine are mediated, in strictly binary terms, by men: their speech, their ways of being and their judgments. Women’s behavior, especially sexual, is policed in ways that consolidate male power. It is impossible to be, in this particular case, a conservative Christian, without accepting and perpetuating the subordination of women to male rule. It is also blatant in “official” Catholicism, Mormonism, Evangelical Protestantism, Orthodox Judaism and Islam.

The fundamental psychology of these ideas, of religious male governance, does not exist in a silo, isolated from family structures, public life or political organization. It certainly does not exist separately from our Supreme Court. Antonin Scalia, for example, makes no bones about his conscientious commitment to conservative Catholic ideals in his personal life and the seriousness of their impact on his work as a judge. There are many Catholics who reject these views, but he is not among them. These beliefs include those having to do with non-procreational sex, women’s roles, reproduction, sexuality, birth control and abortion. The fact that Scalia may be brilliant, and may have convinced himself that his opinions are a matter of reason and not faith, is irrelevant.

What is not irrelevant is that we are supposed to hold in abeyance any substantive concerns about the role that these beliefs, and their expression in our law, play in the distribution of justice and rights. They are centrally and critically important to women’s freedom, and we ignore this fact at our continued peril.

Ninety-nine percent of sexually active women will use birth control at some point in their lives. The Court’s decision displays the profound depth of patriarchal norms that deny women autonomy and the right to control our own reproduction—norms that privilege people’s “religious consciences” over women’s choices about our own bodies, the welfare of our families, our financial security and our equal right to freedom from the imposition of our employers’ religious beliefs. What this court just did was, once again, make women’s bodies, needs and experiences “exceptions” to normatively male ones. This religious qualifier was narrowly construed to address just this belief and not others, such as prohibitions on vaccines or transfusions. It is not a coincidence that all three female members of the Court and only one man of six dissented from this opinion.

While there are hundreds of bills and laws regulating women’s rights to control their own reproduction, I’m not aware, after much looking, of any that similarly constrain men or tax them unduly for their decisions. As a matter of fact, we live in a country where more than half of our states give rapists the right to sue for custody of children born of their raping and forcible insemination of women. Insurance coverage continues to include medical services and products that help men control their reproduction and enhance their sexual lives.

As Ginsburg outlined in her dissent, the costs that this decision will accrue to women are substantive. The argument that employers shouldn’t pay for things they don’t believe in is vacuous. Insurance benefits are part of compensation. Even if you reject that notion, it is clear that we all pay for things we don’t like or believe in through our taxes and, for employers, through insurance. That’s how insurance and taxes work—except when it comes to women and their bodies. That’s sexism.

That we live with patriarchy is evident. That this dominance is and always has been the opposite of democracy is not to most people. SCOTUS’ decision is shameful for its segregation of women’s health issues and its denial that what should be valued as “closely held” in our society is a woman’s right to make her own reproductive decisions. American women’s equality continues to be undermined by the privileging of religion in public discourse.

Soraya Chemaly is a media critic and feminist writer whose work focuses on the role of gender and sexualized violence in culture, politics, religion and free speech. You can find her at @schemaly.

TIME Sexual Assault

1 in 5: Debating the Most Controversial Sexual Assault Statistic 

Independent Womens Forum Rape
Sabrina Schaeffer, executive director of the Independent Women's Forum, speaks at an Independent Women's Forum panel discussion at the Fund for American Studies in Washington on June 26, 2014. Amber Schwartz

Does America really have a "rape culture"?

A conservative women’s group is trying to debunk the claim that one in five women is a victim of sexual assault in college.

The startling one-in-five statistic has become a rallying cry for campus judicial reform and entered the public lexicon through widespread dissemination by the media and the Obama Administration. Obama created a White House task force on campus sexual assault earlier this year, and Congress is currently considering proposals to combat sexual violence on campus.

At a Senate hearing Thursday, the one-in-five statistic was invoked in opening statements. Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary of education for civil rights, said that “sexual violence is pervasive” on many college campuses and James Moore, compliance manager in the Clery Act Compliance Division of the Education Department, said we are experiencing a “crisis of sexual assault” on campus. (The Clery Act, passed in 1990, requires colleges and universities to publish annual reports on security and crime statistics, as well as publish information about sexual assault policies and programs.)

But the Independent Women’s Forum, based in Washington, D.C., hosted a panel Thursday for about 100 people at The Fund for American Studies that questioned the validity of one-in-five figure.

“I do not believe that the one in five statistic is trustworthy,” said Christina Hoff Sommers, self-titled “factual feminist” and resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. “Inflated statistics lead to ineffective policies. Worse than that, they can breed panic and overreaction, and that’s what I think we have right now. I believe that the rape culture movement is fueled by exaggerated claims of victimization.”

Is it exaggerated? The oft-touted statistic comes from a 2007 Campus Sexual Assault Study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Justice. The study was a Web-based survey circulated to a random sample of 5,446 undergraduate women at two major public universities. The survey found that 19% of the female respondents had experienced completed or attempted sexual assault since entering college.

Yet the survey response rate was 42.2% and 42.8% at the two universities, and Sommers believes the fact that less than half the women chose to respond to the survey points to a troubling selection bias in the respondents. “The people who feel the most strongly about the survey, for whatever reason, are the most likely to respond,” she said.

Sommers and other members of the IWF panel also question the ways this study defined sexual assault. In the executive summary of the 2007 study, the researchers wrote, “Legal definitions of sexual assault factor in one’s ability to provide consent, and individuals who are incapacitated because of the effects of alcohol or drugs… are incapable of consenting.”

In other words, this survey classified sexual encounters that occurred while the woman was intoxicated as a form of sexual assault, regardless of whether the perpetrator was responsible for her intoxication or she consumed the substances on her own. “I can imagine many cases where someone was incapacitated, unconscious: could not consent,” said Sommers. “But there are other cases where it can be quite debatable.”

“Proponents [of the 1/5 statistic] are exaggerating the threat, too often confusing regretful sexual decisions made while under the influence of alcohol or drugs with actual rape,” Sabrina Schaeffer, executive director of IWF, wrote in a statement circulated before the panel.

“If sexual intimacy under the influence of alcohol is by definition assault, then I would say a significant percentage of sexual intercourse throughout the world and down the ages would qualify as a crime,” Sommers said. (Sommers wrote an article for TIME in May 2014 about the “panic” she sees surrounding this issue.)

Cathy Young, columnist for Newsday and contributing editor at Reason magazine, believes that conflating drunken sex with more serious assaults undermines the gravity of the issue: “This is trivializing to the experience of women who unfortunately have had the experience of being violently raped,” she said.

Instead of one in five, Sommers believes the real number is closer to one in forty. In 2005, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released a report called “Violent Victimizations of College Students, 1995-2002,” with a section specifically dealing with sexual assault. This study also has an expansive definition of sexual assault (“Sexual assaults may or may not involve force and include such things as grabbing or fondling. Sexual assault also includes verbal threats”), but does not have the same restrictive view of alcohol as the Campus Sexual Assault survey. “They made it clear they were asking about a serious violation,” Sommers said.

The response rate for this survey was 80% to 88%; double that of the 2007 survey, and the results showed an annual rate of sexual assault against female students to be six per one thousand, which translates to about one in forty over four years. This means that 2.5% of women are sexually assaulted in college, not 20%. It is worth pointing out that the figures in the Bureau of Judicial Statistics survey are at least 12 years old.

“Sexual assault on campus is a genuine problem,” said Sommers. “But to get smart solutions, inflated statistics are not the answer.”

But whether the statistic is one in five, one in forty, or somewhere in between, Andrea Bottner, former director of the Office of International Women’s Issues in the George W. Bush administration, believes that those aren’t the numbers we should be worried about.

“One in five does not bother me too much as a statistic,” she said. “Frankly, I think it’s the wrong statistic to be focused upon. The number that comes to my mind is sixty percent. About sixty percent of rapes in this country are never reported… To me, every time a victim comes forward, I imagine two more next to him or her who don’t. Those are the people we need to reach.”

TIME Television

Whitney Cummings: “Crazy” Is the “New C-Word”

Whitney Cummings
Comedy Central

The comedian's new stand-up special premieres June 28 on Comedy Central

The fictional characters created by comedian Whitney Cummings — whether on CBS’s 2 Broke Girls or NBC’s Whitney — tend to struggle when it comes to love. But the real-life Cummings is eager to say “I love you,” at least in the title of her new one-hour stand-up special, which premieres June 28 on Comedy Central. Here, she talks to TIME about the special, her changing attitudes toward marriage, why she thinks feminism has won and how women being called “crazy” inspired her work:

TIME: Let’s talk about the title, “Whitney Cummings: I Love You.” Is it “I love you, says Whitney Cummings,” or “I love you, Whitney Cummings”?

Cummings: At the end of every show I always say ‘Thank you, I love you’ and so my director was like, Why don’t you call it that?

And with any luck people will say “I love you too.”

Exactly. The nice thing about saying “I love you” is usually someone feels obligated to say it back. People think comedians are sociopathic robots yelling at a crowd. In reality we love you and want you to love us back.

Speaking of love, I saw on Instagram that you got ordained as a minister.

The plot twists in life! I think the big theme of this phase of being a stand-up is that I thought I knew everything in my 20s. In your 30s, all of the sudden you realize you know nothing. The ironic twist is that a friend asked me to officiate her wedding, whereas my whole first special and the TV show I did at NBC were all about how I didn’t believe in marriage.

Has the wedding already happened?

No, it’s in August. I consider myself pretty good at public speaking. Like, I kind of do this for a living. But I’m so nervous.

What about?

The pressure is just so intense to do justice to this moment. If I worked half as hard on my career as I did on this wedding-officiating, I’d probably have accomplished all my goals by now.

A lot of the material in this special is about the differences between men and women.

When you say that I kind of cringe a little bit, because that’s such a fraught territory.

I don’t mean necessarily biological differences…

As a comedian, the edge is my comfort zone. What makes people uncomfortable? What’s the elephant in the room? What are we all struggling with but nobody has the courage to admit? What’s the truth, basically? But when you start saying men and women are different, people get weird. I think feminism has done its job and now you can’t imply that women and men aren’t capable of the same things.

You’re not allowed to say that women are more emotional. That pisses me off when somebody says that. I don’t want someone implying that I’m weak in any way. I didn’t cry until I was 28, you know? It’s made me feel like I have to be so strong and tough all the time. I think that’s caused me a lot of struggle in terms of what I’ve expected to be versus what seriously biologically is going on with me. That was something I wanted to get into. I wanted to play around with the idea of giving women permission to be sensitive again.

It does seem like a lot of differences are from cultural expectations, like what you say in the special about how long it takes women to get ready to go out.

I got to the point where I was like, “No wonder women aren’t achieving as much as men. We have three less hours a day.” When I did the TV show with my male co-star, my call time was 5 a.m. and his was 8! I had to do make-up for three hours. I just started getting so frustrated with the fact that I had to have someone else’s hair snapped into my head every morning. Guys get so mad that I’m taking too long in the bathroom and it’s like, “I’m doing this for you!” I’m not saying I have the power to change it or I’m going to start some revolution. Just be a little nicer to me. Just be a little patient. I can’t feel my feet, I have blisters, I have a string up my butt, I just spent three hours putting pencils in my eyes to try to fit this standard of beauty.

I really think the special was driven by the rage I felt when people call women “crazy.” That really, to me, is like the new c-word. It’s just so dismissive and frustrating and such an ignorant thing to call someone. To me it was like, “Ok, you think we’re crazy, here’s all the things that go into this.”

How so?

We can do all the same stuff with all these insane obstacles and 2 hours less of sleep and the added obstacles of being more sensitive and feeling five different emotions at once. It’s gotten to the point where I feel like we’re allowed to say “uncle.”

The digital album of Cummings’ special is available July 1.

TIME

Women Lose the News: What Diane Sawyer Stepping Down Means

The News Sorority, by Sheila Weller
The News Sorority, by Sheila Weller

Just 4 years ago, women occupied half the top news-anchor slots. When Diane Sawyer gives up her post in August, we're back to zero

Call me a feminist sentimentalist. After spending the first of what would be four years researching the ascent to TV news superstardom of Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric and Christiane Amanpour for my forthcoming book, The News Sorority, and discovering what these women were initially up against, I felt, in March 2010, like a hiker who’d vicariously reached a happy summit. Who’d have thunk it: Two out of the three 6:30 network solo anchors and one out of three Sunday news round-up anchors were female.

Three out of six. Half.

Five years before that, zero women had ever been in those roles. In early 2010, Christiane Amanpour had just been appointed the first female solo anchor of a modern network Sunday talk show (This Week). Katie Couric had been at CBS Evening News since September 2006, the first-ever 6:30 PM female solo anchor. After a rocky start modernizing the classic, if not ossified, format, Katie eventually earned respect – and affected the outcome of a Presidential election with her masterful 2008 interviews of Sarah Palin.

When Diane Sawyer rose to the anchor desk at ABC World News at the tail-end of 2009, it was the smoothest of the three ascendancies. The tone she set — serious and dignified but empathic; unerringly hard-news-minded yet wisely reflecting a sense of heartland America’s bread-and-butter concerns — is the one she has carried on since. Her ascendance didn’t say: NEWS FLASH! FEMALE PERSON IN CHAIR! She was just what the doctor ordered for relatively conservative 6:30 PM.

When ABC first announced that she’d take over from Charlie Gibson, World News’s producer Jon Banner said, “There was nobody more qualified to step into that chair, and in some cases she was [also] probably more qualified years beforehand.” Sawyer, a famously hard-working perfectionist throughout her then-28-year-long national network career had seemed, to many media watchers, an even more obvious choice than Gibson, when he snared the post in 2006.

And when she left behind her ten-year tenure at Good Morning, America, Diane attacked the task with head-spinning vigor and variety: flying to Copenhagen to interview Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; then back to New York to open her broadcast with news of a Christmas “miracle” of community do-gooding at a Vermont church; then off to Afghanistan, a foray she interrupted to take three planes and a tiny helicopter to Haiti when the earthquake struck. (With no hotels available, she and her crew slept in a baggage cart that first night.) All this was in her first three weeks as anchor. The gauntlet she threw down — to always be on top of the news, wherever it was — was something she never let up.

But things changed from that heady moment in early 2010. In a decision that was not hers, Katie left CBS Evening News in May 2011. Christiane’s imminent dismissal from This Week was announced seven months later. (She was warmly welcomed “home” to CNN, but to a less visible position to U.S. viewers than she’d previously occupied.)

Diane was the last woman standing.

And stand she did — strong and tall. She alternated her calm, exacting hard-news reporting with her public-service-mission’d “Made In America.” She was the only anchor to travel to still-endangered Japan when the earthquake and tsunami struck. And—possibly most meaningful to the social-issues reporter she had become in the ’90s at PrimeTime, and to the Methodist Youth Association Diane from Louisville her best friends know — she did a series of award-winning specials on endangered children: in Camden, New Jersey; on a South Dakota Indian reservation; in gang-saturated Chicago; and in the Appalachia of her parents’ hardscrabble childhoods.

But her news program consistently lagged behind NBC’s Nightly News with Brian Williams. When CBS Evening News enjoyed a ratings uptick after Katie was replaced by Scott Pelley, a phrase that had been whispered during Katie’s years at CBS was uttered full-volume: 6:30 viewers would watch “any white man in a chair” before they’d watch a woman.

I started hearing that Diane would be eased out and replaced by the less expensive David Muir two years ago.

Last summer, exciting news appeared in the New York Times.: “…World News with Diane Sawyer bested NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams among 25-to-54-year-old-viewers last week, ending [Williams' and NBC's] winning streak of almost five years.” But the article dropped a second shoe with an ironic thud: “The victory was shared by Ms. Sawyer and one of her regular fill-ins, David Muir… because [emphasis is mine] Mr. Muir substituted for Ms. Sawyer…the same three nights…that ABC beat NBC in the all-important demographic.

This month, Diane Sawyer and ABC World News again eclipsed NBC and Williams in that prized demographic. Yet yesterday ABC announced that Diane will step down as anchor in August, to be replaced by Muir, with George Stephanopoulos lead-anchoring on election nights. (Small pause to enjoy the fact that two men have to do the job Diane did by herself.)

Diane will continue her specials, like the sit-down she had with Hillary Clinton recently, and her social-issues pieces. With Barbara Walters retired, she’ll have a whole ABC-wide field all to herself.

So, rationally, there’s no reason to mourn this news, nor to disbelieve the long-heard buzz that Jean Sawyer Hayes’s and Mike Nichols’ vulnerable health are reasons she might want to take things easier — anyone who knows Diane knows how crucial both her husband and her mother are to her.

But still. In March 2010, three out of six.

Now, August 2014, back to zero.

From the Medieval days of town criers to Walter Cronkite’s dabbed tear at John F. Kennedy’s death to the horrendous morning of September 11, 2001, the deliverer of our news has filled an irreplaceable role, as one who unites us. Let’s not hope for any more crises, but let’s remember that on September 11 it was largely two women — Diane and Katie — who rigorously, compassionately gave us the shocking news as it unfolded. In these days when our country sorely needs some unity, it would be nice and maybe even necessary to have a female sensibility— a woman— in that role again.

UPDATE: A friend at ABC says of the reason for Diane’s stepping down: “She wants the flexibility to tackle big projects full-time. So it’s not true that this is about anything else. Mike is great and starting a new project. Her mom is fine.”

Sheila Weller is a contributor to Vanity Fair, The New York Times Book Review, and Glamour, and the author of the New York Times bestseller Girls Like Us. Her forthcoming book, The News Sorority: Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Christiane Amanpour—and the (Ongoing, Imperfect, Complicated) Triumph of Women in TV News, will be published in September by The Penguin Press.

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The Surprising Truth About Women and Violence

France v United States
Goalkeeper Hope Solo takes her position in goal during the second half of a women's friendly soccer match against France on June 14, 2014 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. Brian Blanco—Getty Images

Traditional stereotypes have led to double standards that often cause women’s violence—especially against men—to be trivialized.

The arrest of an Olympic gold medalist on charges of domestic violence would normally be an occasion for a soul-searching conversation about machismo in sports, toxic masculinity and violence against women. But not when the alleged offender is a woman: 32-year-old Hope Solo, goalkeeper of the U.S. women’s soccer team, who is facing charges of assaulting her sister and 17-year-old nephew in a drunken, violent outburst. While the outcome of the case is far from clear, this is an occasion for conversation about a rarely acknowledged fact: family violence is not necessarily a gender issue, and women—like singer Beyoncé Knowles’ sister Solange, who attacked her brother-in-law, the rapper Jay Z, in a notorious recent incident caught on video—are not always its innocent victims.

Male violence against women and girls has been the focus of heightened attention since Eliot Rodger’s horrific rampage in California last month, driven at least partly by his rage at women. Many people argue that even far less extreme forms of gender-related violence are both a product and a weapon of deeply ingrained cultural misogyny. Meanwhile, the men’s rights activists also brought into the spotlight by Rodger’s killing spree defend another perspective—one that, in this case, is backed by a surprising amount of evidence from both research and current events: that violence is best understood as a human problem whose gender dynamics are much more complex than commonly understood.

There is little dispute that men commit far more violent acts than women. According to FBI data on crime in the U.S., they account for some 90% of known murderers. And a study published in American Society of Criminology finds that men account for nearly 80% of all violent offenders reported in crime surveys, despite a substantial narrowing of the gap since the 1970s. But, whatever explains the higher levels of male violence—biology, culture or both—the indisputable fact is that it’s directed primarily at other males: in 2010, men were the victims in almost four out of five homicides and almost two-thirds of robberies and non-domestic aggravated assaults. Family and intimate relationships—the one area feminists often identify as a key battleground in the war on women—are also an area in which women are most likely to be violent, and not just in response to male aggression but toward children, elders, female relatives or partners, and non-violent men, according to a study published in the Journal of Family Violence.

Last April, when Connecticut high school student Maren Sanchez was stabbed to death by her a classmate allegedly because she refused to go to the prom with him, feminist writer Soraya Chemaly asserted that such tragedies were the result of “pervasive, violently maintained, gender hierarchy,” male entitlement, and societal “contempt for the lives of girls and women.” But what, then, explains another stabbing death in Connecticut two months earlier—that of 25-year-old David Vazquez, whose girlfriend reportedly shouted, “If I can’t have you, no one can!” before plunging a knife into his chest shortly after Vazquez said he was leaving her for a former girlfriend? Or the actions of a 22-year-old former student at New York’s Hofstra University who pleaded guilty last November to killing her boyfriend by deliberately hitting him with her car due to a dispute about another woman? Or the actions of the Florida woman who killed her ex-partner’s 2-year-old daughter and tried to kill the woman’s 10-year-old son last month shortly after their breakup?

Research showing that women are often aggressors in domestic violence has been causing controversy for almost 40 years, ever since the 1975 National Family Violence Survey by sociologists Murray Straus and Richard Gelles of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire found that women were just as likely as men to report hitting a spouse and men were just as likely as women to report getting hit. The researchers initially assumed that, at least in cases of mutual violence, the women were defending themselves or retaliating. But when subsequent surveys asked who struck first, it turned out that women were as likely as men to initiate violence—a finding confirmed by more than 200 studies of intimate violence. In a 2010 review essay in the journal Partner Abuse, Straus concludes that women’s motives for domestic violence are often similar to men’s, ranging from anger to coercive control.

Critics have argued that the survey format used in most family violence studies, the Conflict Tactics Scale, is flawed and likely to miss some of the worst assaults on women—especially post-separation attacks. Yet two major studies using a different methodology—the 2000 National Violence Against Women Survey by the National Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey published last February—have also found that some 40% of those reporting serious partner violence in the past year are men. (Both studies show a much larger gender gap in lifetime reports of partner violence; one possible explanation for this discrepancy is that men may be more likely to let such experiences fade from memory over time since they have less cultural support for seeing themselves as victims, particularly of female violence.)

Violence by women causes less harm due to obvious differences in size and strength, but it is by no means harmless. Women may use weapons, from knives to household objects—including highly dangerous ones such as boiling water—to neutralize their disadvantage, and men may be held back by cultural prohibitions on using force toward a woman even in self-defense. In his 2010 review, Straus concludes that in various studies, men account for 12% to 40% of those injured in heterosexual couple violence. Men also make up about 30% of intimate homicide victims—not counting cases in which women kill in self-defense. And women are at least as likely as men to kill their children—more so if one counts killings of newborns—and account for more than half of child maltreatment perpetrators.

What about same-sex violence? The February CDC study found that, over their lifetime, 44% of lesbians had been physically assaulted by a partner (more than two-thirds of them only by women), compared to 35% of straight women, 26% of gay men, and 29% of straight men. While these figures suggest that women are somewhat less likely than men to commit partner violence, they also show a fairly small gap. The findings are consistent with other evidence that same-sex relationships are no less violent than heterosexual ones.

For the most part, feminists’ reactions to reports of female violence toward men have ranged from dismissal to outright hostility. Straus chronicles a troubling history of attempts to suppress research on the subject, including intimidation of heretical scholars of both sexes and tendentious interpretation of the data to portray women’s violence as defensive. In the early 1990s, when laws mandating arrest in domestic violence resulted in a spike of dual arrests and arrests of women, battered women’s advocates complained that the laws were “backfiring on victims,” claiming that women were being punished for lashing back at their abusers. Several years ago in Maryland, the director and several staffers of a local domestic violence crisis center walked out of a meeting in protest of the showing of a news segment about male victims of family violence. Women who have written about female violence, such as Patricia Pearson, author of the 1997 book When She Was Bad: Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence, have often been accused of colluding with an anti-female backlash.

But this woman-as-victim bias is at odds with the feminist emphasis on equality of the sexes. If we want our culture to recognize women’s capacity for leadership and competition, it is hypocritical to deny or downplay women’s capacity for aggression and even evil. We cannot argue that biology should not keep women from being soldiers while treating women as fragile and harmless in domestic battles. Traditional stereotypes both of female weakness and female innocence have led to double standards that often cause women’s violence—especially against men—to be trivialized, excused, or even (like Solange’s assault on Jay Z) treated as humorous. Today, simplistic feminist assumptions about male power and female oppression effectively perpetuate those stereotypes. It is time to see women as fully human—which includes the dark side of humanity.

Cathy Young is a contributing editor at Reason magazine.

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