The academic year is coming to a close, but if you're like us, you're looking for ways to engage with ideas related to gender equity year-round! From a scholarly perspective on gender quotas and books on women and leadership to a memoir about women's rights in Afghanistan and an anthology of essays on anti-racist policies, here is a roundup of gender-focused books by Harvard affiliates published in the last two years. 

Making Gender Salient: From Gender Quota Laws to Policy (2022), Ana Catalano Weeks

Cover of 'Making Gender Salient'Do gender quota laws – policies that mandate women's inclusion on parties' candidate slates – affect policy outcomes? Political scientist Ana Catalano Weeks (WAPPP Fellow 2016-2017)  tackles this crucial question by offering a new theory to understand when and how gender quota laws impact policy. Weeks’ debut book draws on cross-national data from high-income democracies and utilizes a mixed-methods research design to argue that gender quotas do, in fact, affect policy change for issues characterized by a gender gap in preferences. The book focuses on work-family policies and finds that quotas shift these policies in the direction of gender equality. Based on her evidence, Weeks argues that quotas are one important way to facilitate congruence between women's policy preferences and actual policy outcomes.

Leading Our Way: How Women are Re-Defining Leadership (2023), Gaia van der Esch

Cover of 'Leading Our Way'

Gaia van der Esch’s (MPA ‘20) collection of stories from trailblazing women around the world explores new leadership models, concepts, and tools, with an aim to inspire action and solve global challenges. The book includes exclusive interviews with seven influential women leaders: Christiana Figueres, Gitanjali Rao, Becky Sauerbrunn, Diane von Furstenberg, Tawakkol Karman, Comfort Ero and Gloria Steinem. Through their stories, van der Esch also shares strategies and tools for increasing women’s leadership and overcoming growing polarization.

Pay Up: The Future of Women and Work, and Why it’s Different Than You Think (2022), Reshma Saujani

Cover of 'Pay Up'

In Pay Up, Reshma Saujani (MPP ‘99) tackles corporate feminism and the myth of women “having it all.” The time has come, she argues, for innovative corporate leadership, government intervention, and a sweeping culture shift to address the burdens facing women in the workforce today. Saujani uses data and personal narratives to make her argument, targeting an audience of both women themselves and their employers. The book is a call to action, as the United States is redefining  work, to make the future of work more equitable than the status quo. She leaves readers with four solutions to create lasting change for women at work: empower working women, educate corporate leaders, revise our narratives about what it means to be successful, and advocate for policy reform.  

Outspoken: My Fight for Freedom and Human Rights in Afghanistan (2024), Sima Samar

Outspoken book cover

In this memoir, former Minister of Women's Affairs of Afghanistan Sima Samar (Harvard Visiting Scholar-at-Risk) details her life as a medical doctor, public official, founder of schools and hospitals, thorn in the side of the Taliban, nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, and lifelong advocate for girls and women. With co-author Sally Armstrong, Dr. Samar shares her story – from a childhood where she was taught girls' inferior status, to her agreement to an arranged marriage so she could attend university, her time serving in the government, and her tireless work to give medical care to people in rural Afghanistan. The book offers a valuable perspective on Afghanistan's history and its present.

The Black Agenda: Bold Solutions for a Broken System (2022), Anna Gifty Opoku Agyeman 

Cover of 'The Black Agenda'

Edited by WAPPP fellow and Harvard PhD student Anna Gifty Opoku Agyeman, The Black Agenda is a collection of essays featuring Black scholars and experts across economics, education, health, climate, and technology. Essayists, including Dr. Sandy Darity, Dr. Hedwig Lee, Mary Heglar, and Janelle Jones, propose a range of anti-racist policy ideas to tackle Black maternal and infant health, AI bias, inclusive economic policy, and more. The book as a whole speaks to the question "What's next for America?" by applying a social justice lens to timely subjects including mental health, artificial intelligence, climate change, the future of work, LGBTQ+ rights, and the criminal legal system.