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Fair Shake

Women and the Fight to Build a Just Economy


About The Book

A stirring, comprehensive look at the state of women in the workforce—why women’s progress has stalled, how our economy fosters unproductive competition, and how we can fix the system that holds women back.

In an era of supposed great equality, women are still falling behind in the workplace. Even with more women in the workforce than in decades past, wage gaps continue to increase. It is the most educated women who have fallen the furthest behind. Blue-collar women hold the most insecure and badly paid jobs in our economy. And even as we celebrate high-profile representation—women on the board of Fortune 500 companies and our first female vice president—women have limited recourse when they experience harassment and discrimination.

Fair Shake: Women and the Fight to Build a Just Economy explains that the system that governs our economy—a winner-take-all economy—is the root cause of these myriad problems. The WTA economy self-selects for aggressive, cutthroat business tactics, which creates a feedback loop that sidelines women. The authors, three legal scholars, call this feedback loop “the triple bind”: if women don’t compete on the same terms as men, they lose; if women do compete on the same terms as men, they’re punished more harshly for their sharp elbows or actual misdeeds; and when women see that they can’t win on the same terms as men, they take themselves out of the game (if they haven’t been pushed out already). With odds like these stacked against them, it’s no wonder women feel like, no matter how hard they work, they can’t get ahead.

Fair Shake is not a “fix the woman” book; it’s a “fix the system” book. It not only diagnoses the problem of what's wrong with the modern economy, but shows how, with awareness and collective action, we can build a truly just economy for all.

About The Authors

Courtesy of the Author

Naomi Cahn is the Justice Anthony M. Kennedy distinguished professor of law at the University of Virginia School of Law, as well as the codirector of the Family Law Center. Cahn is the author or editor of numerous books written for both academic and trade publishers, including Red Families v. Blue Families and Homeward Bound. In 2017, Cahn received the Harry Krause Lifetime Achievement in Family Law Award from the University of Illinois College of Law and in 2024 she was inducted into the Clayton Alumni Hall of Fame. 

Courtesy of the Author

June Carbone is the Robina chair of law, science, and technology at the University of Minnesota Law School. Previously she has served as the Edward A. Smith/Missouri chair of law, the constitution, and society at the University of Missouri at Kansas City; and as the associate dean for professional development and presidential professor of ethics and the common good at Santa Clara University School of Law. She has written From Partners to Parents and cowritten Red Families v. Blue Families; Marriage Markets; and Family Law. She is a coeditor of the International Survey of Family Law.

Courtesy of the Author

Nancy Levit is the associate dean for faculty and holds a curator’s professorship at the University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law. Professor Levit has been voted Outstanding Professor of the Year five times by students and was profiled in Dean Michael Hunter Schwartz’s book, What the Best Law Teachers Do. She has received the N.T. Veatch Award for distinguished research and creative activity and the Missouri Governor’s Award for teaching excellence. She is the author of The Gender Line and coauthor of Feminist Legal Theory; The Happy Lawyer; The Good Lawyer; and Jurisprudence—Classical and Contemporary.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (May 7, 2024)
  • Length: 368 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982115128

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Raves and Reviews

"Fair Shake will rattle your understanding of gender discrimination in the workplace. Smooth writing and smartly marshaled facts expose the triple bind that hobbles all women workers. If you believe, as I did, that the gender pay gap has been narrowing, you will learn that that's only because the wages of poorly educated men declined. The authors, law professors with more than a century of experience examining gender issues, show how Sam Walton, Jack Welch, and other business titans created subtle unwritten rules that exploit labor law loopholes, ensuring that men enjoy more pay and more promotions than women, the very definition of unfairness."
—David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter and bestselling author

Fair Shake expertly defines and explains the corporate system I was so engrained in, and how it’s designed to hold women back. Naming and analyzing the structural problems in our workplaces today is the first step to improving them. This is a must-read for any working women today; I felt seen and heard and less alone in my experiences in Corporate America.”
—Jamie Fiore Higgins, author of Bully Market

“By sifting through legal cases of the past twenty-five years, Cahn, Carbone, and Levit have illuminated how extreme power concentration continues to hold women back in our economy. It’s a rousing indictment of a noxious winner-take-all system and an encouragement that collective action can create a more equitable economy, one which dignifies the work of the many and shares power for the betterment of all.”
—Julie Battilana and Tiziana Casciaro, authors of Power, For All

“Robust evidence for the need for systemic change.”
—Kirkus Reviews

Fair Shake answers the enduring—and perplexing—question: ‘why are women struggling to advance in the American workplace?’ Authors Cahn, Carbone, and Levit have provided a set of three clear and undeniable answers. Rigorous, insightful, and ultimately hopeful, this is a must-read for every person who wants women to succeed.”
—Linda Babcock, professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University and bestselling author of The No Club and Women Don't Ask

"This is expert legal story-telling at its best. Cahn, Carbone, and Levit brilliantly unpack how the winner takes all aspects of business undermines any real hope of women achieving equality. Fair Shake burns at the soul as it reveals case after case of women being cheated in the workplace and too often denied justice in American courts. This is a must read—I could not put the book down."
—Michele Bratcher Goodwin, Linda D. & Timothy J. O’Neill Professor of Constitutional Law and Global Health Policy, Georgetown Law School

"A powerful book that’s both eye-opening and inspiring. It’s easy to read and filled with real-world advice that feels doable. If you care about making work fairer for everyone, this book is definitely worth picking up.”

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