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Debora L. Spar

About This Author

Debora L. Spar is the president of Barnard College, a women’s undergraduate college affiliated with Columbia University. She received her doctorate in government from Harvard University and was the Spangler Family Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. Spar is the author of numerous books, including Ruling the Waves: Cycles of Invention, Chaos, and Wealth from the Compass to the Internet and The Baby Business: How Money, Science, and Politics Drive the Commerce of Conception.

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Debora L. Spar is the president of Barnard College, a women’s undergraduate college affiliated with Columbia University. She received her doctorate in government from Harvard University and was the Spangler Family Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. Spar is the author of numerous books, including Ruling the Waves: Cycles of Invention, Chaos, and Wealth from the Compass to the Internet and The Baby Business: How Money, Science, and Politics Drive the Commerce of Conception.

Books by thisAuthor
  • Wonder Women

    Wonder Women
    Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection
    Fifty years after the Equal Pay Act, why are women still living in a man’s world? Debora L. Spar never thought of herself as a feminist. Raised after the tumult of the 1960s, she presumed the gender war was over. As one of the youngest female professors to be tenured at Harvard Business School and a mother of three, she swore to young women that they could have it all. “We thought we could just glide into the new era of equality, with babies, board seats, and husbands in tow,” she writes. “We were wrong.” Now she is the president of Barnard College, arguably the most important all-women’s college in the United States. And in Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection—a fresh, wise, original book— she asks why, a half century after the publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, do women still feel stuck. In this groundbreaking and compulsively readable book, Spar explores how American women’s lives have—and have not—changed over the past fifty years. Armed with reams of new research, she details how women struggled for power and instead got stuck in an endless quest for perfection. The challenges confronting women are more complex than ever, and they are challenges that come inherently and inevitably from being female. Spar is acutely aware that it’s time to change course. Both deeply personal and statistically rich, Wonder Women is Spar’s story and the story of our culture. It is cultural history at its best, and a road map for the future.  

    Ruling the Waves

    Ruling the Waves
    From the Compass to the Internet, a History of...
    Beginning with the development of the compass, Ruling the Waves examines a series of technological revolutions that promised, in their time, to transform the world's politics and business. With Debora Spar's gifted storytelling, each chapter reads like an adventure tale as she recounts the histories of the printing press and maps; of the telegraph, radio, and satellite television; of software, encryption, and the advent of digital music. At each of these junctures Spar suggests that invention led to both a wave of commerce and of chaos. Entrepreneurs such as Samuel Morse and Rupert Murdoch carved new markets from the emerging technology and proclaimed that the old rules no longer applied. And for a while, they were right. But eventually--and inevitably--even cowboys need rules: rules of property, rules of coordination, rules of competition. The erstwhile pioneers thus turn to government, lobbying for order and setting the stage for the next wave of discovery. A fascinating history of business, Ruling the Waves is also an original, thought-provoking analysis of the parallels between past innovations and inventions and our own tumultuous times.

    The Baby Business

    The Baby Business
    How Money, Science, and Politics Drive the...
    Despite legislation that claims to prohibit it, there is a thriving market for babies spreading across the globe. Fueled by rapid advances in reproductive medicine and the desperate desires of millions of would-be parents, the acquisition of children—whether through donated eggs, rented wombs, or cross-border adoption—has become a multibillion dollar industry that has left science, law, ethics, and commerce deeply at odds. In The Baby Business, Debora Spar argues that it is time to acknowledge the commercial truth about reproduction and to establish a standard that governs its transactions. In this fascinating behind-the-scenes account, she combines pioneering research and interviews with the industry’s top reproductive scientists and trailblazers to provide a first glimpse at how the industry works: who the baby-makers are, who makes money, how prices are set, and what defines the clientele. Fascinating stories illustrate the inner workings of market segments--including stem cell research, surrogacy, egg swapping, “designer babies,” adoption, and human cloning--as Spar explores the moral and legal challenges that industry players must address. The first purely commercial look at an industry that deals in humanity’s most intimate issues, this book challenges us to consider the financial promise and ethical perils we’ll face as the baby business moves inevitably forward.

    Managing International Trade and Investment

    Managing International Trade and Investment
    Casebook

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