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“Money and love are intertwined”: Former professor and student co-write book on making life’s biggest decisions

On February 9th, the Clayman Institute for Gender Research and the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) welcomed Myra Strober and Abby Davisson to a celebration for their new book, Money and Love: An Intelligent Roadmap for Life’s Biggest Decisions. The authors recently workshopped some of their ideas for the book in the Clayman Institute’s Gender and the Pandemic Discussion Group. Strober is a labor economist and professor emerita in the Stanford Graduate School of Education and the GSB (by courtesy), and in 1974 was the founding director of the Center for Research on Women (now the Clayman Institute). Davisson, a career development expert and social innovation leader, is a graduate of the GSB who––alongside her future husband––attended Strober’s “Work and Family” course in 2008. At the celebration, Strober and Davisson explained how, over lunch on a beautiful August day in Menlo Park, they decided to work together and adapt that course into Money and Love.

“From the start, we were pretty clear about what our main thesis was,” Strober explained. “Namely, that money and love are intertwined.” Indeed, this was an organizing premise to the course she first began teaching in 1972, originally titled “Women and Work.” Addressed to the lessons seldom taught in business school classrooms, and so inevitably learned the hard way, the course provided the necessary tools to negotiate the personal and the professional in charting the course of their future lives. The process of planning a career is very often informed or interrupted by the process of planning a family, for instance. “And so,” as Davisson explained, “you get very quickly from a decision that seems financially related, about your career, to questions of love and sharing and lots of things that no one teaches you about in school.”

Strober’s course was celebrated among Stanford students, as illustrated by Davisson’s commitment to see it converted to print. Suchi Srinivasan, a student from the class of 2012 and a current managing partner at Boston Consulting Group, offered a personal endorsement in remarks delivered at the start of the event. “A lot of business school education, in my experience, was about the what of business,” Srinivasan shared with the gathered students, professors, and alumni. “But what you don’t learn is, ‘how do you just stick it through?’…When I started at BCG, 50 percent of my starting class was female. But I made partner three years ago: 15 percent of the partnership is female. And the delta, in that 50 to 15, was Myra’s class.”

The way you approach a decision and the outcome are actually separate. So one of the reasons that we developed a framework is to give people the opportunity to slow down in the middle of making a decision, but also a way to approach the decision in a way that you will feel more confident.

The key contribution of this book, Strober and Davisson clarified, is a framework for how to make decisions, rather than instructions on what decisions to make. “As we were mentioning, no one teaches you how to make these decisions,” Davisson elaborates, “and so we bumble through and think that if a decision turns out positively, you made a good decision…But the truth is, the way you approach a decision and the outcome are actually separate. So one of the reasons that we developed a framework is to give people the opportunity to slow down in the middle of making a decision, but also a way to approach the decision in a way that you will feel more confident.”

“My dad always used to say, ‘Do your best: angels can’t do better,’ and I kinda like that,” Strober added. “So if you just take the time to go through the five steps, you can feel that you’ve done your best here.”

The five steps outlined in Money and Love can help readers make choices for situations in which we are often unprepared. This could apply to working mothers in a structurally unequal labor market: Strober observes, for instance, that women with full-time jobs today spend as much time on childrearing as full-time mothers spent in 1970, a fact that speaks to the strain upon working mothers’ decision-making. But the guidance also applies to other decisions, like when to retire.  Strober explained: “Most financial planners, when you talk to them, don’t really help you to understand the process of retirement. It’s not just about whether you have enough money to retire. It’s also about what you are going to DO when you’re retired. I had one colleague who told me that she would not let her husband retire until he had a plan because she thought his unstated plan was that she would entertain him 24/7.”

The book also encourages readers to use their choices to be agents of social change, to improve the choices available for younger generations. Reading a passage from Money and Love, Strober and Davisson describe “the marriage market” they each faced as young women, in the 1950s and the 1990s, respectively. Factors like the availability of birth control, no-fault divorce, social support for women’s education, and the expected timeline for finding a marriage match all illustrate significant differences in the types of choices available at these different points in recent history. Those social changes were the result of the actions that people took—like working for divorce reform and inventing the birth control pill. The guidance in Love and Money is incomplete, then, if the reader does not consider how their decisions now can play an important role in the choices others will get to make later.

Strober and Davisson will be travelling to promote Money and Love, with stops in London, Paris, New York, and then again in Stanford for the alumni reunion in May. Employers interested in booking them for speaking engagements can also reach out to bring the co-authors in for a workplace discussion of Money and Love, in conjunction with a book buy.

A “Share the Love” fund has been established for those interested to send copies of Money and Love to people they wish to see succeed in life. To fill out a form and gift a book to a friend or loved one, visit