Claire Shipman's Obamacare Moment

She and co-author Katty Kay joke about their new book's sluggish website.

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Being married to White House press secretary Jay Carney, journalist and author Claire Shipman knows plenty about the messy Obamacare rollout – which means it’s a great subject for a joke.

“Can we just say here today, it was a bit of an Obamacare situation,” Shipman told a crowd that included Carney at her book party Monday night. She was talking about the rollout of theconfidencecode.com, which was launched in conjunction with the new book she co-wrote with BBC World News America’s Katty Kay. “The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know” was also turned into an Atlantic cover story. All three of these things were celebrated at a Washington, D.C., fete.

The Atlantic's May issue and "The Confidence Code" by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman.
The Atlantic's May issue and "The Confidence Code" by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman.

The very buzzed-about book and article argue that women need to close the “confidence gap.” Put in Washington terms, “A man will look in the mirror and see a senator, a woman would never be so presumptuous,” Kay said as an example.

The website allows users to test their confidence, though ironically, the writing partners weren’t confident the site would be a hit, at least not right away. “We kind of thought only 200 or 300 people might take it,” Kay said of the confidence quiz. At last glance, the number was beyond 24K. And making it an oh-so-Washington tale, it was when the pair appeared on WAMU and NPR’s “The Diane Rehm Show” that the site really began acting like an “800-pound gorilla sitting on a Chihuahua,” Shipman explained.

“We have more sympathy for the White House,” Kay told Whispers.

The research had Shipman feeling pretty good about Washington overall. She made the point that passion often drives a person’s move to D.C., and meeting goal-oriented challenges can enhance women’s confidence. “Women are often driven in the workplace by different values,” Shipman said. “They want to get more out of what they’re doing than simply the next rung on a ladder or title.” In Washington, that's often possible when working in politics or advocacy, she explained.

She pointed to the "PBS NewsHour” team of Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill as examples of confident women in Washington. “What I like about them is they each to me represent a critical component of confidence,” Shipman said, characterizing Woodruff as “dogged” and “charming” and Ifill as “mischievous.”

Kay said she holds International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde in the highest esteem. “We wrestled with the idea of, basically, '[Do] you have to be a jerk to be confident?' And that kind of bravado and the swagger and the talking loudest and longest at meetings and the dominating any situation,” Kay said. “And actually what Lagarde said is that women can’t afford to try and be like men. It’s not who we are, it doesn’t really work and it kind of defeats the whole objective.”

Shipman came to the same conclusion: “We are all Christine Lagarde groupies,” she said.