Not the women who were chosen or, for that matter, why they were chosen. She was pissed because of a chunk of info that was included in each woman’s bio: marital status and whether or not these rockstar women had kids.
But why, as NARAL’s Mary Alice Carr pointed out Wednesday, did Forbes feel the need to include the marital status of and number of children produced by each of its world-shaking women? One might understand that in highlighting the achievements of television host and gay rights advocate Ellen DeGeneres, marriage, and the right to be married, are a huge part of what she stands for. But Danica Patrick? Not so much. Hey, Forbes readers, meet Indra Nooyi! She’s 54, she runs PepsiCo — and she’s married and has two kids. And say hello to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano — and note that she is “single.”
Sexist, sexist, sexist. Right? Williams also took issue with the fact that Forbes never defines men in terms of their personal lives. (Of course, as numerous commenters pointed out, she was slightly off-base: Forbes indeed includes the same info on the world’s wealthiest men, or so we learn from the so-called wisdom of the crowds.)
But who cares. That’s not the point. Or at least not mine. Now, let me just say that I love Mary Elizabeth Williams, and rarely do I disgree with her smart commentary. But here I do. Why? Because for the past 14 years I have taught college women who seem to believe that they have to choose between family or dreams.
You think that impacts their career decisions — or lack of same? Duh.
There is no question that women suffer from what’s been called the maternal wall: penalized and considered less promotable because of family committments. As University of Illinois management professor Jenny Hoobler found, this holds true even when women have no kids — and don’t plan on having any. We interviewed Hoobler for our book, and here’s what she told us:
[Her study showed] “this lingering stereotype that women aren’t as dedicated to their careers because they are or will at some point take the primary responsibility for caregiving in the family. What we found was that even when women did not have did not have children, did not have an elderly parent to care for, didn’t have a sick spouse, their bosses still felt that they had higher conflict between the family and work than their male counterparts did.
“People think that this is something that has gone away. I think there is a misconception when you are talking about workers with kids that male and female parents share equally the responsibilities for the home but many research studies have shown recently that that is not the case. While men are doing a lot more that their fathers did a generation ago, in dual career families, women are bearing the lion’s share of the caring of people in the home. But what our study showed was that even when women DID NOT have those responsibilities, their bosses felt that they still did.”
We also found a study on fathers showing that having a baby enhanced their self-image at work, in terms of reputation, credibility and even career options. Ugh. But that’s another story.
So, hideous, right? Every bit of it. Major inequities. But you have to wonder. How do we change all this garbage, not only for all the young women who think they have to choose between med school or, you know, preschool — but for their bosses as well, who assume they are doing the girls a favor by NOT giving them the challenging assignments that might take them away from home — but ultimately impact their promotability?
How do we allow women the same ability to have a family and career that men have always taken for granted?
I think one way you break down that maternal wall is with role models. The Forbes list may indeed be sexist in defining women in terms of their traditional family relationships — or lack of same. And that stinks. But what that list also does is this: When we’re being held back because of who we are, when it’s assumed we can’t take on a challenging assignment because we have family obligations — as if our male counterparts don’t — it gives us the goods to back up our claim that we can get the job done. Whether or not we’ve got anything going on at home.
You know. Just like the men.