I’m starting this post, not knowing exactly what I want to say.
Usually when that happens I end up writing forever and never ‘landing the plane,’ so to speak. Somehow, if I don’t map out my train of thought, and organize in my head the bullets I need to cover, I can meander down an interminable road of language without ever stumbling over a point.
But then, maybe this topic doesn’t need a point.
No, I’m not writing about Britney Spears. I’m actually writing about babies. And more specifically OTHER people’s babies. It seems like a whole crop of 2nd babies have hit my industry in a hurry. Most of those having them had their first less than 2 years ago.
While I was “ooooohing” and “aaawwwwwwwing” over their announcements, something struck me.
Every one of my friends who has announced their second child have been men.
Having a baby won’t even be a hiccup in their progress up the corporate ladder or toward the sweet life where money grows on trees and retirement is an eventuality.
The story for most women (emphasize MOST) isn’t as sunny.
How many women do you know who’ve left their company immediately after their leave ends? I’m not talking about the lucky few who can afford to stay home with their children. That luxury just isn’t a reality for most people.
No, I’m talking about the volume of women leaving one job for another and the timing of their departure aligning too closely to their maternity leave end to be coincidence.. Happy employees don’t leave jobs. There is nothing more distasteful than a corporation mistreating or even antagonizing a pregnant employee. (I could write a book about this topic alone but that’s for another time.)
And then, yesterday, I realized how I would finish this post. My twitter stream blew up with commentary on the newly released Forbes Top 100 Powerful Women list.
The controversy? Included on each woman’s profile are her marital status and number of children.
Perhaps it is a testament to the kind of thought-leaders I follow (progressive) and the women I find inspiring (feminists), but without exception the comments were negative, ranging from Rachel Simmon’s (twitter.com/@RachelJSimmons) *Heavy SIGH* to outright outrage.
Mary Elizabeth Williams wrote in her Salon.com article, “if you’re female, you’ll still be ranked, assessed and quantified by your ability to mate and reproduce.” Amy Jussel (a.k.a. twitter.com/@ShapingYouth) replied to me with ” seems off-topic=best & sexist=worst. How many kids does Steve Jobs have? How would they list Jack Welch?”
On this topic, I break the line of solidarity.
It reminds me of the Oscar Wilde quote I have hanging in my hallway, “The Irish have an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustains them through temporary periods of joy.”
Some people just need something to fight against.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely see the disparity between the report on People and the report on Women. But instead of insulting me, it inspires me. I have no more respect for a powerful woman with 5 kids than for a powerful woman with no kids. I do, however, feel totally empowered to know that my ambition to raise genius, charismatic, world leader children AND be a rain-maker for my family’s finances is not an anomoly. Oh and I won’t be alone in doing so.
Have you read Kahlil Gibran? Yeah, yeah – I’m a wannabe hippie sometimes. I discovered The Prophet when I first read this quote:
“And when one of you falls down,
He falls for those behind him — a caution against the stumbling stone.
Aye, and he falls for those ahead of him — who though faster and surer of foot,
Removed not the stumbling stone…”
I think the brouhaha over the inclusion of marital status and children is missing the forest for the trees.
Why don’t they include marital status and number of children for men? Maybe because it is assumed that any successful man has a family behind him. Maybe because men who don’t marry are viewed as high-risk to companies and untrustworthy as politicians. How do you think gay men feel about the dues to the inner circle of the boy’s club? Is it fair? No.
But at the risk of stating the obvious – life isn’t fair.
In a country where 50% of marriages end in divorce, machismo bullsh#t runs counter to successful women outearning their mates, and motherhood starts sometimes decades later than it did 50 years ago, I think having a marriage and a family is significant ESPECIALLY if you’re also curing, saving, leading, or entertaining the WORLD.
The list’s anecdotes are not about the haves and the have-nots; they are simply what is. Listing “single” or “0” by marital status and children, doesn’t detract from their accomplishments. These powerful women aren’t listed in order of how many marriages or children they have. (Isn’t the suggestion that they could be ranked by their ability to mate and reproduce counter to the feminist cause?)
Rather, I see the diversity on the list in nationality, age, industry, skin color, marital and parenthood status as a win for us regular-folk women. Can’t we all find something to relate to? Be inspired by?
What do you think? Did I miss the point or did they?