Women are really important right now. Women are everywhere. Women are mothers running a household, and now they are CEO’s running a corporation. It’s difficult to avoid women. Women have even become trending topics! Women, women, women. Inescapable. The “fairer” gender, all of a sudden, is having its moment in the sun!
The popularity of women created an exploitable interest group now. Suddenly, as if we hadn’t existed before, suffragettes hadn’t worked tirelessly for voting rights, feminism was just a fad from lesbians upset with their bras, women – much like the fashion wheel – are a thing again. Tassels, fringe, leather, and lace.
But we women are in now, and people are going to talk.
I read through all the pieces, from The Atlantic’s seeming obsession with this topic and Indra Nooyi’s candid interview to the Matt Lauer-Mary Barra much contested interview. Then I red the “write-terpretations” of each (my new term for articles that write a new interpretation of a seemingly straightforward statement.) So many points of views, and each, increasingly more entrenched in the ideology that women could (should they set expectations accordingly) have almost all (and always at the cost of the family.) Basically, each ended with what could easily be put into an imagery of “think of the children” montage. The other response: what if women don’t want the family? It’s our choice. Another: It is insulting to our intelligence and derailing the conversation, you wouldn’t ask men that question! Or yet another: Why even ask that question?
I read everything. I devoured it like I was going to be tested on some right or wrong metrics developed by the Core program. It made me sick – then, I had my Oprah-like “aha” moment, although I don’t know if she would have liked my epiphany. “HAVING IT ALL” IS NOT A GENDER ISSUE! It should have never been. It is simply because now women are surpassing men in college graduations and entering the workforce to compete at a slightly more leveled playing field. (Sometimes, this part of my brain that still operates on guilt, somehow convinces me that we gave them patriarchy as a head start for their shortcomings – now as we bridge that gap some un-evolved binary gender adherent men are scared. Is that PC enough?)
As for the issue at hand – having it all. A more pressing and interesting question is why women entertain the question. Having everything in life is impossible. That’s not a gender dynamic; it’s cold, hard, calculating economics. Microeconomics, to be exact, and it is opportunity costs. Is occurs independently of what or who you are. In its simplest form, opportunity cost is “the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.” We must choose. There is a finite amount of time in this life as we live it; therefore, when faced with options we must forgo some to fulfill others. We prioritize. It’s why those “Sliding Door” fantasies occur; it’s why some people never act (but that is a choice in itself.) If presented with two things: career advancement or family, we must make a choice. Until recently (and still very much in the forefront) women’s answer should always be family. Well, of course, we could have a side job to get us out of the house and make us feel useful, but family always first. Then came a breed of women, unafraid to bitch their way to the top. (Because, men are aggressive. Women are bitches man-eaters. Fact.) The truth is, taking opportunity cost into effect, these women prioritized career. They chose like men. Because the male definition of success equates to acquiring a family without the need to maintain it, or even be present in its development.
Now that women (however few) have reached the same executive positions and success as men, the definition of success morphed. Success is being perfect at everything! Success is getting the promotion at work, completing all your Pinterest board dream DIY décor ideas, and never missing a parent/teacher conference.
Think of the Care.com commercials. Have you seen them? The “Multiplicity” ad presents, in a 30-second time frame, the definition of female success. Somehow, when the estrogen ingredient is added to success it equals to overwhelming.
Under any definition Indra Nooyi is successful. She has been married for 34 years, has 2 daughters, and is the CEO of a multinational corporation. She also happens to be a woman, and Indian. 3 things she’s worked for, 2 things that happened to her. When she asserts that women can’t have it all, and it is quoted over and over again as a banner from patriarchy calling out to all women letting us know we will never achieve our dreams of 100%, I can’t help but frown – if I had a large apple tree I would go and sit underneath it to sulk.
The “having it all” dilemma raises more questions than providing a guideline for how to live life. I won’t be Ms. Nooyi or Ms. Barra, but I have a right to use them as inspiration without an asterisk. Without a “but.” They should be controversial without questioning if they’re happy with their life choices. Men can look at, and idolize, Jack Welch and Steve Jobs, without even the slightest concern for their personal life. And I think that’s the end point of the argument. Having it all is not a professional question. It is absolutely personal, and to a certain extent it pries into the individual’s life in a stealthy way. It doesn’t come right out and ask “tell us everything about you,” but in a shorthand way requests personal information from the individual. Women are expected to answer how they handle it all at a higher rate than men. Women can’t just be powerful on their own; it must come at a cost. Somehow. Why? Are women setting the standard by even entertaining this question, or are we just more vocal?
Women are flawed, just like men. To reach those levels of success, there is more in common between two CEO’s independently from gender than between Mary Barra and myself as women. Don’t ask women can they have it all, we can’t. But then again, no one, not ever, will have it all.
I’m exhausted, life is hard enough. We’re damned if we do, we’re damned if we don’t. I’m going to go watch reality TV.
Questions I would prefer we ask these high-ranking women (and all other high-ranking officials):
- Would you reconsider bringing back Pepsi Clear?
- Before Pepsi, did you ever think you were a Coke person?
- Why does PepsiCo continue to obstruct California legislation on GMO labeling?
- What has GM done since the ASOTRECOL hunger strike in 2012-2013 regarding labor conditions in its plants in Colombia?
- How does GM counter the EPA claims of exacerbating pollution and the lawsuit brought forth by the US Department of Justice?
- What does your company do in order to ensure compliance with local laws of operations in your international locations?
- Does your company invest in its multinational locations? What does it do for the local community that will have positive long-term effects?
*Full disclosure, I read “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg and laughed at 50% of it. I agree men should share in household duties and as women we should be looking for partners instead of providers. Everything else, well, let’s chuck some of it up to lucky star alignments.
**And let’s get real, now that Kim Kardashian weighed-in in the matter, well, how can I counter? I’m just a nobody. Women can have it all! Vapid, dead-eye Instagram posts included!