For heaven's sake, how much longer will our media continue to obsess about Marissa Mayer's pregnancy?
In the recent 'war on women,' women demanded, "Get out of our bedrooms!" After all, it's our bodies, our business -- butt out! Paradoxically, in the 'war between women,' reignited as Yahoo's new CEO announced her pregnancy, we've allowed our media to make Mayer's personal life THE headline issue. A rush to judgement on the length of Mayer's maternity leave and, alarmingly, on whether she should have taken the top position at all.
It's a trap! A clever distraction by our male dominated media complex. We're being fed the headlines -- Mayer's pregnancy, jump in and judge! But, we have the choice on complicity in this war between women. Instead, with awareness, we can change our focus to the real issues at hand: why are there so few Marissa Mayer's (just 4% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women)? Why are women's voices missing from our national dialogue?
Why is change imperative? Women's progress is moving backwards. While women have finally caught up to men as college graduates, our leadership representation is declining in numerous fields including business and politics. To understand how gender imbalance in leadership hurts our country, we need look no further than the current headlines: the all-male leadership complicity at Penn State, the stalemate of non-collaborative politicians in DC, and the testosterone driven instability of our financial system.
Why isn't the media using Mayer's appointment as an opportunity to open a national dialogue about gender imbalance and it's dire implications? Perhaps, it's because the upper echelons of our media complex is almost exclusively male. They determine the media messaging we are fed, the lens in which we view it, and the experts who shape ideas. In major publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post, women compose just 15% of quoted experts. Even on women's issues like reproductive rights, only 19% of experts speaking or quoted are women.
Which may explain the media's fascination with Marissa Mayer's pregnancy; yet, their thorough disinterest when a man becomes CEO position while his wife is pregnant. Despite the fact that every one of us who is a parent knows the truth: the first weeks and months are unsettling for BOTH parents for a variety of reasons. Clearly our women leaders face a double standard!
Search 'Marissa Mayer,' and the vast majority of the stories focus on her personal life. Few in the media seem interested in why this 37 year-old is getting a pay package which Yahoo estimates at $20 million, annually and will rank her 24th in the Wall Street Journal's list of CEO compensation. Mayer will be the ONLY woman in the top 50! Money is power.
We should celebrate Mayer's appointment to CEO as a affirmation of what women CAN do. Use it to counter the media's constant messaging exhorting young women: you can't do it! Take for example, Ms. Slaughter recent piece in The Atlantic. After reading the piece, I couldn't help but wonder why Ms. Slaughter didn't go for a beer with her girlfriends to mourn her setback, then take the time to write a thoughtful piece about how to make things better for the next generation of women.
Of course, The Atlantic, infamous for reveling in catfights, would never run such a piece, anyway. Nor would a pro-women piece fit with the messaging promulgated in many media outlets (some may call 'patriarchy'). The media complex seems intent on featuring cautionary tales for our young women about perilous work environments and the untenable work-life balance. No wonder for today's girls, age 8 is the peak age for leadership ambitions.
But the messaging in Slaughter's article and the attacks on Mayer's personal life are based on a false dichotomies. That women have the choice to work or stay home. And that women have the luxury of taking long maternity leaves. These dichotomies are 'hashtag upper middle class problems,' not applicable for the vast majority of women. We must celebrate the choices we individually can and at times, must make.
Even while women are on the defensive in the 'war on women,' we can go on the offensive in the 'war between women.' Here's four easy things you can do right away:
1. Vote with your Clicks!
Subscribe to, click on and watch media outlets where women are widely quoted or are doing the writing. Avoid publications which feature sexist articles or delight in catfight antics.
2. Build your Network!
Make an effort to build connections with other women -- be it in your profession, or a new mom in the school yard. Networks are a power base.
3. Find Common Ground!
My niece, herself a new mother, after observing the battles on the playground recently asked me, "Why are women, women's worst enemies." Is this the legacy we want to leave to our daughters? Think about ways to find common ground with other women. With unity, women will move forward, again.
4. Tell your Daughters about Marissa Mayer!
Tell your daughter about the possibilities. Let her know that she too can become one of tomorrow's leader. In any career field.
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