This morning I will be talking to a group of women about how I got where I am today. In thinking about that topic (usually I talk about strategic planning, or small business management) and how I was going to create a 30 minute talk that was engaging and not just all about me, I got to thinking about the hurdles and challenges that I have faced as a woman in my career. Most of my challenges have been in ignoring preconceived notions, and not getting upset when someone has one about me. The more I thought about challenges the more I realized that they can be boiled down to 5 myths about working women. Clearly these are not THE 5 myths, but ones I and many other women have faced:
1. Women belong barefoot and pregnant:
About 4 years ago I was featured in an article on USA about working moms and their choices vs. stay at home moms and their choices. I was happy to be in the article and share my story as a working mom. The article was in the actual paper, as well as the online version of the story. By 10am the morning it was published there were over 500 comments. Most of them initially very critical of me, and the fact that I had “abandoned” my children while I went to work. The viciousness of the comments, and the clearly low opinion these people held of working women was shocking. Let me give you a direct quote from a comment:
How can you be a CEO and a Mom at the same time? My experience with mothers, especially new ones, is that they never stop talking about their kids. So one can conclude that a “Mommy Ceo” sits around at work and talks about kids all day. Also women are inherently emotional and good businesses are not run on emotions, bad ones are. Personally I’m not going to listen to a CEO or respect one that is nursing a child. Women belong in the home, not playing CEO. Its not play time this is the real world, stop making business decisions and start making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for your kids.
Hopefully as you read that comment your jaw drops, because it is amazing that anyone in 2007 would have even dared type that. But of course this is why women still feel the battle towards equality has not ended. But at the end of the day, I am a CEO and I am a mommy. So I have staunchly tromped all over this comment, as many, many other women leaders have before me, with me, and will in the future. Idiots will always exist, but we know that this myth has been soundly debunked. How cool was it to hear that Virgina Rometty was appointed the CEO of IBM starting January 2012?