Friday, 19 February 2016

'Mr Joe Blog , Father of Three, Joins XYZ Ltd as Chair..'

Did you read this title?

I bet you could not believe your eyes.. AND you were correct, because of course, this title is only
fictitious and I bet you will never happen to read it in the press.

However, as I was going through the headlines earlier this morning I did see a similar title with reference to Jean Case, Elected Chairman (what's wrong with Chairwoman?) of National Geographic Society Board of Trustees.  Then I checked the National Geographic Society website and found no reference in the press release announcing the appointment to however many children Jean Case may be blessed with.

So why did the journalist who wrote the article I read feel compelled to make reference to it?

Initially I felt really upset. Am I therefore less of a woman or less valuable to a business because I only have two children, rather than the five making up Ms Case's family? What about the many friends and women who have none? And how decisive a factor was it in selecting Ms Case as Chair of a prestigious board? If at all, I am done with, no chance for me ever!

Anyway, after this initial anxiety I decided to focus on engaging with more positive emotions.
Maybe, I thought to my self, what the journalist wanted us readers to focus on was the fact that even though she has five children, this did not stop her from having it all, including arctic adventures and mountain gorillas treks. Maybe it was a positive message after all, an inspirational and aspirational one:

'All you women out there, listen to the great news: you can have 5 children and be the Chair of a prestigious organisation.'

But somehow, the joy was only momentarily lived. 

Ms Case is a tremendous lady and a wonderful role model under so many respects and I can only rejoice at the fact that she has been elected - the first ever female Chair . What an achievement!
But pointing out the number of her children together with the beyond-my-means trips she takes to those of us who perhaps - whether with two, five or none - have yet to achieve such amazing feat, will it actually encourage the female community or make us feel even more imperfect?

The fact is, it takes an exceptional human being to achieve what Ms Case has been capable of and that independently from the number of children and indeed your gender. She has undoubtedly worked hard, she is a leader, she has gained amazing professional experience and that is what mattered in the decision to appoint her.

I remain to be convinced that pointing out the number of children is anything short of a bias, because all the factual evidence I have points towards the fact that had Ms Case been Mr Case, no article would have ever made reference to the appointed Chair number of family members.

Similarly - although not in the context of the article mentioned above - I doubt that any journalists would have headlined their article about one up-and-coming, on line, male entrepreneur who possibly shares their family duty of child care with their wife as a dad-preneur. But search the word mom-preneur and watch thousands of articles appear before your eyes.

So here you have it. I will cheer Ms Case appointment, but if all the press bothers to highlight is the number of children she gave birth to, I think the opportunity to impact and inspire many more women will be at best diluted, at worse totally missed.  

Alessandra is an experienced mentor, business coach, consultant and strategist. She supports individuals - especially women - and organisations in achieving their potential through customised, outcome driven interventions . You can find out more about Alessandra here and contact her by email here.


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