Yesterday, during an interview, Matt Lauer asked GM CEO, Mary Barra, if she thought she could both run the company and be a good mom at the same time. I’m paraphrasing a bit – the exact question was: “Your kids said they’re going to hold you accountable for one job, and that is being a mom…Given the pressures of this job at General Motors, can you do both well?”
Barra’s response was: “I think I can. I have a great team…and also I have a wonderful family, a supportive husband, and I’m pretty proud of my kids the way they’re supporting me in this.”
Rightfully so, the Internet community did not take kindly to Lauer’s questioning of Barra’s capabilities as a female CEO and called him out for not questioning male executives on whether they could run companies and be good fathers at the same time.
This line of thinking and the double standard that exists in our society happens all the time. As a woman with her own business, when I attend business events, one of the first questions I get asked – and by women, most of the time – is: “So, who’s watching the kids?” It can be the middle of the day at noon or 7 pm at night. I always wonder why these people are not assuming the obvious – after all, with social media being the business I’m in, it’s known that I’m married.
For fun, let’s consider each scenario and think about it – just who IS watching my kids?
12 pm noon – At this time of day, depending on the age, it’s likely that my children are either at a) school, b) preschool or daycare, or c) with a babysitter/nanny. But, also, would it be so farfetched to think that perhaps their father decided to take time off from his full-time job (if you happen to know that is his work situation) to spend time with his children while I attend a work function?
7 pm – Given that it’s an evening event, why would your first thought NOT be to assume that my children are at home with their father? Of course, it’s possible he may work evenings – there are many men who work nights – but, there’s a good chance you already know me on some level, so you know a bit about our home and family life.
The bottom line, really, is that it’s not anyone’s business. Why do people feel the need to ask who is watching my kids? Are they asking my husband the same question when he attends events? Do they think I’m an irresponsible mother that failed to adequately arrange childcare for my children? Are they curious to know if my husband is an involved father? What is the reason behind the question?
Why do we have to continually ask female executives such as Mary Barra about their role as mothers? Conversely, why don’t we ask male executives more often about their role as fathers and their struggles to balance fatherhood with the demands of their careers? If work-life balance (really it’s more of just life balance at this point, isn’t it?) is to become an issue that society can fully support and make improvements toward achieving, then let’s involve men in the conversation and stop pretending they don’t wrestle with similar challenges.
Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below. What do you make of Matt Lauer asking GM CEO, Mary Barra, if she could be a good mom and a good CEO at the same time?