On Matt Lauer Asking GM CEO if She Can Do Job Well AND Be a Good Mom & The Double Standard of Women in Business

by Melanie Edwards on June 27, 2014 · 2 comments

in Wahm, Working Mothers

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?

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1 Jai June 27, 2014 at 2:01 pm

You made some very good points here. If the new CEO was a man, that question would have been deemed ridiculous to even ask. Yet because she’s a woman, and a mother, that question just HAD to be asked. But obviously she (and other mothers who are moving up in their careers) have an amazing support system at home. I mean come on, we don’t expect women to do it all anymore either. I shared an article I saw on FB on how fathers are just as involved as mothers. The old thinking of “dad is responsible for going to work and mom is responsible for taking care of the kids” are long gone. My response to that question would have been “Well Matt, thankfully I have a husband who is great with life balance as well and is very involved with our kids” as THAT has become more of the norm which is why we women have been able to do big things like become CEOs of companies like GM.

2 Lisa @ Atypical Familia July 7, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Excellent article!! It isn’t fair that in 2014 – women are still being asked if they can manage both. The woman is a CEO – even if she were a single mother, she can easily afford childcare, have a flexible work arrangement and so on. And it’s infuriating that Lauer posed this question to a female CEO because it would never have been a thought if the new CEO was a male.

BUT as a WOHM I am guilty of sometimes asking other moms “who’s staying with the kids” when I see them at evening events. And I only ask because – even though I am married and my husband is very supportive – childcare is still a challenge. So I’m always curious as to what other women’s options are – it’s not a judgement.

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