She works hard for the money; should she think about gender?

This article on "The New Power Girls" by Patricia Handschiegel in yesterday's Huffington Post posits that today's successful businesswomen don't think about gender, and perhaps that is one reason they are successful.

Handschiegel interviews a few successful women in this article about their thoughts on gender in business. All of them say that gender is low on their list of priorities when it comes to their careers, and that they admire men just as much as women when it comes to being successful entrepreneurs (success being defined here, I assume, by the amount of money being earned).

Now on the one hand, this seems like a step forward for women in the corporate business world. Like one woman interviewed says, "Glass ceilings may exist but glass can be shattered and cracked." Certainly that sounds like a feminist statement, but can people who refuse to acknowledge gender dynamics really be called feminist? My guess is that they wouldn't even want to identify as such, and that is where I find this "Power Girl" population to be problematic.

Women have worked very hard to achieve success in male-dominated business settings, and this article oversimplifies that issue by implying that women who acknowledge gender differences in the workplace are frivolous and whiny. Why worry about centuries of discrimination when you can worry about getting the corner office?

I am torn on this issue, because the point can be made also that what feminists have worked so hard for is the right to not have to consider their gender when making career decisions. I guess it just worries me that so many women seem to be taking pride in the fact that gender is not important to them, especially when I think we have a long way to go when it comes to gender equality in the workplace. Women and people of color are still make less money than white men, and even the Huffington Post article admits that business is thought of as "a man's world."

I would like to see successful women identifying as feminists and using their power to promote other women in the workplace, not ignoring gender and seeming to be proud of the fact that it is something they choose not to think about. What do you think? Do you consider gender when making career choices? Do you feel you should have to? And what about this name, "Power Girls"? Doesn't the use of the word "girls" imply gender inequality when we are talking about "a man's world"? Why aren't they "Power Women"? Or if we are to believe that they do not think about gender, "Power People"?

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Comments

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You raise good questions.

You raise good questions. Many successful women seem to accept the rules of business without questioning them. For these women, it's simple - learn to play the game well, and follow the rules. There is no rule that encourages an individual player (either female or male) to question whether the game itself is fair and equitable. There is no advantage to that sort of mental exercise, so what's the point? Worse, rocking the boat is considered to be a big negative. I've known many successful women who cringe when the topic of gender bias is raised. I know, I used to be one of them.

As always, it comes down to Atwood and De Sade.

This made me think of the recent interview with Margaret Atwood where she was asked about Sarah Palin. She pointed out that

    no woman ruler has been successful if she has been an advocate for women at large. Not one, ever. It’s the Thatcher model, which is, “All women should stay home and take care of their babies except me."

This is why I'm always a little frustrated by the top-down approach which seems to have been the mainstream of feminism since the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment in the 70's. People that become world leaders and CEOs do so by that identifying their own interests with those of the powerful who are mostly men, not with the political struggle against women's marginalization. Therefore if high powered women executives are making $3 million to men's $5 million or opting out altogether and having "mommy war" articles written about them, this is still less important than low wages and bad health care for poor or even just middle class women.

If you want a really interesting look at the cut-throat behaviour of the token women I suggest you check out The Sadean Woman by Angela Carter. Who knew that De Sade could be used to predict the actions of creatures like Sarah Palin or Condoleezza Rice.

I HATE it when women are

I HATE it when women are called "girls". It's the equivalent of "sweetheart" or "little lady". Is it possible to be more patronizing?