One more chip in the glass ceiling: That’s why women are supposed to be pleased to hear that General Motors has made a woman, Mary Barra, their new CEO.
American women who are working, raising kids, and prepping for Christmas can be forgiven, however, for not managing to celebrate this latest report of a woman taking another top job at a major U.S. corporation. It’s wonderful, of course, for women to have such opportunities, but the much better news is that female business leaders really aren’t that uncommon anymore. Certainly, most Fortune 500 companies are run by men, but it is hardly a novelty for a woman to rise to the top.
Women also have much more at stake in how these leaders actually perform, rather than the gender makeup of their boards and executive suites. Unemployment and under-employment still plague our economy, and it is no comfort to women whose husbands are out of work and adult sons are living in their basements that women’s unemployment rate is slightly lower than men’s. Women, like men, want companies to succeed so that they can grow, offer more good jobs, and give value to customers.
However, the media and academics remain fixated on men and women reaching numerical parity. That’s why the New York Times seems compelled to write every few months on the dearth of women in science and tech classes. Some of their criticisms certainly ring true: our education system needs improvement, failing too many boys and girls alike. The private mentoring programs for women in science, technical, and engineering classes that they highlight undoubtedly do good work in encouraging young women to explore those fields.
Yet does anyone seriously still believe that women at American universities are being discouraged from entering these disciplines? That the liberal bastions of academia are really awash in the stereotype that women just aren’t good at math and shouldn’t bother with science?
Women’s individual achievements deserve to be celebrated, but we need to move past the idea that the only way the sisterhood really triumphs is if we reach statistically parity with men in every endeavor.
— Carrie Lukas is the managing director of the Independent Women’s Forum.