The Root: Why Don’t All Women Think They Can Lead?

Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 5.06.36 PM“Can a woman really make a good leader?”

I rolled my eyes dramatically and looked out at the Brooklyn, N.Y., skyline. I’d been invited to a rooftop event, a monthly brunch when a group of mostly accomplished women, with degrees and jobs and probably a side hustle or two, gather to network.

Usually I prefer brunches where attendees are left to their own devices to sip champers and talk among ourselves about whatever strikes our fancy. But this particular hostess organizes the conversation, an icebreaker of sorts to make sure we’re all engaged. This isn’t a bad idea. I just wished that the topic she’d picked was something juicy that would spark some quality debate. Usually we discuss dating and relationships, but this day she was branching out.

Back in March, the New York Times posed a similar question as the topic for its popular “Room for Debate” series. Across the Internet, women collectively were offended that the question even was being asked in 2013. There have been several studies by the Harvard Business Review suggesting that not only are women fit to lead but they also make better leaders, a conclusion reached by men and women alike.

It’s a foregone conclusion with a resounding yes — yes! A woman can lead. Asking about women’s capability as if it is somehow up for debate is like seriously asking, “Do you think water is wet enough?” The flak over the Times’ question was so bad that the publication ran a follow-up storyon all the negative feedback.

So there I sat, surrounded by women, gazing blankly at the Barclays Center in the distance and wondering what woman in her right mind was going to say, “No, no — I, woman, think a woman would make an unfit leader simply because she is a woman.”

And then the woman sitting next to me spoke up. “Well, it depends,” she began, instead of giving the “Uh, duh” I expected to hear.

“Women are more emotional, and we have PMS and that affects our thinking,” she said. “I would only support a woman leader if her No. 2 was a man who could check to make sure she was being logical and giving a rational opinion.”

I like to think of myself as quick-witted, but on this day, I was uncharacteristically slow. I’m used to hearing this sort of opinion from some men, mostly unintentional misogynists or those well-meaning men who are clueless (or in denial) about male privilege and would like to pretend that their perks are God’s will instead of a social construction. But I didn’t expect a woman — not in 2013 — to think she couldn’t do anything a man can do.

I was raised by a mother who might shy away from calling herself a feminist because of the bra-burning, man-hating (both incorrect) associations. But she told me until I internalized it, “You can do anything a boy can do” (and anything I set my mind to).


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This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. CutieDannie says:

    I completely agree with this article. The woman who commented about the PMS….well that was just a stupid comment. I don’t know who taught her that or why that’s even in her hand. A man and a woman and both lead in a relationship and be perfectly fine with each other. You don’t have to have a man beside you to “make sure she’s being logical” etc…yeah he can be beside you to support you but her comment altogether was just everywhere. Everyone was created equal.

  2. Some of the most misogynist comments I’ve ever heard come from women…it always baffles me because how do collectively battle this type of thinking when we not only believe them as well, but walk around spewing out that type of ignorance.

  3. Tierra says:

    Women can lead and do!!! Loving that you stood up for that and great article. Looking forward to seeing more of you on the show 😉

  4. Bukky says:

    I don’t know how you sat there and listened to such opinions by unintelligent women.It is so sad that in 2013, women still feed into the idea that they are the weaker sex. It is appalling when men try to put us down, but it is extremely shocking and sad to see women help build these oppressive social norms! Those women at the brunch set us back by at least 5 decades!

  5. yarakir says:

    I do believe that a woman can do anything a man can do, but unless you have not read the Bible, you are ignorant to believe that it was not God’s intention to have a man lead the home or lead a woman. I don’t believe it was God’s intention to have a woman be a man’s slave, but he does say that a man is the head of the household. You seem well read and unless you aren’t a christian and do not believe in the word of God, a man is supposed to lead between a woman and a man.

    • mstee917 says:

      It is evident to me that there were numerous women that fought over 150 years for our rights to be equal among the men of power in our community and in our government. The church only provides another arena of political struggle because the dual image of the husband as head of the family and the pastor as head of the congregation, reinforces the political justification for women’s exclusion from the political realm. Maybe you should take a look at this: What the Bible says about Women Leaders

    • Bukky says:

      The bible was written eons ago in a patriarchal culture. At this day and age, any normal thinking human being should be able to differentiate absurd from reasonable .The bible was mainly based on the Jewish culture, which like most societies, subjugates women. This same bible states that if a woman who is not engaged is raped, the rapist has to pay her father and marry her. So tell me, do you subscribe to this senseless law? Should we marry off rape victims to rapists because the bible says so?

  6. Yellowrose says:

    I have a son and daughter. My son is 17 and my daughter is 7 and I tell my daughter everyday that “You can do anything a boy can do” plus you can do it better if you put your mind to it. I refuse to allow her to grow up allowing other people to put limits on her just because she is a girl. At 7 she will tell you quickly, CAN’T isn’t in her vocabulary.

  7. Donni says:

    Watching that episode, you thought YOU were trippin.. watching a table of professional women profess how women weren’t able to run businesses?? It was pretty ridiculous. I can’t. I’m just glad you maintained your stance, and for everyone to be stank about you writing about it? It was a public lunch with a microphone being passed around. Get the hell out of here. You didn’t name any names, therefore, unless they out themselves on their simple opinions, no one else is the wiser. Unless you’re on a reality show. LOL

    Keep up the great work. Represent!

    • bombshell says:

      I thought the same but she didn’t name names! They took it so personal and maybe the truth offends! Their notions on the topic were archaic and they felt badly for saying so!

  8. frenchie86 says:

    For any woman that does not believe a woman can lead, has just made themselves below a man. And for anyone referring to the bible…the bible also says that when a man finds a wife, he finds a good thing…and they are ONE meaning EQUAL. That’s not saying that a man needs a woman or a woman needs a man to have a successful life or career, or that they cannot lead. Mary Magdalene (who really wasn’t a prostitute), Ruth, Ester, are other great examples of leaders in the word. I mean, seriously after having Oprah in this lifetime, you say women cant lead? And I only say Oprah because that’s a universal name that everyone knows. Not only in history, but BLACK HISTORY. Many extraordinary examples of leaders who had PMS , husbands, and kids. Did that stop them from serving their purpose and taking action? UH NO!

  9. happyinlb says:

    Good afternoon from Cali Belle.

    I must say I was a little confused by the comments tossed around at the bunch you attending concerning this topic. Men and Women EQUALLY bring something to every facet of life. None is better than the other.

    I guess the women you were brunching with forgot about Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minsiter of Great Britian (many other women in history I just sited Mrs. Thatcher) lead one the if not the most powerful European countries sucessfully. Her “emotional” side or “PMS” ever stopped her from running with the boys. On a more “common” level (for lack of a better word) what about women CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies to you everyday single/divorced mother leading effectively. Hell my PMS and emotions do not get in the way of my handling the business of business…

  10. Natalia says:

    Has this entry been edited since the show aired? I can’t see what the big ass deal was.

  11. eoabr3zh says:

    I have to say I haven’t read much of your stuff but I just watched episode 1 of Blood Sweat and Heels and THANK YOU THANK YOU for representing the reasonable ladies out there! I love, so much, how you didn’t cave and agree with any of the crazy things all of those women were saying at brunch. The way those women talk make almost made me ashamed to be a woman, but you rescued me from thinking that way because you’re smart and reasonable and hilarious. THANK YOU for representing REASONABLE LADIES! You are awesome!

  12. […] recent chit chat that led to a debate on whether or not women can lead, a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology just found there is no difference in […]

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