“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).