boob-shot.jpgHere are the first paragraphs of two different newspaper stories from this week. Try to guess what they have in common:


Sallie L. Krawcheck
, the most prominent woman on Wall Street, was pushed out at Citigroup on Monday after months of friction with its chief executive, Vikram S. Pandit. New York Times.

The DuPont Co. tapped Ellen J. Kullman as its next chief executive Tuesday, giving the company its first woman at the top spot in its 206-year history and a new leader to push forward an institution reshaped under Charles O. Holliday Jr. Wilmington News Journal.

In both these cases the reporters felt compelled to mention that the executives making news in these stories were women.

The most prominent woman to get dumped by Wall Street.

The first woman CEO at a stodgy chemical company.

Do we need to have this information in the lead of every news story involving female leaders? It’s almost like, “Wow, a woman made it to this level. Wow.”

I was having lunch with a business reporter I know and she’s sick of the media focusing on the gender of leaders … well, when it’s a woman. “Next they’ll be asking her if she has kids,” she laments. “They don’t ask that of male CEOs.”

It got me thinking whether or not it is indeed time to focus on a female leader’s qualifications first and her gender second, if at all.

Saying someone was the first female CEO was a big deal years ago. But today, even though women only make up a small percentage of the corner office jobs, should we still be beating the she’s-the-first-woman horse?

Maybe it’s women and men of a certain age that keep making a big thing about gender.

Interestingly enough, my 21 year old intern Katherine, who writes the Real Career News section to the right of this post, didn’t even mention in her brief about the DuPont executive change the fact that Kullman was a woman.

I asked Katherine why she didn’t include a reference to Kullman’s gender and she said: “I guess I didn’t realize that she was the first woman to take over a chemical giant. I assumed there would have been at least one woman before her to make it that far. I seriously can’t believe she is the first. what are we women, chop liver.”

One expert believes we should be pointing out women in leadership as often as we can.

Nell Merlino, president of Count Me In, a non profit that helps women entrepreneurs, just told me, “I see what you’re saying but identifying them as women isn’t a bad thing. Given how few women leaders there are it’s helpful for us to know that they are women and also to see their images.”

The other day, she says, she was reading about how nearly 50 percent of Rwanda’s parliament is now female. That’s something women need to know, she stresses.

“The more women know our ranks are growing in leadership the better,” she adds.

I could see what’s she’s saying, but when will this end?

“When women are 50 percent of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies, 50 percent of Congress. When it’s 50/50,” she explains.

Man, that’s a long time away I fear.

So, what’s your take? Should women leaders be simply known as leaders, or should we keep pointing out that they are female CEOs, or female Senators, or female Principals, etc.?

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