Will all you women out there without families please stand up.
I’ve got a job for you. Head of Homeland Security. Yes, the head of our nation’s Homeland Security Department.
Turns out, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell thinks women who don’t have families are the best choice for the gig.
Yesterday Rendell, one of the biggest-mouth politicians on the planet, actually said Janet Napolitano, Arizona Governor and Obama’s choice for Homeland Security chief, was a good pick because she didn’t have a family and could devote her whole heart and soul to the job. (Napolitano is not married and has no kids.)
“Janet’s perfect for that job,” Rendell says. “Because for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect. She can devote, literally, 19, 20 hours a day to it.”
Hello, the present security chief, Michael Chertoff, has a wife and kids.
Here’s a video of Rendell’s comments that were highlighted on a CNN show last night:
I bet many of you women out there didn’t realize you should put “Not married. No kids.” at the top of your resumes in order to land those really big, difficult jobs.
OK, enough of my sarcasm.
This type of mentality, unfortunately, is still pervasive in politics and in Corporate America. But I’m not here to whine about it, at least not for too long.
Let’s do a reality check. I have covered the business world for decades now, and often I find myself disheartened at how few women hold the top jobs. Women still make up less than 16 percent of the corporate jobs in the U.S., and that’s down from last year, according to research firm Catalyst.
When I did a profile of a major health insurance company in Philadelphia a while back I was given access to all the top woman at the firm. The reason I decided to write about this particular company for a magazine was because so many women were in the corner offices. One question I asked, and I ask this of men and women in top positions all the time, was if they had children. To my chagrin, the majority of the top level females told me they did not. Some said they had cats but no kids.
That experience left me with this gnawing feeling inside. Was this how it really was. Family and high-level success just don’t mix?
Obviously people with families can do difficult and high profile jobs but the bottom line, and Rendell knows this, is women end up with the nurturer role at home most often, giving them that extra load that many successful men don’t have.
Indeed, even the CIO of the insurance firm I mentioned was becoming the nurturer in her 50s. She was beginning to care for her aging parents. Her brothers, she said, figured she’d be the one to handle that role and she did.
So where am I going with all this?
Turns out, there’s really good news for women with families who aspire to leadership roles.
My intern Katherine and I have been doing some research that proves women with families can also wear the head honcho hat outside of the home.
Every year, the Wall Street Journal does a section called “The 50 Women to Watch” and this year’s list includes the who’s who of business and politics.
I read through the list and my first thought was, “how many of these women actually have families?”
Instead of just wondering I asked Katherine to do a bit of cyber snooping and tell me, among the ten U.S. leaders named in the article, how many were moms?
Seven out of ten did indeed have kids. Yeah! We both rejoiced. And I have to admit, I was even surprised. I would have guessed maybe two out of ten had families.
Why? Because I guess I’ve been a bit brainwashed as well.
At the top of the Journal list was Sheila Bair, chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., who I have written about before in this blog. She is married, the mother of two, and she’s also written children’s books.
Our research did not uncover how difficult it is for these women to balance work and family. But the key is women with families do make great leaders, so much so the Wall Street Journal decided to include them on their watch list.
Take that Ed.
So, what do you all think? Is Ed a male chauvinist pig, or is he just speaking the truth?