Powerful women are often berated for their tough personalities. They’re seen as being malicious when it comes to the behavior that got them to the top.
Few people, and journalists especially, question a powerful man’s toughness. They are just supposed to be tough. No maliciousness here, just macho toughness.
When’s the last time a journalist questioned Dick Cheney about his mean-spiritedness behavior? They talk about a man with extreme convictions.
What about someone like Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle. He’s known as a hard-ass, ultra-competitive executive. But when’s the last time anyone asked this tech visionary about his personality and how people perceive him?
It’s always open season on strong women.
Example, last night Morley Safer interviewed fashion titan and editor of Vogue magazine Anna Wintour.
Even though she is one of the most powerful people in the fashion world, you quickly realize that Safer is heading right for the word “bitch” before he barely begins the interview.
This is how he begins:
She is said to be the most powerful woman in fashion and she does nothing to dispel that belief. Her name is Anna Wintour, a name that strikes terror in some, loathing in others, and transforms yet others into obsequious toadies.
Clearly 60 Minutes interest in Wintour had more to do with the book and movie she was supposedly the inspiration for “The Devil Wears Prada,” than her career.
Without any real people telling Safer she’s a bitch he relies on the fictitious editor in the book for his journalistic research:
“I’ve heard that Miranda Priestly is just a teddy bear compared to Anna Wintour,” Safer said.
“It was entertainment. It was not a true rendition of what happens within this magazine,” she replied.
“I understand that. But where people made comparisons with you - that coldness, that Anna must not be spoken to when she’s on the elevator,” Safer pointed out.
“Oh yeah. I heard that. You’re not allowed to get in the elevator with me,” Wintour said laughing.
“Well, you can get on, but just keep your mouth shut. Is that true?” Safer asked, laughing.
“That’s an exaggeration. I guess in response, I can only say that. I have so many people here, Morley, that have worked with me for 15, 20 years, and, you know, if I’m such a bitch, they must they must really be a glutton for punishment because they’re still here,” Wintour said.
“Well, I wouldn’t use the word ‘bitch.’ I would say a certain coldness,” Safer remarked.
“Well, we’re here to work. There’s on duty time and off duty time and we’re drawn together by our passion for the magazine. If one comes across sometimes as being cold or brusque, it’s simply because I’m striving for the best,” she explained.
It makes me a bit sick that successful women are still not accepted, by both men and women. Here, in an interview on a revered and great news show, a strong woman is being dissected because she’s a strong woman.
She is driven and that makes people uncomfortable. She learned a lesson about leadership early on from her father that has propelled her career, but also made her a “bitch” target:
“People respond well to someone who’s sure of what they want.”
Alas, some are threatened when a woman displays such behavior.
Sadly, Safer fell into every black hole of interviewing a female leader. He introduced her as a divorced mother of two. There are many CEOs and top editors that are divorced fathers, but that’s not how they’re described during a prime time interview, definitely not in the first few seconds of the interview.
I point all this out because we have to realize how far we still have to go when it comes to accepting women as our leaders.
What do you all think? Will we ever retire the “B” word?