The Motherhood Debate Trap

November 1, 2010I’m a mother, but being a mom doesn’t mean I have some magical skills non-mothers lack. Yet the “motherhood debate” rages on—especially during the election cycle.

“I think my experience is one of the things that sets me apart as a candidate for Governor. First of all, being a mother, having children, raising a family,” Mary Fallin said recently, who is running against Jari Askins for Oklahoma governor. Askins, who does not have children, responded: “You know, in Oklahoma, all of our governors have been men. So none of them have been mothers. I think most of them have done a pretty good job—so I don't think that’s a criteria.”

Are male candidates discussing their fatherhood status? Nope. For men, it’s a non-issue. Yet women are held to a different standard in both politics and business. As this cartoon illustrates, we just can’t win.

Our research shows that when women act in ways that are consistent with gender stereotypes, they are viewed as less competent leaders. And when women act in ways that are inconsistent with such stereotypes, they are considered unfeminine. I call this the Goldilocks syndrome: “Too tough, too soft, but never just right.”

The reality is, no one experience or characteristic defines us or gives us the edge. And no gender has a corner on anything. Women aspire to success just as much as men do, and define it similarly.

Following a report on the so-called “motherhood debate” in Oklahoma, Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts asked viewers: “Where do you stand on this debate—should it even be a debate?”

It shouldn’t. Don’t fall into the motherhood debate trap.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect those of Catalyst. Catalyst does not endorse any political candidates. The post and the comments are presented only for the purpose of informing the public.