Image from LA Times
I’m a fan of Diane Sawyer — she is smart, seems to treat her show guests with respect and just stunningly gorgeous — so I was happy to learn that she is taking over the nightly news anchor spot at ABC. Not all, but part of my happiness had to do with the fact that yes, here goes another woman into a highly visible position not often occupied by women. Katie Couric paved the way as the nightly news anchor for CBS and to have another woman in a coveted position is just cool. (If you want to have an “I can’t believe this moment”, consider this: Women occupy only 3% of the “clout” positions in media.)
But then I started to wonder whether we (read, we = women) should be celebrating Diane Sawyer’s new gig, as some women’s organizations are doing. Apparently she has been passed over for this job twice before and the evening news anchor job has much less panache (and many fewer viewers) than previously. OK, but I still think it’s a huge personal achievement for her. What I’m not sure about is whether by making a big deal every time a woman gains a position of power — in media, business, politics, anywhere — we are not just reinforcing the idea that it’s rare and uncommon and something out of the ordinary for women to have these positions.
Fact of the matter is, women still occupy the minority of power positions in most career fields. In some, they occupy an extreme minority. And after my five-year stint in venture capital - where women make up less than 10% of decision makers — I know how tough it can be to get to the top and to even imagine doing it in an industry where there are so few women in leading positions. At the same time, if we continue to make a big deal when a woman does reach a position of power, I feel like we keep harping on the idea that it’s something out of the ordinary and that may not be a good thing. It’s awesome, it’s great, it’s cool, it’s an accomplishment, but we maybe we should treat it more like business-as-it-should-be.
What do you think? Do you think it’s possible to over-celebrate women’s accomplishments or there’s no such thing?