Beyonce has gotten a lot of flack lately for her “girl power” anthem “Girls Run the World.” As many have pointed out, that’s not literally true. It doesn’t take much analysis to figure out that women are not in charge of most of the institutions that comprise the world’s traditional power structures.
But maybe we should think a little differently about what it means to run the world. While it goes without saying that men still dominate as heads of state and of major multinational corporations, it is also true that more women can be found in positions of influence and authority in those structures, from government to corporations around the world. And a lot of those women are mothers.
I’ve noticed something that women do when speaking about their careers that men do very rarely. They talk about their children. Even when the illusory notion of work-life balance isn’t on the agenda, women talk both about how hard they worked to achieve their career success, and how their kids inspire and even motivate them.
To paraphrase Pundit Mom Joanne Bamberger, there’s a big difference between women speaking of parenting experiences as a motivator and being a woman who is defined by the media in a traditional mother-as-caretaker role. The media may not get the difference, and insist on speaking of women in power as “moms first.” But when one listens to the moms themselves talking about how being a mom makes them more effective in their day-to-day career responsibilities, it’s more along the lines of this phrase from Beyonce’s song: “Strong enough to bear the children Then get back to business”
The truth is, whether a woman works inside or outside the home, being a mother is a powerful responsibility. Childrearing is a sphere that remains dominated by women, and it’s an area where women don’t cede their power lightly. Yes, things are still unfairly unequal for men and women. I am not suggesting that women should become content to rule the homestead and nothing else. But maybe we moms shouldn’t downplay the importance of mothering as much as we sometimes do. Maybe the trick is to get the world to stop trivializing what Bamberger calls “the early morning rush of getting kids out the door with their homework, lunches and permission slips” — especially when one then has to switch gears and jump on a conference call, or write an article or chapter, or rush out to a meeting.
Maybe women deserve more credit than we get for FedExing our breast milk home and for putting our kids’ doctors’ appointments on our work calendars. Maybe it’s not girls, but moms, who run the world after all.