People who know me well know where I stand politically. My career began in public affairs and political consulting, so it’s something I used to talk A LOT about. However, as my career has shifted, I’ve found myself talking about political issues and candidates less and less. I’m not sure if I like that or not (after all, I am the person who once declared that “Everyday should be Election Day”), but that’s the way it is.
So, I’m going to go on a bit of a rant right now, but I’d like to preface it by saying it’s not intended to be political.
Via email and on his Facebook page, Mitt Romney launched a new campaign: Donate to his presidential campaign to receive a “Moms Drive the Economy” bumper sticker. This campaign was inspired by a misguided Democratic pundit declaring that Ann Romney, a stay-at-home-mom, had never “worked a day in her life.” President Obama and his campaign staff quickly responded to distance themselves from that comment and line of thinking.
As political season heats up, candidates will try to cultivate female voters. We’ll undoubtedly see both parties trying to score political points (some cheap, some valid) to strengthen their position with this critical block of voters.
However, as a women-business owner who doesn’t have children (yet), I find this statement to be offensive. Women play a critical role in the economy. The University of North Carolina’s online MBA program recently released an infographic compiling data about women in the workplace. Some highlights:
- Women are founding businesses at 1.5 times the national average.
- Women owned 20% more businesses in 2007 than they did in 2001.
- Women own 28.7% of non-farm businesses.
- Women-owned, venture-backed companies have 12% higher revenues.
- Companies with more equal gender distribution in leadership garnered 30% better results from IPOs.
The common thread? Women. Women are doing these things that are spurring economic growth. And these are accomplishments that should be celebrated — not used as a cheap trick to score political points.
Amazing, high-profile women like Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, SPANX’s Sara Blakey (the youngest self-made billionaire, according to Forbes’ most recent list), and even Bethenny Frankel are leading by example — showing women that you can, in fact, have a successful career and a family. But, let’s be clear: Women — moms and those without children — are contributing meaningfully to the economy. Being a mother isn’t a prerequisite to “driving the economy.”
As I’ve written before, though it’s 2012, women still need to fight against ingrained societal norms that diminish the ability, capacity and potential of women. But, why are moms and “non-moms” being pit against each other? To score political points.
Women, I implore you: Don’t get sucked into the “mommy wars” and similar unproductive fights. Instead, display leadership. Let’s start a real discussion about opportunities for women to help grow the economy. Then we’ll really be driving the economy. Kids or not.