Where in the world is Matt Lauer and his credibility?
Not only did he ask GM CEO, Mary Barra, some of the most ridiculously irrelevant work-life balance questions of a major car manufacturer CEO whose business is facing serious liability and branding issues, but he has come out defending these questions by saying, essentially, “hey Congress asked and Forbes asked, so I asked.”
Defending your stupid questions with “everyone else is doing it” is downright lazy and an insult to journalists everywhere. Try asking original questions, Matt. I know morning television isn’t always a bastion of serious journalism, but if you’re going to take the serious interviews, please stick to the serious questions. I’m pretty sure the employees at GM who might be worried about their financial future could care less about Barra’s family life. They are busy worrying about their own. I’m sure the families of victims who died or were injured related to faulty ignition switches aren’t worried about whether Barra can balance her home and professional life, but instead enduring the pain of loss and recovery.
Despite the fact that the work-life balance question is tired, insulting and simply never relevant to whether a person can adequately perform their job unless there is a proven track record indicating that it negatively has impacted job performance in the past, simply repeating questions made by government bodies and other journalists is unoriginal and perpetuating stereotypes of the very conversation his defense indicates could be productive. What did Matt, hope would happen when he asked the same questions again? That Barra would break down, cry and exclaim, “Oh, yes, Matt, you are so right! What was I thinking? I need to rush right home. My experience and qualifications to help this giant corporation where millions work and depend on the salaries they earn be damned! My children and I thank you for pointing out the error of my ambitious ways!”
A productive question related to this issue could have referenced the earlier Forbes article and asked Barra if she thought it was fair women CEOs are held to that standard. He could have explored the issue that moms are questioned about the care of their children once they have a high profile job but men are typically not. He could have ingratiated himself to his program’s mostly female audience and referenced his own work-life balance struggles and perhaps regret at how his children only see his face before going to school if they tune in to The Today Show.
Furthermore, the tenant of the initial quote still, in no way, makes room for anyone to continue to question her competence or work-life balance struggles. Barra’s children stating that they will judge her on her motherhood is exactly what kids should do regardless of whether their moms are CEOs, singers, clergy, teachers, mail carriers or stay at home moms. I certainly didn’t care how my mom performed at her job as a paralegal when I was growing up and certainly wasn’t qualified to judge that part of her life. I was, however, qualified to tell you whether I thought she was there for me when I needed her, provided a safe, healthy and happy home for me and my sister and made me feel loved, secure and special. A child saying that they’ll judge their mom on being a mom in no way insinuates that this particular child thinks that she can’t be CEO and mom. It just says that they love their mom for being mom. Not being CEO. Leave the job performance reviews to the stakeholders and employees, please.
Can we finally state that being good at a job does not mean a person is not good at being a parent? These two statements are not mutually exclusive. Perhaps it’s because another man being named a CEO isn’t news and, sadly, it still is when a woman is named one, opening her up to questions a majority of men will never have to answer. No one questions what a male CEO is giving up as a father, let’s stop asking what female CEOs are giving up. Because we aren’t in their homes to know what, IF ANYTHING, they are giving up and what, IF EVERYTHING, they are gaining.
To be honest, I truly wish Barra had called him on it in the moment. Perhaps she’s used to having to answer the question and is numb to it. Perhaps she was thrown so off guard that she answered generically while her inside voice gawked in speechlessness. Perhaps she simply wanted to answer and move on to another question. But in my perfect world, I wish she had told Lauer that she was hired for this job because she was the best person for it. That yes, she is a woman and a mom, which isn’t specifically stated as a qualification on her resume. What is, however, is a long history of engineering and leadership positions at GM which allow her to uniquely understand and speak to the issues GM currently faces. That she was confident that her skill set, and not her anatomy, was recognized in her promotion to CEO.
It’s exhausting right now to be a woman in this country and hear the same questions asked that would never be asked of men. Until we can stop asking whether Hilary Clinton should run for president because her daughter, Chelsea, is pregnant (I’m sorry. Did I miss the debate in the last election about whether Romney would be distracted by his 20+ grandchildren?); or seeing the top related search for Marissa Mayer is not her biography or even net worth, but “Marissa Mayer hot;” or that we reduce the historical importance of Barra breaking the big car manufacturers’ glass ceiling by insinuating that her hire was simply to exude a softer image; then it’s going to continue to be an exhausting road for women.
So Matt Lauer I know one place you won’t be. And that’s on my television screen.