5

The Girl Can’t Help It

NEW YORK – When Mary Barra was named CEO of General Motors in early December – the first woman to head a major American automaker – it seemed to many to be a milestone in women’s struggle for equal rights and opportunities. But, in a climate in which, as Catalyst, the feminist glass-ceiling watchdog, points out, only 4.2% of US Fortune 500 CEOs are women, is Barra’s promotion really a victory?

One way to answer that question is to consider who is doing the judging. In the United States, by one count, two-thirds of professional journalists are men, and men account for almost 90% of bylines in economics and business reporting in traditional media. In fact, the reflexive worldview of male-dominated business-news coverage invalidates all talk of a victory, whether for Barra or for the rest of us – including impressionable 15-year-old girls seeking role models and a message of empowerment.