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The Sexist Question Matt Lauer Asked Mary Barra

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Oh, Matt Lauer. How could you? You are surrounded by strong, inspiring working moms. You’ve cohosted with media role models like Katie Couric and Meredith Viera. What possessed you to ask Mary Barra, the first female CEO of GM, if she could be a good leader and mom at the same time? As far as I can tell, you have never asked a male CEO that question. You probably have never been asked that question either. Here’s how this cringe-worthy line of questioning went down:

LAUER: You’re a mom, I mentioned, two kids. You said in an interview not long ago that your kids told you they’re going to hold you accountable for one job and that is being a mom.

BARRA: Correct. (smiling.)

LAUER: Given the pressures of this job at General Motors, can you do both well?

BARRA: You know, I think I can. I have a great team, we’re on the right path…I have a wonderful family, a supportive husband and I’m pretty proud of the way my kids are supporting me in this.

Lauer also asked Barra about speculation that GM gave her the CEO job in December because the company was in need of a “softer” image and having a woman, a mother, at the helm was the answer. Watch Barra’s response:

Did you do your research, Mr. Lauer? Seventy percent of moms with children under the age of 18 are in the workforce. President Obama just expressed his strong opinion on the need for family-friendly benefits for all working parents. And lest we forget, Marisa Mayer accepted the Yahoo! CEO role while pregnant.

Change is underfoot, but it is media attention like this that reminds us how far there still is to climb. Especially when there are only 24 female CEOs in the Fortune 500 (Mary Barra happens to be at the highest ranked company on that list at #7). And I can’t help but wonder, how many of them have been asked this same exact question?

Photo: Thinkstock

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Matt should come on office hours and explain his point of view.

She had some great responses -- I only wish that instead of "I think I can" she said "I know I can"

I've never heard the 'softer image' POV about Barra being chosen for the job. I feel like this is like when you tell a story about yourself but you mask it by saying it was a friend, you know? "I have a friend who once..." is the same as "Some people have been saying..." in this case. Ugh.

I honestly think this interview was blown out of proportion. It's a great thing that 70% of moms with children are working and I hope it continue to grow. But if you look at other interviews with male CEOs, the same question comes up but said in a different way. Jamie Dimon, Obama, Warren Buffett, Jeff bezos, and both of the Google founders have been asked how they handle work with family life and raising children. I find it pointless to flip out about a question that wasn't meant in a sexist way and wasn't even taken in a sexist manner by barra. Men and women will never be exactly the same, of course equality in regards of equal pay and treatment are a must. But it comes down to the fact that we live in two different sociological systems that act differently based on biology and social interactions. Equal rights is a must but it's unnecessary to freak out over questions asked commonly to parents with high stress jobs.

It could be construed as sexist by men that the standard silhouette in the profile picture is a female

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