Hillary Clinton and Christine Lagarde were recently quizzed about double standards in media coverage of women during the Women in the World Conference, moderated by Thomas L. Friedman, Foreign Affairs Columnist, The New York Times. During the discussion both women make sharp points about the persona and societal effect. Clinton said:“The double standard is alive and well. In many respects the media is the principle propagator of its persistence”.
Hillary Clinton referred to an article in which a new employee asked a newspaper column for advice on decorating a senior office. The columnist responded: “I can’t tell from you’re initials whether you’re male or female. A male should put their family pictures in the office, to show everyone they’re a responsible, reliable family man. Whereas a female shouldn’t because they’ll think you won’t be able to concentrate on your work.” Clinton explained: ‘It’s important we talk about them, and help men and women recognise crossover from an individual judgment about somebody, man or woman – into a stereotype, into applying some kind of gender-based characterisation of a person’.
A recent article about the Lord Leveson report in the BBC said powerful women were often absent from the press. When women make the news, the focus is on handbags or hair. Clinton and Lagarde empathised explaining that when Clinton met with a foreign secretary ‘he’d heard when my hair was back, I was delivering unpleasant news’. We can’t help but wonder: why did journalists ever feel the need the need to comment on her hair and what a certain style ‘might mean’.
Media’s coverage of women is often damaging, not only to the individual, but to society as a whole. Lord Justice Leveson’s report criticised the way women are depicted in the newspapers, saying newspapers: “often failed to show consistent respect for the dignity and equality of women”.Throughout the discussion with Friedman, which is available online, we see both women laugh, but, we’re sure the frustration we at Female Breadwinners feel is echoed by Clinton and Lagarde.