Powerful Women – Does Everyone Get a Trophy?

Portrait of excited teenage girl with trophyThe happy result is that it's becoming popular to talk about powerful women and this is stimulating a plethora of powerful women posts and lists in the media. WhooHoo!

But I wonder – what are we teaching ourselves about power if everyone gets a trophy? I think we have to ask ourselves whether every powerful woman deserves recognition? A recent article by Emma-Kate Symons makes a strong argument against this trend and I think Emma-Kate is right to question whether we should laud dubious performance just because the dubious performer happens to be a woman.

I wondered the same thing when my kids were little. I wondered if I was inflating my 4-year-old soccer star's little ego by making sure he got his little trophy for showing up to chase butterflies on the field. I wondered if his little spirits would be crushed when the “real world” hit him at 10 or 16 or 26.

My kids are now 17 and 20 and here's what I've learned. Little ego's NEED to experience success early on so they know what it feels like. Even if we parents have to do a little ego-engineering at first so they learn to name the feeling of pride, it’s worth it. They have to experience and name that feeling in order to really want it enough to work for it later in life when their parents can't pay for the trophy anymore. (And as a parent, it's up to you to decide what age you plan to let them start feeling true failure. My advice — don't wait too long…).

I think the same thing applies to powerful women’s lists in the media right now. As women, we don't really know what it's like to be recognized as powerful figures – other than as sex symbols and arm candy to powerful men. Seeing these lists of powerful women helps us believe it's possible in a new way. I think our little egos are still sorting this “power” thing out and so it's good to see these lists. That will give more women more courage to do the kinds of things that will get them on those lists and hopefully we'll have more to choose from soon.

NOTE: There's also a good argument that there ARE more powerful, less dubious, women to choose from now but no one knows who they are (and/or the media won't do the work to find them). I believe that's true also and I hope that as qualified women see these “dubious performers” who receive recognition they will have courage to speak up about their accomplishments so they can be recognized more often. Are you one of those non-dubious performers? Who knows your accomplishments? Expand that list!

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