How NOT to Interview a Powerful Woman

I make my living researching and writing about powerful women, and I wake up each morning hoping I won’t read yet another article about a female politician’s hair.

The utter entitlement reporters have about women’s lives is astounding — Who’s watching your kid? What does your husband think? Are you “having it all”? These questions betray an overwhelming cultural preoccupation with women’s personal lives regardless of their professional achievements. Here are seven questions that can suck it.

female CEO
Getty Images

1. What’s your dress size?
In a 2000 article in the New York Times, the interviewer had Condoleezza Rice comment on her dress size, which Rice attributed to “muscle mass,” as if to apologize. Because, of course, we are owed an explanation.

Incidentally, Rice served as the United States Secretary of State from 2005 to 2009. Previously, she was President George W. Bush’s National Security Advisor — and the first woman to hold that position. She wears a size six. Sometimes an eight.

2. Are you nice?
During Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings for the U.S. Supreme Court, Senator Lindsey Graham cited anonymous accounts calling Sotomayor a bully, asking, “Do you have a temperament problem?” After having heard those same anonymous complaints, former Yale Law School Dean Judge Guido Calabresi tracked Sotomayor’s courtroom manner and “concluded that all that was going on was that there were some male lawyers who couldn't stand being questioned toughly by a woman. It was sexism in its most obvious form.”

Sonia Sotomayor served on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, where she heard more than 3,000 cases. Since 2009, Sotomayor has been an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Some people think she’s kind of a bully. There has never been another bully on the Supreme Court in all of its history.

3. Can you do your job and be a mom?
Matt Lauer didn’t hold his punches when interviewing noted mother/person Mary Barra in 2014. During an interview with the General Motors CEO, Lauer shared his sexism insight:

"You’re a mom, I mentioned — two kids. You said in an interview, not long ago, that your kids said they’re going to hold you accountable for one job, and that is being a mom. Given the pressures of this job at General Motors, can you do both well?"

In addition to being a mom, Mary Barra made the cover of Time’s 2014 Most Influential People in the World issue, saw GM through a massive recall, and received unanimous support by GM’s board when she was promoted to CEO. Also: She’s a mom.

1 2