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For a woman with a such a demanding job, not a single soul could say that Anna Wintour doesn't handle her career with prestige and purpose. After all, as the EIC of the world's foremost fashion magazine, she is the face and the brain behind Conde Nast's powerhouse brand, which in an age of decreasing magazine sales, has seen an uptick in subscriptions and advertising pages (did you see the 2012 September issue?!). No doubt thanks to Anna herself.
Wintour certainly is an inspirational woman of our time as she transcends lines between what typically interests fashion magazine EICs and breaches the confines of other intellectual parties including most famously that of the political world. Of course, such a high-profile job comes with its less than glamorous moments.
Ever since the release of the fictional magazine world movie entendre, Anna has been scrutinized for how she manages her staff, often based solely on Meryl Streep's nomination inducing performance. And that stricter than is reasonable personality portrayal hasn't yet been forgotten by public opinion. When speculation arose about Wintour's possible ambassadorship, heads didn't only turn, they nearly fell off.
The public's opinion of Wintour became staunchly apparent. A woman who runs a tight ship is no woman to become a representative of the U.S. Per usual, complaints such as this reek of chauvinism, and thankfully we aren't the only ones to smell the overwhelming scent. Wintour's boyfriend recently called out the double standard in an interview with The Telegraph.
"It's a little bit of male chauvinism [...] It's not just Anna—I see powerful women who really get slammed for being too forthright or running their business in a very determined way. If [former GE CEO] Jack Welch were being named as a potential ambassador, people wouldn't be saying, 'Oh, but hang on, Jack's a little strict in the way he runs his companies.'"
And Shelby Bryan isn't pulling this assumption out of nowhere. In a Harvard Business study on a woman named Heidi Roizen. Heidi is a successful business woman in the Silicon Valley who eventually ends up using her contacts to become a very successful venture capitalist. In 2002, a professor took that case study and separated his class into two groups, giving them both the same story with only one thing changed for one of the groups. He changed Heidi to Howard and she to he, and in the end, that made all the difference.
Both groups of students found Heidi and Howard equally competent, but there was a stark difference in how the students, both male and female, felt about each business person. Howard, the class thought, was a good guy, the kind you might want to spend the day getting to know and hanging out with, the kind of guy you would love to work for. Heidi, on the other hand, was a little bit out for herself and not really the type of person anyone would want to work for.
The stories were the same, only the pronouns different, and the outcomes were as though Heidi and Howard were two people who had taken two very different paths to the same place. Truth is, that for women leaders, of which there are only 21 Fortune 500 CEOs, being efficient and smart is seen as a power move. For men, it's seen as actual strength and intelligence.
Unfortunately, changing the sad truth here is much more difficult than any of us may imagine. Just watch Sheryl Sandberg's Ted Talk and you'll see that even empowered CEOs and female leaders can easily overlook women in a work atmosphere that has been built around the male mentality.
Things won't change over night, but changing our opinion of Wintour certainly can - and it can help to fuel the change for our daughters and grand daughters. Women supporting women is how we overcome the stereotypes and bias. It's how we decrease the pay inequality. It's how we show the rest of the world that women are not just half of the population, but a necessary part of a good economy and a happy society.
Whether you choose to be a mother, a doctor, a CEO, a coach, a teacher, or all of it - take Anna Wintour's example and look forward each day to paving the path towards true freedom of choice.
Be yourself. Be different.