The “Super Mommy” of the 21st century

Celia de Anca. Director. IE Center for Diversity

12 January 2017

We are starting to once again hear dangerous messages that identify women with caring roles and with the home – the kind of feminine stereotype that leaves all the power in men’s hands.

Pablo Iglesias, head of Spain’s Podemos Party, said recently that bringing more women into politics did not mean having more women in high positions in political parties, but rather building communities. “The traditional ones we know about because we have all had mothers, a word synonymous with caring.”

It’s nothing new, in fact it’s a message that we now hear all too often, ad infinitum, according to which women (and men alike, but in the opposite way) have been doing a balancing act for the last 10,000 years between a regulatory model, which means adhering to what society defines as “being a woman,” and therefore to the role that we woman have to play in society which could be the “Super Woman” of the 20th century who is capable of everything, or the “Super Mommy” of the 21st century who finds her fulfilment in caring for others.

This is no trivial matter, the fact that people relate the feminine sex with “caring” and the fact that there are too few women in politics and the corporate world. Curiously enough it is like talking about, in the same breath, the feminine archetype, which, as Carl Jung explained, represents the idea of the mother in the human subconscious, and real flesh and blood women, who are not present in decision-making bodies and therefore not involved in decisionmaking processes. Just as women, with names and surnames, eventually started to see the barriers to women’s involvement in politics and the corporate world come down, now they are suddenly being told that actually no, that is the domain of men, and women’s domain consists of “caring”… So aren’t they just saying that our place is in the home, and that will solve the unemployment problem in one fell swoop? This would appear to be further evidenced by the way numbers of working women dwindle every time there is a crisis.

This return to feminine and masculine stereotypes is particularly dangerous, not only because women are under-represented in high-level decisionmaking in political bodies (18% of members of parliament worldwide) and corporate governance (20% of functional management positions worldwide), but also because it is even more worrying that they are also clearly underrepresented in the design of future technology. According to the ILO, in spite of the fact that women hold over 60% of jobs in the communication technologies sector in OECD countries, only between 10 and 29% of them are computer programmers, engineers, analysts or system designers.  Or are we not surprised that the technologies that so far dominate the 21st century, the Facebooks and Googles, are essentially masculine companies? Perhaps it is because women cannot work in these companies either due to their natural vocation of carers.

Kafka talked about mankind’s (and womankind’s) dramatic situation in that their destiny is to be trapped in a present that is in constant battle with a past that pushes us forward and a future that pushes us back to the past in order to prevail in the present. And it is in that present, when as independent individuals we reconcile our identities of origin with our aspirational identities, to reveal a conscience that that can serve others in the future, while creating society little by little.  Said society would be made up of individuals who are a different but equal, not a society of tribes of men and women. 

It’s about each person re-shaping a past educational model that suggests that women do the caring and the men provide the food into one in which each person decides what it is they want and applies a combination of roles that they want to play in society in accordance with personal aspirations, regardless of whether they came into this world as men or women. Only then will we have the same number of women who want to be political corporate decisionmakers as men who want to look after their children or make jam at home.

The fact that real men want to come to terms with their Anima (the feminine archetype within man according to Jung) and want to care for others is perfect as far as I am concerned, just like that fact that real women also want to come to terms with their Animus, (the masculine archetype within women) and want to exercise power. This would require a movement toward the home for many men and more women exercising power in society, which balance out the low numbers of women currently in government bodies, which is just the opposite of what  Pablo Iglesias’s comment suggests we do. We become a complete person by embracing the other part that resides in our subconscious, not by living with the stereotype that we have been burdened with for the last 10,000 years.

Before men used to say that women were not sufficiently prepared to exercise power. Now we are told that we are too evolved to want to exercise it. It would appear that our turn will never come! 

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