You Are Made For Big Challenges

The Third Pillar of Internalized Sexism is The Child's Role

The foundational mythology of structural sexism is that there are only two gender roles available, male and female, and of those two --men are the grown ups in charge of society and women are the children not yet ready for serious responsibility. We are assigned the child’s role.

Earlier this month I led a rousing conversation at the Riveter’s flagship Seattle location, with a full room of female founders and leaders on the nature of Internalized Sexism. In today’s blog post we cover the third and final pillar of Internalized Sexism: The Child’s Role.

Remember that old trope from the 50s that “women can’t drive”? (You’re not to be trusted with machinery). Also, a perennial favorite: Women can’t manage finances responsibly (because you need someone else to do it).

By assigning women the lesser, childlike status the implication is that your mind is not as strong and powerful. Structural sexism says that women, like children, need a grown up to resolve their thorniest, biggest challenges.

Big challenges are what you are made for. Delegate the small stuff.

Women who found, who lead in public, women who gain real power risk backlash for daring to take on the full range of adult power.  It upsets the narrative of women as lesser.

The result is that although we have a growing cohort of female political, tech and business leaders few are willing to showcase their achievements. Few are willing to take full credit for the scope of their accomplishments. “My team,” they say, “I’d be nowhere without my team.”

While this may be true, it deprives us of your genuine role modeling.

Taking credit for your ambition, your success and your hard decisions isn’t very ladylike, after all. But without your story we stay convinced that good luck and a great team made you leader. Is that really the case?

Clients see me for support in showcasing their achievements and telling their story during crucial times of leadership transition and I’ll tell you this --it is truly remarkable how many of us have confusion about our right to be at the helm, directing the entire ship.


Laura Close, founder of Laura Close Consulting where clients rely on her unique blend of tech start-up frameworks and undoing internalized oppression theory to get big results. Business plans and tactics can generate momentum, but without personal insights and leadership development, the project can weaken and grind to a halt. We do both and you get your breakthrough results.