I watched with interest as President Donald Trump made his most recent Supreme Court selection. One of the finalists, federal appellate Judge Amy Barrett, made the short list. In news stories covering Justice Barrett, the media frequently cited her role as the mother of seven children. I don’t recall any of the news stories referencing the number of children of the male candidates.
What’s going on here?
The answer is simple. In most families, women fulfill the dominant parenting responsibility. When a woman also manages to achieve career success, it’s worth noting both roles.
There is an interesting subtext to this phenomenon. What if we placed greater value on a male Supreme Court nominee’s role as a father? Would society be better if we celebrated, elevated, and esteemed parenting values in both women and men? Would there be more fairness, beauty, and civility if we placed more emphasis on a more holistic skillset in professional life? One that better-balanced masculine and feminine roles and values? Would society improve if we celebrated fatherhood more?
These are challenging questions. Let’s break them down by considering feminine and masculine values and their presence in both men and women.
Feminine & Masculine Values Are Both Necessary To Lead
Feminine values include attributes like civility, stewardship, cooperation, and fairness. The application of these values builds strong relationships and creates a service mindset. Women possess these values in abundance, but men have them too. Feminine values come from a root of goodness and serve a vital role.
Male values are different. They include competition, power, ambition and efficiency. These values are abundant in the C-suite and elected office. While dominant in men, these values are also found in women. Male values help build a prosperous world, but without proper balance can create problems—just look at Washington, D.C., today.
Societies work best when both sets of values combine to form a complementary whole. It takes strength and goodness to build a more perfect union.
Being A Mother Is An Asset, Not A Liability
Justice Barrett graduated summa cum laude from the Notre Dame University Law School and clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia. A devout Catholic, she and her husband have seven children, including two adopted children from Haiti and one special-needs child.
I marvel at the strength, talent, and grit it must take to be a scholar, jurist, person of faith, and parent of so many children with needs. My admiration grows as I reflect upon her role as a mother and how she brings her amazing and needed skillset to the workplace. Her consideration as a Supreme Court justice was notable not because she had seven children. It was notable because she possesses feminine values, values that can work alongside male values to represent all of society, bringing the combined virtues of strength and goodness together.
Without strength, goodness goes unrecognized, is unheard, unseen, and unfulfilled. Without goodness, strength leads to harm, abuses of power, and petty infighting without purpose. We need both feminine and masculine values to prosper.
We Need More Feminine Values On The Bench
I don’t doubt that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh appreciates feminine values and even has a healthy dose of them himself. In his acceptance speech he referenced his mother’s service as a history teacher in two largely African-American public high schools. He said, “Her example taught me the importance of equality for all Americans.” He also referenced his role as a father saying, “I have tried to create bonds with my daughters like my dad created with me.” I love that he highlighted these important attributes.
I would love it if next time a president releases a list of potential candidates if all of the biographies recognized the candidates role as a parent, when applicable. It would send a strong signal that parenthood matters for both genders. It would also underline that feminine and masculine values are needed in the workplace.
Next time you go to the voting booth, are involved in a hiring decision, or consider a judiciary pick, ask yourself this question: Will this person bring the right mix of masculine and feminine values to the job? If the answer is “yes” and the candidate meets other qualifications, work within your sphere of influence to make the hire happen. If the answer is “no,” use your abilities to find another choice.
In our nation’s history there have been 113 Supreme Court justices. Only four have been women. I think we need more feminine values on the bench.
Natalie Gochnour is an Associate Dean in the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah.