I’m a not a fan of Oprah Winfrey at all. She has unleashed John Edwards, Phil McGraw, and Mehmet Oz on the world, and for those three things alone, she she needs to severely criticized. However, I must respect that she has managed to build her personal brand to become the only African American billionaire in the US, and one of very few female billionaires around the world.
In an recent interview, available here as embedding doesn’t seem to work for me, she talks about her decision not to have children. I am 100% behind her choice not to have children as I firmly believe that everyone should be in control of their own reproduction. What struck me about this interview was that I cannot imagine a man, no matter how driven in his work, making such a comment, or even having it come up in an interview.
In fact, from Wikipedia’s list of American male billionaires the top include Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Larry Ellison, and Charles and David Koch. All of these men have been married at least 0nce and have children. I cannot imagine any of these man ever saying that family life would have had any impact, positive or negative, on their financial success.
In her interview, Oprah even mentions that she had more aspirations to be like Martin Luther King than to have children. Again desiring to emulate a man who had a family.
The wage gap that exists between men and women is due to a number of factors including, many women choice in, at least temporarily, dropping out of the workforce for pregnancy and child-rearing. This is in contrast to men who less commonly take such sabbaticals. It is difficult to separate how much of the rationale behind these decisions is entirely personal and how much is dependent upon societal pressure. Certainly cultures within western society that enforce strict gender roles play a major factor, and there is undoubtedly a spillover effect to the rest of society.
Oprah’s decision highlights the need for feminism and for equality to be fought for by both men and women. As I said, I support her decision to avoid parenthood, just as I would support her had her decision been different. However, women will have equality when a choice such as hers, family or career, not family and career, would be necessary.