THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Tea party fouls: Why to say no to female clubs

What is up with the constant photo ops of the wives of the men running the financial universe?

What about the two women in the recent G-20 conference? Do we put their husbands in the midst of this group of women? No. It would look insane. And that is exactly the reason that all the other women in the group should feel insane. Because this is just a tea party.

But it's actually worse than a tea party. It's a tea party from hell.

Competent, powerful women know that the best way to look like you have no power is to run around in circles that are by their nature limited to women. The G-20 Wives' Club photos are particularly insulting because these women are being associated not by their special interests, or particular education, or common background, but merely by who they are sleeping with.

Seriously. When, other than when rounding up prostitutes for jail, has this approach to grouping women been acceptable to society?

In an interview in People magazine, Michelle fielded the question, "How do you like the job as First Lady?" She said that she likes it but "the pay is not great."

Total understatement, right? I mean, she does not get paid to do any First Lady duties. But she has a law degree from Harvard. And she supported her whole family financially for a good part of their marriage. She has huge earning power. And she is putting that aside to run the circus social life of the wife of the US President.

This is not a small job. This is a full-time job. So full-time that our only bachelor President had his niece do the job. And when Hilary was pissed off at Bill, Chelsea started taking First Lady duties because really, it's a job that someone has to do.

I adore Michelle Obama, and I adore Carla Bruni– First Lady and First Model (and First Homewrecker) of France. But I don't want to see them grouped together for something other than who they are. They are special and fun and innovative and strong. They do not deserve to be grouped almost randomly with other women based on who they married. I want to see Michelle and Carla hanging out together so I can have a vicarious girls-night-out in London.

Women do not need to be called out just because they are women. It's rubbish. Women are doing fine competing with men. Women are earning more than men in corporate America, women are keeping their jobs at a higher rate than men in the recession, and, even when it comes to making money from blogging, the mommy bloggers knock the ball out of the park. So what's up with segregating women? What is the point?

How should women respond? Say no when you can afford to. I don't pitch to women-only investor groups. And I don't read women-only business magazines.

But women need to know when to play along, too. Michelle is not going to boycott the G-20 girl's club, and when an investor group tells me they are looking for women CEOs (yes, this happens often), not only do I deal with them, but I wear a skirt and heels to the presentation.

You should know when you can help yourself more by participating and when you will hurt yourself. But also, be nice and be gracious, because almost everyone who segregates women foolishly thinks they're doing us a favor. 


Penelope Trunk has started several companies and worked for many more.