Why Don't All Women Think They Can Lead?

She Matters: Even in 2013, there are some who still believe that a man can do it better.

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When I was 5, a relative balked at my Christmas wish list, which included a race-car set. Not only did my mother chastise the relative in front of me but she promptly bought me the biggest set she could find. She taught me how to use the controls so the cars didn't go flying off the track. When my male cousins took their go-kart out for a spin, she buckled me in and told me to hold on tight. She dressed me in corduroy pants so that I could run, jump and explore freely with those same boy cousins without scratching up my legs, with a promise that I would thank her when I was older.

I wish I'd given that breast-heaving soliloquy to the woman on my right. But a baffled (and loud) "Huh?" was the best immediate response I could muster.

"Like if a woman was president and there was talk of a war," the woman began again. "If she were a mother, she would think about babies and mothers and soldiers dying to make her decision, not the broader scope."

And that's a bad thing how?

The hostess piped up that she didn't think that women made good leaders, either. In summary, leadership -- especially the running of something important like a country or a major corporation -- was a man's job. Her father was the leader in her home, and she believed that as proper women, we shouldn't be competing with men for the role. She agreed that women were too emotional for leadership.

No one's suggesting that a woman who can't tie two thoughts together should lead anything. But a competent, qualified, accomplished woman with the required skill set should be excluded solely because she is a woman, because somehow that makes her inferior? "Poor" Sheryl Sandberg is out there preaching the gospel of convincing women to strive for more, and there are some women who don't even think they deserve a spot.

If I had been wearing pearls, on behalf of my mother, Marcia Gillespie, Bell Hooks, Hillary Clinton and Gloria Steinem, I would have clutched them. Tight. Instead I offered the woman next to me some words of encouragement that always sneak up on me when I doubt what I'm capable of: "Honey, you can do anything a man can do. You might even do it better." (Thanks, Mom.)

Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life.

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