Posted by: catherinemeyer11 | March 20, 2013


While reading through USA Today online, I stumbled upon an article on T.V personality, Oprah, titled; The hot topic of the April issue of ‘O’ magazine is ‘Confidence!’. I don’t feel like I need to give much of a bibliography on Oprah, but for those of you who don’t know, her television show has come to an end and she is now the proud producer of her own network, OWN, The Oprah Winfrey Network. This article mentions her new magazine, ‘O The Oprah Magazine’ as she posed for the front cover. In her on set interview, Oprah mentions,

I am confident in most things that don’t require mathematical or technological skills. In those areas, I’m not just challenged — I’m functionally illiterate. I have actually had to call for help to get my TV turned on…On the other hand, when it comes to matters of the heart, emotion, connection, and speaking in front of large audiences, I thrive.”

            Before taking Leadership 395, I do not think this statement would have even made me think twice. With a triumphant and inspirational story, Oprah is often considered one of the most influential and impactful female leaders throughout today’s society. Although I am in no means trying to discredit Oprah and her success story, these comments in this article did rub me the wrong way. After reading about Power for Thursday’s reading assignmnet, I have been giving the idea of confidence a lot of thought.

            As we mentioned in class, women often preface their ideas and concerns with words of hesitation and doubt. In order to climb the ranks and obtain more powerful positions, women need to become more confident in their abilities while still holding true to their collaborative and cohesive principles. Oprah’s response about her inadequacy about technology but intuition on feelings and emotion only reassures and reiterates the common stereotype about women being more emotional and men being more intelligent and powerful. With such publicity and power, Oprah has the opportunity to empower women but instead she lumps herself in the stereotype and makes herself look dumb. I think it would have been interesting for Oprah to address her weaknesses and learn from them, rather than handicapping herself. When reading Oprah’s words, did you react similarly? Does Oprah play up her emotional intelligence and capacity too much to the point where she looks dumb? How do you think this pertains to women in leadership? Are comments like this just fueling the fire?


  1. You bring up an interesting point. I would like to focus on the aspect that you talked about when we were in class regarding the issue of women questioning themselves when they have something to say or have accomplished something. To be honest, if it wasn’t for this class I don’t think that I would recognize half of the things that I do. Women tend to always have the mindset of making sure that not all of the credit is placed on them but that the entire group is appreciated and thanked. I don’t think that this is a bad quality of leadership that women have but I do think that there is a time when women should take the credit that they deserve. I have recalled on severeal occassion when I have been in a group setting and I have noticed women that question themselves when providing feedback to an issue or even just placing their own opinion out there for the group to consider. I don’t know if women even realize that they do that. I know for sure that I have done it myself and for what reason? Why do women do that? Are we not confident? Are we afraid? I know from my point of view, the only reasoning that I can consider is the fact that women have be raised and grown up in a culture that is very constricting of what a women in leadership roles look like. I think that we aren’t necessarily not confident or afraid but that we are timid and do not want to overstep those boundaries of women and men leadership expectations. We don’t want to come across as too bitchy or too overbearing. I think that in your blog about Oprah, she is a confident women. She has the power to be able to get her voice out there. But the problem is that she is only one voice. One voice can only go but so far if no one is willing to make a difference. We need to start education people about the statistcs and stop just saying that we are going too. We are all guilty of it, even myself. Its not hard to make a difference, what is hard is knowing that you could be the one that is critically evaluated by every word or action that you do to make a difference.

  2. When I read Oprah’s quote, I had an entirely different reaction than you. I can appreciate her admitting some of her weaknesses as well as highlighting on what she knows are strong points of her personality and I think it’s a very powerful thing when, in general, you have an incredible leadership figure like Oprah being so transparent. I didn’t relate her comment back to gender stereotypes until I read your opinion on it. I know some men who have extraordinary people skills and are lacking on the technological smarts and I know several women (my sister, even) who aren’t so strong socially but are fantastic logical and scientific thinkers. I know men and women are generally more inclined to have strengths in one of those areas over the other, but I tend to think of that being determined more by personality and experience than gender.

    So, in summary – no, I don’t think that Oprah’s comment made her look like a “dumb female” and I wouldn’t necessarily say that her comment fueled the fire of gender stereotypes. I certainly see how you can interpret it that way, but I think what shines out of her words for me is her sincerity and honesty; comments like these make her seem like a real person with downfalls versus a perfect celebrity, which I think is empowering for young and older people alike.

  3. Although I see your point I personally see Oprah’s statement from a different viewpoint. I see her statement as inspiring because talking about weaknesses is hard yet we all have them. I think many women suffer from their insecurity about their weaknesses. They feel they have to be perfect in order to succeed and I think this is why many women tend to be shy and timid about taking on power. By admitting her flaws I think she is showing her fans that you do not have to be flawless to be successful. For example like Oprah my strength is with people and communication by weakness is with technology. Sometimes I overfocus on my weakness and as a result my confidence spirals downward. But after hearing that you do not need to be highly capable in all areas to be successful is uplifting and it allows me to acknowledge and accept my weaknesses.

  4. Oprah’s reasons for expressing her weaknesses about technology could be fueling the stereotype of women having more feelings than intelligence. However, it could also refer to her generation. Technology has come a long way since she was born; I know many woman and men who still have trouble with technology. A lot of people joke about why they havent learned. Everyone should learn to use it because it is more and more dominating in our society. Most things are being updated to be electronic. On the other hand, the statement could be more degrading to women. I am just bringing up another possiblity.

  5. Oprah is a perfect example of a powerful woman who focuses on relationship oriented task as a leader. I do not see a problem with this because Oprah has made an entire career on connecting with people and improving their lives. I can see how Oprah’s inexperience with technology could fuel the stereotype, but I think it comes down to her personality. I know that I am not a technologically savy person, and I would rather focus on building and expanding relationship rather than messing around on a computer all day. I agree with Taryn because I think technology changes over time, so age is more of a factor then sex and gender.

  6. I am surprised that this came from Oprah. From a woman who is an icon for empowering women and good self-esteem, admitting her faults to not being able to turn on her TV seems too stereotyped. It is admirable that a woman of her power can publicly admit her faults and still be confident, I cannot help but be saddened that this is another gender stereotype. If Oprah admitted she was bad at baking or sewing, I wonder if there would be less shock factor. It might have even been humorous if she said that. But to admit the lack of knowledge in a field that is so dominated by men and with a lack of concern that there is anything wrong with this, I agree with Catherine that it is slightly disappointing.
    Does this one statement make me discredit Oprah as a leader? No. But for a woman who crosses the gender borders daily and strives for equality and empowerment, I am slightly shocked she would say that.

  7. While I agree that by saying the common “I’m terrible at math and science” bit does downplay her level of intelligence it may also simply be that she is merely that type of person. And if that is the case than nothing can really be done about it. It’s like a male saying they are bad at english, it downplays their credibility but what can you really do? I do not think anyone would look dumb for saying they are more emotionally intelligent than mathematically adept. This is simply how they are male or female. I would like to see more women in power who are better at science and math but just because women who are in power do not have these abilities seemingly, does not mean they are immediately discredited for intelligence. I think if anyone tries anything and works hard to obtain it then they will certainly get just what they are working for. So if a women really wanted to be better at math or science they could be, its just a matter of not caring enough about it.

  8. I also had a similar reaction as a number of others. I took her comment as a sign of confidence in that she was able to admit her weaknesses. However, I do wish that she had turned that around and tried to learn more about math, science, and technology in response. That would have been a great way to show both confidence in her weaknesses and how you can empower yourself at any age. However, I do understand how this is just a step away from women demeaning their abilities. Like we’ve talked about previously in this class, there is a fine line between downplaying your abilities and showing confidence in what you don’t know. Similar to the fine line between competency and likability, this is just another way that women have to be very careful about how they act because their followers can interpret their actions in completely different ways.

  9. Oprah has made a fortune and life out of being a woman that relates well to others from sympathy and feelings. That has become her trademark and it seems to have done her well. I think it is acceptable for some women to reinforce the stereotype as it is acceptable for some to reject it. She is empowering women that relate to her and acting as a leader for them. Just as Marissa Mayer, the CEO of yahoo, empowers women that have a similar drive and outlook as she does. I think it is important in society that there are women leaders on both sides of the spectrum.

  10. I can see where the poster of this article took Oprah’s comment in a negative way, causing women to seem more emotional and incapable, thus admitting to people’s doubts about women leaders. However, I see another side to this not through gender roles but through a leadership lens. A desirable leader is one who knows when to reach out to others and seek advice in order to create a greater outcome for an organization through admitting they don’t know everything; thus being humble and knowledgeable of their leadership and personal abilities. I think it is admirable that Oprah can recognize that she is not an expert in all fields, but rather she does the best with the traits she contains. A leader is not meant to be good at everything, but instead lead through their strong suits and ask their followers for input in areas they are uncertain of. Especially as a woman, asking for help in areas in which we may even lack knowledge of as a gender, can only gain the respect of the opposite gender. I think it is right for Oprah to except her flaws, rather than to act as though she is great at everything and then later be proved wrong or see as a boasting woman.
    Seeing Oprah outside of this single comment and interview and having watched many of her show’s episodes, Oprah is an inspiring woman leader to me. She has been able to change millions of people’s lives and bring about topics within society and the world that few others dared to talk about during their times. As not only a woman, but as an African American woman as well, I think she is a hope of light for all women of what a woman leader can look like. From what I know she fits the gender mold well but also is respected enough and holds herself well enough to be flexible with its boundaries and still be accepted by many.

  11. I am a firm believer that recognizing your weaknesses can help you grow as a person and a leader. Seeing that she is better at other areas has helped her reach her career goals and by exposing her weaknesses she is encouraging followers to do the same to reach their full potential. I do not believe Oprah plays up her emotional intelligence and capacity too much to the point where she looks dumb. She is simply recognizing it and exposing herself as being vulnerable to relate more with her followers. Being relatable helps build her reference power which is a style of leadership sought out by many successful leaders.

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