Many children in Western cultures are raised on the notion that Santa Claus is a large, Caucasian man who spends one glorious evening a year flying around to deliver to the good children of the world their gifts for Christmas.
This can be a charming, heartwarming tale for families to explain the sudden appearance of presents overnight under the Christmas tree. As a child, I myself used to wake up early with my little brother to sneak downstairs to check out what was placed under the tree and to see if Santa had in fact eaten the cookies and milk we had left out for him.
They were always gone, with telltale crumbs left behind. Looks like Santa made it after all, we would always say. He must have enjoyed the cookie break on such a long night traveling the world!
As a child, it never occurred to me to question why Santa always got to have the grand adventure every Christmas Eve night, and Mrs. Claus stayed home, probably waiting for Santa in the North Pole with a final plate of warm milk and cookies.
It was just the way of the world.
Recently, a company in the UK called Anomaly thought it would be fun to ask an array of children:
“If Santa was a woman, could she do the job?”
Their responses were captured on video and compiled into a 90 second film. I watched it and was dismayed to hear that the majority of children thought that a female Santa would not be up to the task. The children doubted her navigational skills, wondered how she could take care of her baby while delivering presents, and thought she would probably get a headache from the whole affair.
Anomaly said they shared the video to encourage parents to communicate more about gender equality with their kids. This is clearly a conversation that is lacking, not necessarily on a parent-to-child level, although that’s often where it begins, but in our culture overall.
Alex Holder, an Anomaly partner and co-executive creative director, remarked in response to the findings in the video:
“Even Christmas’ top job is taken by a man. We want to get people thinking about the lack of powerful female role models, and where better to start than the head of Christmas?”
Gender equality is still far from achieved across the board despite the fact we’re barreling towards the year 2016, particularly when it comes to leadership positions in both employment and political circles.
The example of the missing Ms. Santa as CEO of Christmas Cheer may seem silly, but the sentiment is real: Women make up only 4.1% of S&P 500 CEO positions in the US, and there are only 7 women leading the UK’s top 100 companies (the FTSE).
Why do such young children have such strong opinions about the abilities of a man versus a woman? It’s always said but it’s always true: Children are the future. If they are raised to believe that one gender can do things another cannot and this affects the composition of our leaders in business and government, we are continuing to undervalue and undermine half our populations’ skills and abilities.
So if you’ll be spending quality time with a young loved one this holiday season, ask them what they think about a Ms. Santa. Ask her if she thinks she can do anything she wants to do and why, ask him what’s so awesome about his sister and if she should be president someday.
And if you haven’t finished finding the perfect present for the kids on your list, think about the power of your giving choices. Do the things you buy play into the gender divide? Here’s a great list of gifts for girls (and boys!) that empowers and educates young people to break free of gender roles!
Happy holidays — here’s to Ms. Santa!
P.S. Here’s the video if you want to watch it for yourself.