I realize that all of the talk right now is centered on our presidential election (and the down ticket races too), but I'm still having my post traumatic stress reaction. I'm tuned in, reading everything, but it is all a virtual ugly flashback to 2008 for me. I'm preparing to run a half marathon in a few weeks, and I'm logging alot of miles. It will be my first half since before I went through all of those 32 chemo treatments and 4 surgeries for my breast cancer, and it will truly be a victory lap for me. I don't have the same strength I had BBC (before breast cancer), but I'm doing ok. It could be that since I'm now 60 (it's only a number---it's only a number, etc) I'd be slowing down a little anyways, but who knows. I did 9 miles a few days ago and felt better than I thought I would. I'm just happy to be back in the game again....
I bring up the running because on that level, you just can't avoid the yard signs. For sure, there are maybe only 10% of the yard signs that there were in 2008, but I can tell you where every single one of them is on my running route. And each time I see one, my mood gets darker. I used to be the Democratic Ward Leader here, and I know who lives in those houses with the yard signs. I remember the slammed doors, the hatemail, and the death threats and who made them. I remember the inanities of the happily married woman with a great job and five grown kids with her "I've never felt this way before" comments about Obama and her current yard signs. I remember the veiled threat to my younger son, that she, a lawyer, hoped he would die in Iraq as a soldier, living in the house behind the sign a few blocks over. He ended up marrying a soldier who will likely be deployed in Afghanistan before too long under this Democratic president. Just saying.....
I don't ever remember being as sick of an election as I am of this one, and I'm hardly alone. "Sick to death of the election----hope they all lose" has become a conversation starter here in Ohio, as common as the conversations that our changeable weather gives us. We are finally bonded, all the Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, in our desire to be done with it already. And in my conversations with people of the 4 million Hillary cohort who left the Democrats, we are all suffering flashbacks to some degree from 2008. Good thing that I'm running alot so I can get my runner's high and move on.
So I'm not going to dive into the presidential race on this blog since we don't have a woman on either ticket. But there sure has been some interesting talk about women this week. First of all, Fortune put out its list of the 50 most powerful women in business. Know who this woman is?
Her name is Ginni Rometty, she's the CEO of IBM, and as the #1 most powerful woman on the list, she is credited for rebranding and reinventing a tired, failing IBM and turning it around. She's been with IBM for 31 years, and her predecessor said that she got the job "because she deserved it, not because of some social progressive policy." Well alright then!!!
You can read the entire list here. It includes the CEO's of PepsiCo, Hewlett Packard, Kraft Foods, Xerox, DuPont, and Facebook among others. It is bracing, encouraging, exhilarating to read through the list. Makes my heart sing!!!! And although women are still are woefully underrepresented in the CEO ranks-----we've gone from 2.8% of CEO's to 3.6%, a miniscule improvement-------at least the progress is forward and not backward as has been our progress in female representation in government. The list is a little misleading because there are only 18 female CEO's on the Fortune 500 list, but it is nice to see them all the same, and it is instructive to study their rise to the top.
However, there has been an interesting ongoing discussion about women achieving power parity. I wrote my last piece about Hanna Rosin's book "The End of Men", a book that laid out the new paradign shift of women's roles and what it all means. We also had a piece written by Debora Spar, current president of Barnard College, my alma mater, about "Why Women Should Stop Trying To Be Perfect", one by IMF Chief Christine Lagarde saying "Women can't have it all", and finally one by an author who helped produce the Fortune list of powerful women in business 15 times about the meaning of the lists.
First of all, I love seeing this discussion so publicly made. It is THIS discussion that got pushed off to the side some years ago while women were having the abortion death match. As that fight progressed and calcified, the focus on women gaining parity was virtually forgotten. Those of us who witnessed the terrible sexism of the 2008 election have fought hard to get that discussion back on the front page, and if the proliferation of these kinds of articles is any indication, we have succeeded in that regard, at least for now.
Secondly, the problem is being laid out well. There is complete agreement that women have not assumed their place at the power table in anywhere near the numbers that they should be. The journalists and academics are doing a terrific job laying out the premise in inventive, historic, and most importantly, personal terms that people can relate to. The subject of women being disempowered in this way needed a thoroughly modern rendering and updating, and the women who are writing in these fields are up to the task.
However, and this is a BIG however, the solutions are thin to nonexistent. We go from the "it will just organically happen" argument to the "women can't have it all" argument to the "it's our own fault argument." I'm not putting down these arguments because they all speak to some truths that need to be told. However, I am totally against the "it will just happen" argument because it implies passive acquiescence, an acquiescence that hasn't gotten us ANYTHING in terms of advancement. Being passive is just an opening for the men to ignore and walk all over us, and can you blame them? A leader must present herself as a leader. Now there have been cultural problems trying to be assertive as a woman, and those are real problems, but they aren't a reason to passively assume that someone will see that you deserve power and give it to you.
I also don't like the "women can't have it all" argument. I find it to be incredibly negative. Women should strive for everything that they dream of and then make adjustments along the way. No one said that life was going to be easy and that gaining power was going to be simple. I keep thinking of our pioneer women and how hard they worked and the dangers they faced and the level of multitasking that was required of them. We women who aim for the top should expect no less difficulty-------that's life!! I guess the question is why we would expect the easy way out in the first place.
As for the idea that "it's our own fault", well, there is truth to that argument. We still need to learn how to gain and wield power effectively since we women have had no tradition of having any power whatsoever. I'd love to see more courses offered at all levels about teaching women what it takes to achieve power. Now isn't that a threatening idea to the establishment!!! But why not? Why shouldn't people, men and women, learn in an equal way the art and science of power? Maybe then we could come up with more solutions and more favorable numbers for a more equitable society.
As a woman who felt she has "had it all" I can say that it is defeatist to assume we can't raise the children, build a terrific professional life for ourselves, and have a great partner to share it with. Why not? Things might not be someone's definition of "perfect" but we humans weren't created to be perfect. Have you ever found a perfect person? If you think you have, you are deluding yourself. You have likely just found someone who is really good at something you lack. It doesn't mean that they don't have their own deficiencies. But there is nothing wrong in striving to be better, even in striving toward a vision of perfection. That quest can bring out the best in us.
Oh well, enough babbling for one post. I've got to go out and do a hill run today and time's a wasting.......