Friday, November 11, 2016

Why is It Taking So Long?

When I was in school, I never had a female administrator. My principals and vice principals from elementary school through high school were all male. They wore short-sleeved white shirts, dark pants, and dark ties and hardly ever smiled.  They were feared, and the threat of being sent to the principal's office kept everyone in-check. The rumor was that there was a paddle in the office; we never knew if it was true. We just knew that we didn't want to be the one to find out.

As a kindergarten student, I decided that I wanted to be a teacher, and throughout the rest of my school years, that was my goal. I loved teaching and when I became a mother, I had to find that balance between work and family. Honestly, becoming a mom made me a better teacher and a better time manager. I had to prioritize, and family came first..

I got into educational administration only after my own sons were older; two were in college and my youngest was in middle school. While they were in their formative years, I was the chauffeur, the coach, the one who went to meetings and performances. My husband came when he could, but his job often didn't allow him to attend. I didn't mind, and now when I look back, I have so many wonderful memories. I think that's how it is with many moms.

Times have changed for girls/women since I was growing up:
  • Traditional families back when I was little were like the Cleavers or the Nelsons. Mom stayed home and took care of the house and the kids. Dad went to work and was the primary breadwinner. Today, Moms often have to work to supplement the family income or because they are single parents. 
  • Title IX gives girls an equal opportunity to compete in sports. This has made a huge impact on our girls who now can receive full college scholarships for playing on an athletic team.
  • Girls are encouraged to go to college and enter fields that were previously male-dominated although they are still underrepresented in fields like engineering and mathematics.
  • Women can now do combat duty as members of the military.
  • Since the first woman was elected to Congress in 1916 - exactly 100 years ago - 313 women have been elected.  In Hawaii, 3 out of our 4 Congressional delegation are women (wow!) and presently, about 20% of the members of Congress are women. We've made advances in this area, but the number is still far from proportional.
Yet despite the advances women have made in society, we are still unable to break the glass ceiling in the United States. Other countries have elected women leaders - Indira Gandhi was elected as Prime Minister of India 50 years ago; Israel's Golda Meir was elected in 1969; and Margaret Thatcher served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom beginning in 1979. Why is it taking so long for those of us in the United States to elect a woman President?

From my perspective, women, despite their advances, must work extra hard to gain the respect from men and other women. If we cry, we are considered weak. If we don't show emotion, we are "cold." If we choose to get input before making a decision, people criticize us for being indecisive. If we swear, that is unladylike, and sometimes, a woman's opinions is drowned out simply because she is outnumbered. And her appearance? The public can be so critical and cruel.

I am quite certain that the first female principals had to prove themselves. They probably had to be extra tough to show that they could do the job. As time passed and more women were appointed to educational leadership positions, the principalship became less about being tough and more about being collaborative and working with school communities to ensure that children were learning in a safe, nurturing environment. Today, we probably have an equal number of male and female principals, and I am grateful for those first women principals for paving the way for others like me.

One day soon, I hope our country will elect a woman President. When she proves that she can lead the country - her way - she will pave the way for others to follow and serve as a role model for girls and young women.

I hope to see that happen in my lifetime.

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