I recently received a scholarship to complete an executive women's leadership course, and I started the week off at one of our first face-to-face workshops. It was interesting and inspiring to meet so many women plugging away either with their own businesses or at pushing through that glass ceiling which magically appears just when you think it doesn't exist in your world. As Ita Buttrose said in a keynote speech I attended at a networking breakfast I attended a few years ago:
"If you haven't experienced the glass ceiling, you haven't gone far enough in your organisation yet."
Sitting beside me at the leadership course was a 36 year old business owner whose husband brought her 5 month old in during the breaks so she could breast feed. I found it very inspiring to see her going about her business and family life in a way that seemed to be working - albeit a constant juggle, and with a huge amount of assistance from a supportive spouse. Amongst a whole bunch of pearls of wisdom that she offered up (top one being: get a lactation consultant), she confessed that she hated her first-born for the first 8 months of his life because she felt like he'd hijacked her life. I think I can understand that... ;o)
But even better news for females everywhere was the news that Hillary Clinton had clinched the Democratic nomination to run for President in the US elections this November. Overnight Barack Obama officially endorsed Hillary Clinton to be his successor as President of the United States. Here's hoping she wins, because the Trump just seems like a terrifying prospect for the role.
But Hillary's spin at campaigning for President (her second - she ran against Obama in 2008) has shown an ugly side to some of the attitudes that persist on how we treat women and expect them to behave. Some of my male friends and male commentators in the media who say "Bernie would just be better" have no reason for backing up their statements, and I can't help but wonder why.
I came across this Huffington Post article (which discusses more broadly competency bias and impostor syndrome in women) which goes some way to explaining why:
Hillary Clinton’s list of accomplishments puts her in the top echelons of high achieving women. Not only was she the first female partner at a major law firm, but she went on to serve as First Lady of Arkansas, First Lady of the United States, U.S. Senator from New York, and Secretary of State. She ran for president in 2008, and now, eight years later, she’s doing it again. ... Hillary Clinton has earned consistently high approval ratings in each of her government positions. In 2013, as Secretary of State, her 69% approval rating made her the most popular politician in the country. But ... the moment Clinton hits the campaign trail for any kind of political office, her approval rating crashes. Why? Writer Sady Doyle sums it up like this:
Campaigning is not succeeding. It’s asking for success, and for power. To campaign is to publicly claim that you are better than the others (usually white men) who want the same job, and that a whole lot of people should work to place you in a more powerful position. In other words, campaigning is a transgressive act for women... Women who put themselves forward in the same assertive, confident style as men are routinely found pushy, “bitchy,” or unlikable, and professionally penalized for that, too.
This is a paradox. The public has tremendous respect for Hillary Clinton as long as she has her head down and is working hard. But the moment she asks credit, acknowledgment, and a promotion, that admiration turns to vitriol. By confidently asking for what she wants, and stating why she deserves it, Clinton brings her competence into question.
It's equally saddening and frustrating to read those words. Worse, to know that they're probably pretty true. Males (and a stack of females too) can't articulate why "Bernie would be better", so one can only assume the roots of this view lie somewhere in this gender bias. But by pushing forward, gaining the nomination and PLEASE DEAR GOD the presidency, hopefully Clinton's hard work can speak for itself - and in doing so kick start a global discussion around women, their potential and expanding that limited box women so frequently get packed into.