Madeleine Albright sparked controversy when she spoke her trademark phrase, “There is a special place in hell for women that don’t help other women” while campaigning for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Although it appeared that she was supporting a particular candidate based on gender, she had long been a feminist and advocate for the advancement of women.
Though apologetic as to its timing, she believed that her statement was taken out of context and she stood firm in her belief that women had a duty to help other women.
Gender anything is a touchy subject these days, isn’t it? As with most change, the pendulum swings heartily one direction and eventually finds equilibrium. Although I’m hopeful for balance in our country and other developing nations where men and women seem to be finding a respectful medium, it’s hard to believe that it is changing in many other places around the world.
I have thought of former Secretary of State Albright’s statement and I understand her conviction which is laced with her disappointment. A topic that continues to come up these days is one that quite frankly puzzles me. I would love your input. It is straight out of the Mean Girls movie, complete with Queen Bees and Wannabees. Too many times I’m told about women advancing up the ladder using their stilettos on women a rung behind them and I’m confident you have heard the same thing.
So why does this happen? I get many answers when I ask this question. Some say that there are so few prime opportunities for women that they just can’t take any chances on another woman “besting” them. Others say that they received no support so believe that “sink or swim” is the best teaching avenue. At a woman’s conference I attended recently, a young woman of color stood up and said that she felt she needed to address the elephant in the room, that she felt unsupported by white women.
Older women feel excluded because they communicate differently with younger more technology savvy women. Younger women feel older women can be patronizing and unwilling to change. Sadly, the list goes on. We wonder why there are so few of us in the boardrooms and in CEO leadership roles. Yet, in many instances, could it be that we are fighting not just for equalization with men but against ourselves? Are we talking, but not actually doing, as a collective group? Are we interested at all in participating in a legacy for the next generation where destructive cycles can change?
I know for a fact that this new generation of workers is hungry to learn from those of us with grit under our nails and the battle scars that kept us advancing forward. I recently was asked to speak on International Women’s Day to an all hands meeting at a company in Austin. The demographics of the company were more than 70% male with a large population of new hires, fresh out of college. My talk was interactive and included the CEO and his management team and many fresh young faces. Following a group picture, six of the young ladies asked me if I would stay so that they could visit with me.
For 45 minutes I answered questions about how they could present ideas, how they could deal with difficult people and how they could find and use their voice. Later, the CEO thanked me saying that in that 45 minutes, four people had come in to his office and told him about things he was unaware of. The dialogue had been opened and it stemmed from listening and sharing examples of what had worked for me and other more senior women in the past.
So, I ask you – are you mentoring and sharing your wisdom? For your wisdom is sorely needed in the business world just as much as it is needed by your children. Are you leading by example and sending the corporate ladder back down? I know it takes time, precious time that you may not feel you have. But, the women following in our footsteps will be making decisions that affect our kids and our world. They are our future. But, if and only if, we invite them to the party even if we chance losing our own ticket.
Copyright © 2018 Linda Lattimore