Never in my recollection has the United States ever had such an acidic election, with so much hatred and intolerance coming out. Also, never have I ever admired a candidate more, even if I don't necessarily agree with her, nor strongly support her. However, I have lived only a small part of what she has experienced, struggled with, and continues to win against.... gender discrimination. And for her strength to fight it hour after hour, day after day, and continue the fight, I admire her. She is of course Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party candidate for President of the United States
In my young and naive high school and college years, I hated the word "feminist". I thought it was a group of angry women, who were less competent and looking for someone to blame (primarily men). The world view I had at that point was that, thanks to Affirmative Action policies, many things are actually easier for me as a woman.
I studied engineering, and benefited from being one of few women. Honestly, if I were a white man, I am not sure I would have been accepted to the elite universities I attended. I definitely was not the smartest or nerdiest engineer coming in, although I did hold my own in my classes and graduated both programs with above average performance.
In recruiting, I was sought after and had my choice of interviews and great companies as I helped companies both meet their gender targets, as well as had a good academic pedigree and performance. Thanks to a combined work/school program in undergrad, I also had real life work experience.
In my early years working, my gender helped me a lot. I was definitely remembered out of meetings, as I usually was the only, or one of very few, women in the room. Nobody debated if they talked to Mark, or Bob, or Harry. They definitely talked to Sarah. Everyone knows the monkey.
I benefited from mentoring, from career development, and from tremendous support from leadership, that I feel in part came about because I was one of a few females with potential.
I felt so coveted, so privileged, so coddled in the early years, that I ignored a lot of the comments and innuendos that are drawn out in a male dominated environment.
When I started my graduate program, we had a barbeque for incoming students. At that time, we had a web page introducing all of the new students in our program, with our picture, undergraduate degree, and work experience. I was surprised by a fellow classmate, a friendly, classy woman about 10-15 years older than me who came up, eagerly greeted me, and said she was happy to meet another woman in the automotive industry, especially in Silicon Valley (this was before Tesla’s time). She clearly wanted to share experiences of being a woman in, frankly, a man’s world and have a network to build.
I still cringe to remember how I arrogantly rebuffed her, more or less minimalizing her to being an angry feminist, and telling her that the gender issues in the auto industry were her making, not reality.
It took me a few more years to realize both what an asshole that I had been, and how right she really was. (I am happy to say I apologized a few years ago). Thankfully, I don't think either of us are angry feminists yet.
It isn’t so much a specific incident or as dramatic as a single event, but rather an accumulation of many years of having to justify that:
1) Yes, I really can follow most of the conversations, even if they are technical
2) Yes, it is possible to be a leader, and be nice. Strength can often be in listening and gentle persuasion, not only brute force and aggression
3) Yes, it is possible to be a mother and work outside of the home
4) Yes, I can care for my people as well as challenge and lead them. They aren’t mutually exclusive.
5) Yes, it is possible to successfully fulfill many positions without working 24/7.
Even more than the justification, it is discounting the comments about women that are, at best, surprised with a competent and intelligent woman, and at worst, clearly seeing a woman as a second class citizen, or an object.
The higher one goes in an organization, the more time is spent trying to justify your value, to hold on to your position, and to drive away the scavengers ready to take it out from under you, no matter what they need to employ to get there. Getting to the top, many say, needs balls. If you didn’t get a set naturally, you need to grow them.
At some point, I lost the drive and motivation to prove that a woman could be a CEO of an automotive company. I became tired of trying to explain and prove that there are other, perhaps even more effective ways, to lead and motivate people. That maybe balls are detrimental rather than beneficial. I found another place for my experiences and talent that isn’t at the top.
Luckily Mary Barra has that drive. As does Hillary Clinton.
Hillary gets up each day, with a good number of the population against her, because of the unlucky circumstance of her X chromosome. There are the men who are against her because she has bigger balls than they do, and they are threatened by her. There are women against her, because she dares to have grown balls and because she threatens an outdated Biblical hierarchy of gender relations that defines their whole existence. These people are looking, are waiting, for the slightest imperfection, for the slightest sign of weakness, and exploit it continuously.
She, because she is a “She”, is held to a different standard. She can’t show any “feminine” characteristics because it would be weak. She can’t be too strong or she emasculates men. If she is kind, she is weak. If she is tough, she is a dictator.
I honestly and truly believe that if the Democratic candidate for the United States were a man with the exact same credentials, Trump would not be a serious contender.
However, it reflects a sad state of a country that it would rather elect an unqualified, immature, irresponsible reality TV star than a woman.
So, Hillary, even if I don’t agree with you on every issue, and I do think that you are doing too much for your 1% buddies, I thank you for each day you wake up, fight the fight, deal with the bullshit, and keep going. Thank you for being much stronger than me!