I was lucky enough to grow up in a household with two parents who told me I could be anything I wanted to be; even the president of the United States.
As a little girl, I asked my mother why, if women can do anything men can do, has there never been a woman president?
“There will be one day,” she told me firmly. “By the time you’re my age, there will be. Maybe it will even be Hillary Clinton.”
I couldn’t help but notice a wistful look in my mother’s eyes whenever she talked about Hillary Clinton. It was clear she had the utmost respect for the woman, both as a person, and a politician. I remember how, when Hillary would speak, my mother would nudge me and say, “that’s Hillary Clinton. She’s one of the smartest people in the world.”
Perhaps, my mother’s admiration for Clinton came from spending the majority of her own working life in industries that were boys’ clubs. In college, she’d been a math major. One professor accused her of cheating because she got an ‘A’ on a difficult exam, and because she was female, he didn’t believe that was possible. As a twenty-something, she was an insurance executive, back when few women were climbing the corporate ladder. She rose quickly through the ranks, but was constantly underestimated in her abilities and assumed to be the secretary as she sat in on important meetings. Later on, she became a high school athletic director; one of the few women in Connecticut holding such a position.
My mother felt the limitations of the glass ceiling intimately in her own work life. She felt the pressure to be perfect; to be better than the men but for only half the credit. She felt the pain of being treated with disdain, and of having to routinely work with people who hated her just for being an outspoken and driven woman. She was called terrible things behind her back — shrewd, bitch, tyrant, insufferable, fat cow. And those were only the words people said to or around me, her young, impressionable daughter. So I can only imagine what they were saying out of my earshot. Continue reading