The nomination of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee for President this week is historic! For me and for many women my age, this was a personal victory! You see, I was turned down for my first job because I am a woman. I am so grateful to see this long coming change in our world.
It was 1973, and I was one of fewer than 15 women in a graduating class of 250 in the Faculty of Commerce at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. I had an on-campus interview with a manager from a major oil company. The interviews were pre-screened and I was so thrilled to get an interview. At the age of 22, I showed up in the new dress that I had purchased for the occasion filled with hope and optimism about my future career, and the interviewer told me that he had invited me to the interview so that he could tell me personally why a woman would not be able to do a marketing job at a major oil company. Now that was discrimination! There might have been other reasons not to hire me; my grades weren’t at the top of the class and I didn’t have a lot of self-confidence to represent myself well in an interview, but he specifically told me that I couldn’t do the job because I am a woman. He had decided before he met me that he wasn’t going to hire me because I was a woman. That resulted in the Dean’s office writing letters to the company warning them never to do that again, and it made it clear to me that the workplace wasn’t going to be a fair playing field.
At the first job that I did secure following university, I was told by a manager that the men were paid more than the women in equal jobs. He explained that he decided how much a position should be paid, and then he added some on for the men because they had families to support.
And, when I worked for another organization for many years, a male colleague shared with me that he always preferred to work with women because they had to be 20% more competent to get where they were.
My mother always regretted that she wasn’t able to get her grade 12. She grew up in a small community in Manitoba where the school only included grades 1 to 11, so students had to travel to the nearest city to take grade 12. My grandfather would not pay to send my Mom to grade 12 or to university because he said that a woman didn’t need an education. This set in my mother’s mind that her daughter would have the opportunity to go to university and she was stalwart in ensuring that I had the opportunity that was denied to her by her gender. By the way, my Mom and I graduated from grade 12 together.
Discrimination against women has not ended this week with Hillary Clinton’s nomination. She has been maligned by the press, politicians and others throughout her career, and I anticipate that it will continue. She has been a hard working dedicated public servant for more than 40 years and has been described by many including President Barack Obama as the most qualified candidate ever to run for President. Yet, she is also the most attacked and maligned candidate.
Our first Canadian female Prime Minister, Kim Campbell, the 19th Canadian Prime Minister, also experienced the same. She assumed the role of Prime Minister when she became the leader of the Conservative Party after Brian Mulroney stepped down; however, she was not successful in being re-elected. While some of the negative press could be attributed to the unpopularity of her predecessor, Prime Minister Campbell was given a harder time than most by the press.
When you consider that women in Canada started to get the vote in 1916 in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and not until 1940 in Quebec, and in the United States, they got the vote in 1920 …. When you consider that my mother and thousands like her didn’t get the same opportunities for education as men because their own fathers believed that women didn’t need an education, and that I and many others have been refused jobs because of our gender….and that statistics today prove that women still don’t’ get paid the same as men for the same work….when you consider that on other continents girls don’t even get to go to school in some places….Hillary Clinton’s nomination is HISTORIC and SIGNIFICANT. Now, today, in 2016, a woman can run for president in the United States.
When you hear some of the horrible things that are said about Secretary Clinton, you know that the prejudice isn’t over yet, but great progress has been made. I note that yesterday, the morning after Hillary was officially nominated as the first woman candidate ever for a major political party in the US, The Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post put her husband, Bill Clinton, on the front page. What’s up with that? She gets the nomination, and they put her husband on the front page?
It was disturbing to me a few months ago when it was brought to our attention in the press that women of the millennial generation didn’t view the possibility that a woman could become president of the United States as significant. They already believed that it was possible. I felt sad that they didn’t realize how much work so many women before them have put into getting equal rights and opportunities so that they can have better lives. However, Michelle Obama put it into perspective this week when she said that millennial women take it for granted that they should have equal rights and equal opportunities. That is positive change. I hope that the history of how women and the men who have supported them have fought to get equal rights will not be lost because if it is lost, then it can fall back. My great grandmother could not vote. My grandmother’s generation gained the vote. My mother didn’t have equal opportunity for education. My generation didn’t have equal opportunity for jobs and pay. Today, there are laws to protect women’s rights, but some of those laws are in jeopardy of being changed, and some of them are not consistently practiced.
This BLOG is about creativity and living a creative life. How can we have the ultimate opportunity to express our creativity if there are barriers? I am overjoyed that the glass ceiling was shattered this week!
© 2016 Dr. Carla Weaver