In My Opinion is a weekly segment in which Interns and Staff at The White House Project comment on recent issues and articles important to their individual leadership.
Men get paid more than women in 264 out of 265 major occupations. The exception? The service industry, where women get $1.02 to every $1 that men make. The lead paragraph of this piece was especially face-slapping, by saying that women can earn more than men on Wall Street – if they choose to shine shoes. Female doctors, lawyers, bankers all earn less than male counterparts. Interestingly, female receptionists also earn less than male ones, even though the majority of administrative assistants are females. I’m always curious as to how this is calculated, and why, for instance, a female doctor wouldn’t just research how much a male career peer earns and ask for that as salary. Obviously easier said than done, however – I know that if I were getting paid less than someone comparable to me, I would assume they were doing more work than I was and that they deserved it. So let’s stop assuming! It shouldn’t be embarrassing to ask for what your work is worth.
Some people seek out power, and others demonstrate the ability to produce results and are subsequently given power. The five women in U.S. Army leadership positions featured in this article are a mix of both, but all showed strong and grounded approaches to being in powerful positions in a military branch. Major General Marcia D. Anderson – the first African-American woman to have such a title – emphasized the need to mentor those beneath her rank and show interest in them as people. Interest in the individual is certainly a sign of a great leader – too many of powerful people have been self-centered and manipulative of those serving beneath them. To borrow from Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”, leaders must be able to “walk with kings – nor lose the common touch.” Of course, Kipling ends his poetic list of virtues by saying “You’ll be a man, my son!” if the moral achievements are reached. These featured Army leaders are showing us that being a woman isn’t so bad, either.
Are political ties stronger than the bonds of sisterhood? Apparently yes, and essentially they should be – as one commenter on this article pointed out, voting for a woman on the basis of being a woman is as discriminatory as not voting for her for the same reason. Keli Goff’s piece on female support for female candidates raises multiple sides of the issue, such as women reporting that they feel more comfortable with a male boss and men supporting Sarah Palin in 2008 more than women. Female candidates certainly have extra work to do, and White House Project president Tiffany Dufu was quoted in this piece as saying “Any individual who does not fit the leadership status quo has to meet a higher bar.” It appears that many Americans, regardless of gender, are comfortable with what’s normal – no surprise there. It’s going to take a step out of the comfort zone from both men and women to elect and trust female leaders, but that comfort zone can’t be an excuse to not take a chance.
April DeJarlais is a Communications Intern with The White House Project