What could be better than Engaging, Educating and Empowering women to get involved and be leaders in politics? Well, for me, just about nothing, with the exception of USC winning the NCAA Football Championship, of course!
I come to that conclusion after speaking at the recent Southeast Regional Leadership Conference for the relatively young Smart Girl Politics organization, which took place in Atlanta. A full day of speakers followed a well-attended reception the night before at which this new organization was able to attract numerous elected officials and candidates from the host State, Georgia. I had been invited to speak on health care and political leadership, moderating a health care panel. I write this as I am flying back to LA having made a bunch of new friends and possible project partners in the months and years to come.
Looking out the window at the vast plain below, one feels a tranquility in the clouds, the winding Mississipi – a true 30,000 foot view of our magnificent country. At the same time, it is impossible to sense the organic change that takes place day to day, year to year on the surface. Having lived most of my life experiencing the roiling world of California’s social change, I can still appreciate the wonder of our topography and the beauty of the purple mountains majesty as seen from the window, yet feel the pulse of generational change.
Having just spent a weekend with a vibrant group of most professional women on the ground and flying at 30,000 feet above, I am compelled to reflect on the magnitude of change in the role of women in America.
In the 60’s and 70’s of my younger years, the cry for equal opportunity for women seeped into almost every nook and cranny of lives. Most of my female friends prepared themselves for careers that their own moms never dreamed of doing; most of the moms in our lives were stay-at-home moms, raising their families – most of the dads worked. And while so many enlightened people today decry that model, there was some comfort in knowing one’s role, whether the individual male or female liked it or not – and there was almost always one parent at home. But all that changed during our time as young adults, and for the better.
While I continue to feel strongly that children are far better off when one of the parents are at home, it matters little to me whether or not that is the Father or the Mother. I think that philosophy marks the ideal outcome of my generation – women should be able to pursue the same professional dreams as their mates, but along with that, one of the two ought to be at home for a large part of the time, to raise their children, to provide the anchor, the safe harbor. And with these developments, it allows either partner to make the choice to be the more involved caregiver.
My own feelings aside, however, today’s women have emerged from the tumultuous upheavals of the 60’s and 70’s having been raised and educated in a far different world from that of their own moms. Moms in those days found themselves in hostile environs as they entered the near-100% man’s world. Most had to work harder, felt they had to give up having children until they achieved professional success before being moms themselves.
Additionally, societal pressures, certainly in California where I grew up, were placed on women to do that – put off marriage and motherhood in favor of professional success and financial independence. “Housewife” became a pejorative in many circles and getting married to raise children just didn’t have the ring associated with being an attorney or physician. Unfortunately for many newly-minted professional women, they found it difficult to make a transition to motherhood later in life, marking the sudden rise in the now common infertility specialist!
Rest assured, the sacrifices, risks, and uncertainties that marked the women of the Baby Boom Generation were not made in vain if Smart Girl Politics is any measure.
First of all, I heard only about the goals and aspirations of this group, not the complaints nor the claims of victimhood that seem to be the focus of many other women’s groups dotting the political playing field. They want to learn, to become leaders and they don’t see a reason to portray themselves as victims. They respect the sacrifices made by others that allow them to be accountants, professors, corporate executives, business owners and doctors in today’s America – and be moms too!
In fact, most are, indeed, moms. They’ve either mastered the dual schedules with their husbands, or have elected to leave their professional life for a time in order to raise their children. Either way, they have harvested the seeds planted by their mothers as they own businesses, prepare to run for office and do it all with smiles.
SGP will produce some of tomorrow’s leaders, be it in industry, politics or in volunteer capacities as political chairs or within their own charitable organizations. Their futures are in their own hands and they know it. There may be hurdles, sometimes even more so than for a man, but they choose to learn to jump higher, think smarter and grab their dreams.
They are, quite simply, the essence of true feminism. Women taking their futures into their own hands, following their own dreams, looking to themselves for corrective action when needed, understanding that true change comes only through hard work and personal responsibility.
Congratulations to this wonderful group of energized, professional women who truly are ready to take the baton from the last generation and stand on the shoulders of the giants who went before them.
The Baby Boom Generation, children of the so-aptly-named, “Great Generation”, have in many ways been given the best set of circumstances of any generation in any country in the history of the world.