Third Generation Mama Feminist
I am fortunate to have been raised in an environment where my Mom and Dad both had successful careers. Both of my parents played a huge role in helping me become the woman I am today. My Mother always inspired me. She is one of those women who has always held many leadership roles, is heavily involved in numerous committees and organizations, is making a difference in her field (i.e. fighting for the importance of science education in schools), and was also always there for my sister and I growing up. Mom was always at our choir concerts, sporting events, and made sure that we had dinner together each night as a family. It wasn’t until I got older and began a career of my own, that I realized just how much work she put into balancing her career and her family. I appreciate all that my Mom did for us growing up and was excited to sit down with her this week to talk about her upbringing, what feminism looked like when she was growing up, and what advice she has for women and girls today.
First Generation Mama Feminist What can you tell me about Grandma as a feminist? “She unquestionably brought me up to believe that I could do anything I wanted to do. She always made me believe I could do whatever I wanted in my career, I didn’t have to get married, I didn’t have to have kids…. I could be a SCIENTIST! Grandma was also very involved in League of Women Voters and the Human Rights Commission for the town. At one point she was the President of the League of Women Voters. She was always very active outside of the home in taking leadership roles. She was a strong supporter of the equal rights amendment. I would go with her, as a kid, to league meetings, sometimes women gave me a hard time for what I wanted to do and be and she always stood up for me.”
Where did she get that from?
“I don’t know. She was the only of the children in her family to go to college. She was very smart. She always felt very strongly about voting. She felt that women had worked so hard for the right to vote. She thought that you should know about candidates and what they stood for.”
Second Generation Mama Feminist What can you tell me about yourself as a feminist? “I was raised to believe that I could do anything I wanted to do. I didn’t know until I went to college that it made a difference that I was a woman, and then it was too late. One thing that made a difference, for me, was that I never thought of myself as a woman, I thought of myself as a person. I never thought of myself as different because I was female. In the science field, rarely were there other females but I didn’t allow myself to be aware that I was the only woman. In fact, a lot of men forgot I was female and didn’t think about it. I would be in a meeting and they would say that we should invite so and so because they needed a token woman. However they had forgotten that I was a woman who was already in the group.”
Have you seen an increase of women in leadership roles in your lifetime? “Oh yeah of course. When I was in school there were fields that were only for men. When I was younger there was a stigma that there was no point in putting money in women’s education because all women wanted to do was have families and kids. In fact, there was a belief that when women were on their on periods they couldn’t work during that time. If women were working then they needed to have a place to rest so they could sleep. There is actually a daybed that is still in one of the women’s restrooms at work. It was there so that women could lie down and rest when they were on their period. There were certain professions that women just couldn’t do…You couldn’t be a pilot because it wasn’t safe. Women were illogical. Women couldn’t work for other women. When I was young women could be secretaries, teachers, and housewives. That was all you did. Women also perpetuated the stereotype for other women and themselves. When growing up girls would ask each other, “What do you want to be when you grow up, a mom or bride?”
Were there times you felt the road to your success was a struggle or a fight?
“It was a struggle during my undergrad and masters degree because the attitude was that because I was clearly very feminine in look and dress that I couldn’t possibly succeed. I needed to be more masculine to fit into my field. I had faculty that wouldn’t give me an A because I was just going to get married and have babies. They saved the A’s for the boys. I had to wait a year to complete certain courses. But I never let it bother me. It always came down to the way my Mom and Dad raised me…that this is garbage.”
What are some of the most important things you wanted to impart on my sister and I?
“You could be whatever you wanted to. You needed to think about your career and what you wanted to do. You could have a career and have children, obviously. You needed education and you needed to go to college.”
Did you ever feel guilty about having a full time career when we were growing up?
What challenges do you think women face today?
“A lot of challenges in terms of politics and representation in government. There is an awful lot of stereotypes still out there. Also in business there is a glass ceiling. It is very difficult for women to become CEOs and become successful.
It’s hard for me sometimes because when I was starting out in college and early career, the old adage was a woman has to work twice as hard and be twice as good to be considered equal. I still see that today. There are still some of the same challenges in many situations where you need to be better and work harder.
Another challenge that women have, to some extent, is that men think women get jobs or opportunities because they are female as opposed to because they were better canidates. Women aren’t paid as well as men for the same jobs. Women are more likely to get overlooked for promotions. Women aren’t as aggressive in demanding and negotiating jobs and salaries.”
What advice would you give women today?
“Your gender doesn’t make it impossible for you to have the proffesion you want. That when you think about yourself think about yourself as a person. Women should also help other women succeed. We used to joke that the only thing a woman can’t do that a man can… is pee standing up…”