Q: The number of women ambassadors to the U.S. has grown dramatically in recent years -- a phenomenon that some attribute to female U.S. Secretaries of State, particularly Hillary Clinton. How important are trailblazers to the sucess of others? And if they are important, why didn't an earlier generation of women leaders like Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi or British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher lead to a surge of women in positions of political power?
I think it's just good old-fashioned prejudice! It seems a high percentage of men are threatened by talented, competent women in a position of power.
As a man -- and that's the first time I've ever had to qualify my gender in print (or in real life, I hope) -- I have been in several companies' all-male boardrooms as a consultant and heard things you would not believe about female leaders ... and this was just a few years ago!
Things have gotten much better since then, but we still may need to have some "women are good at what they do, so you need to get over it" training at the executive level, I think. And still, I must admit that I am personally guilty of finding female professional football announcers especially attractive. (Is that wrong?)
Let's get real about how far women have come from the women's rights movement of 1910-18 (when Woodrow Wilson had them thrown in the insane asylum for being right). It still seems that only women who have an existing platform of influence to springboard from can get the top job.
Hillary Clinton has the position she has mainly because she was married to Bill. Greatly to her credit, she's the only first lady who has ever made the transition. I'm sure she is capable and certainly comes across as powerful and even presidential, albeit a bit scary at times.
But women still have to be positioned by their relationship to a powerful man in most cases to gain ultimate political power. You almost never see a woman with big-time political clout who attained it because another woman gave her a leg up. So the brave trailblazers need to keep doing what they do so that one day soon a powerful female leader can say, "I hope I can lead this country as well as my mom did!"
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