Being So Much More

When conducting research for this month’s Focus Feature I stumbled upon a quote on www.breaktheglassceiling.com that I found particularly amusing: “Well-behaved women rarely make history.”
Then I thought more about it, more about the women I interviewed. Were these ladies somehow misbehaving? Naw, that’s silly…or is it? But seriously, I think I know what the quote is getting at.
If a woman wants to get ahead in a male-dominated world, she must break out of what is traditionally thought of as “women’s work,” she must leave behind thoughts of June Cleaver, Donna Reed and Edith Bunker, and think more Hillary Rodham Clinton, Condoleezza Rice or Gloria Steinem. As the remarkable ladies I interviewed made clear in their statements, a woman can be both June and Hillary, Donna and Condoleezza, Edith and Gloria. And I like that.
To quote columnist Anne Taylor Fleming: “I always keep my eye on the statistics. How many women have risen to the top — how many senators, how many professors, college presidents, corporate executives. It’s a habit left over from the early exit-rating days of liberation, when we — then young women — started banging on the doors of power.
“The glass ceiling, that invisible ouch women bump their heads against as they tried to break through the old boy networks. The mommy tears, the fierce juggling act women have had to do between kids and careers, gyrating guiltily between the two, in a world that often insisted that we choose one or the other.”
Now comes a complicated and more interesting reason, says Fleming. “A recent article in The New York Times chronicles women who have bailed out of companies not for the obvious reasons — babies, ceilings, bad bosses — but rather out of boredom. The women say they want more; want to be stimulated, challenged, given a chance to be creative, not just toe the line. If not, they’ll jump ship to another company, or start their own business — catering, cleaning, plumbing, as many have done — or simply go home and raise those kids.”
The good news, says Fleming, according to the Times: Some big companies like General Electric and Proctor and Gamble are willing to try to make these women happy because they are too valuable to lose. “We quarrel endlessly about whether men and women are different. It’s a minefield of a question, as Harvard president Lawrence Summers found out when he speculated about why there are so few top women scientists. The very suggestion carries for many women the threat of discrimination, of being marginalized. I get that. But sometimes I cherish what I see as those differences. I like the fact that women are unwilling to play it safe, stay the corporate course, mimic the treadmill that so many men run on, boring themselves till death or a gold watch do us part.”
Indeed. Hats of to you — Connie, Miriam, Rita, Sharon, Martha and Peggy — for not only leading the way for other women, but for being so much more than just your title.  
If we overlooked anyone or you would like to be included in future articles about dairy’s leading ladies, please contact me.