On Women’s Equality Day we not only celebrate passage of the 19th Amendment 90 years ago giving women the right to vote but also call attention to women’s ongoing efforts to achieve full equality. While while a greater percentage of women vote than men we don’t hold a proportionate number of elected positions. And while we are now more than 50 percent of the workforce we have not achieved pay equity.
But what I would call a “good news” story in the Washington Post caught my eye the other day. The Post reported that during the negotiations on the new nuclear treaty with Moscow, the U.S. team was filled with women. It was so noticeable that the Russians even asked “How come you’ve got so many women?” While not reported I hope our team asked back “How come you’ve got so many men?”
Some of you may not have been around 25 years ago when President Reagan’s White House chief of staff Donald Regan said that women ”aren’t interested in the nitty-gritty” of nuclear negations and that they are not ”going to understand throw weights or what is happening in Afghanistan or what is happening in human rights.” He also said when discussing females and South African sanctions — ”Are the women of America prepared to give up all their diamonds?”
Hard to believe that someone could say such offensive things and hold on to their job, but today’s nuclear team has proven him oh so wrong. As reported in the Post the U.S team was led by Rose Gottemoeller. Her deputy was Marcie Ries, another diplomat. The top two U.S. scientists were female. And helping to close the deal on the New START agreement was Ellen O. Tauscher, a State Department undersecretary and former congresswoman. Obviously women not only get nuclear policy, they run it or at least a lot of it.
Women hold now senior positions at the State Department, Pentagon, Senior Intelligence Service, USAID and the White House. These changes have not come about overnight, since it has only been since 1973 that the State Department lifted its ban on married women in the diplomatic service. But the times they are a changin’ and it feels good to this woman who can remember her anger at Donald Regan’s unapologetic foot in mouth moment. I did get a laugh though when Andrea Mitchell asked Regan about throw weights and he hemmed and hawed with such a lack of understanding, it was a joy to behold.
But we don’t have to go back 25 years to find stupid statements about women’s worth in the workplace. Just last week a U.S. Chamber of Commerce employee, Brad Peck, blogged about how women wanting equal pay have a “Fetish for Money” and how we should focus on marrying the right partner, I guess to take care of us so we wouldn’t have to work. He and Don Regan would have been best buddies.
So where are we now? We have come along way but there is still a long way to go. Not only to achieve equality but to overcome and silence the likes of Brad Peck and Donald Regan. I know I stand on the shoulders of those who came before me and I only hope that my shoulders are stong enough to hold those still coming.