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Hillary Clinton’s Lessons for Working Women

Hillary Clinton’s Lessons for Working Women

Monster Blogger Christie

July 29, 2008

“Iron my shirt.”

Yes, a man actually said that to Hillary Clinton at a campaign stop. It’s huge that she made it as far in the 2008 presidential campaign as she did, but as that barb and this MSNBC article point out (which contains photographic proof of the ironing remark), her historic campaign revealed that, as far as working women have come in the workplace, a lot more work needs to be done.

Says the article:

(Mary) Gatta (director of work force policy and research at Rutgers University’s Center for Women and Work) thinks one very positive thing to come from Clinton’s campaign is that working women saw that the kind of things they experience in the workplace – whether it is overtly sexist jokes or more subtle barbs – are also experienced even by a woman at the highest career levels.

“I think women related to Hillary on that, that in their own lives they’ve experienced different degrees of sexism,” she said.

As a working woman, I know I face different issues in the workplace than my husband, brother or father do. And while overt name-calling is usually not part of the workplace, sexism can be more covert. The article goes on to say:

Gatta thinks Clinton’s campaign highlighted the more subtle ways in which women are undermined in the workplace. For example, Clinton was often referred to by her first, rather than her last, name — the same thing that often happened to Carly Fiorina during her tumultuous tenure as head of Hewlett-Packard. Gatta, who has the same experience herself sometimes, thinks that can be a way of taking a woman less seriously.

And then there are the stone-cold facts. Women still earn less than men. The MSNBC article refers to a report by women’s advocacy group the InterOrganization Network that shows 14.8 percent of board seats in Fortune 500 companies are held by women, while 11.8 percent of Fortune 500 companies have all-male boards. And then there’s the gender stereotyping — that a woman needs to act (and dress) like a man to get ahead. Remember the bugaboo over Clinton’s cleavage? Do you think McCain or Obama wearing a certain suit or tie would have made such headlines?

Clinton’s strength as a working woman was shown in the graciousness of her defeat. She fought hard, but when winning became impossible, she joined with her former rival Obama in the name of party unity — symbolically, in the town of Unity, New Hampshire. Such grace and class are a credit to her gender. If women could unite and fight for complete equality in the workplace, imagine what we could accomplish?

For more on what you can learn about your own job search from the 2008 presidential campaign, check out this article.

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