Last week, Hillary Rodham Clinton became the apparent Democratic nominee for President, the first woman to be entrusted with this mantle in the entire history of our country. As I watched her speak on the last “Super Tuesday” of 2016, with her female cadences, clothes, hair, face, I felt the power of this pivotal moment. I imagined that any woman, young or old, conservative or liberal, would find it hard not to be buoyed by the breaking of this longstanding barrier.
The next day, however, my newsfeed evidenced that many women were not impressed. The back-and-forth continued about jobs, violence, immigration, etc. Few paused to reflect about the latest crack in the glass ceiling.
Does a glass ceiling still exist?
We are the product of our times. Many of today’s young women experience the world as gender-neutral and open to them. And in many ways it is. There are more women attending college than men. Women are nearly half of the labor force and they hold more than half of the professional and technical jobs in the U.S.
Back in the Day
This was not always the case. Not so long ago, certainly in Hillary Clinton’s lifetime, the glass ceiling hung so low, women could barely stand beneath it. Before the 1970s, most women married young and stayed home raising babies. Most didn’t work for pay at all. Those who did were, for the most part, limited to traditionally “women’s” jobs: nurses, teachers, and secretaries.
The Feminist Fight
In the 1960s and 70s, a revolution of sorts took place. Hillary Clinton was part of that revolution. She benefited from it. Like so many women today, she went from college to career. And it was exhilarating. She boasted at one time that she had more important things to do than stay home and make cookies.
But though the ceiling was higher, it was still there. Hillary has bumped her head on it over and over through the years. Many critics. Ever vacillating criticisms. Those female cadences were sometimes too strident, sometimes too weak. Her hair was sometimes too messy, sometimes too coiffed. She was sometimes too abrasive, sometimes too conciliatory.
And women in general? Last year, women only made 79 cents for every dollar men made. In every single occupation measured, men average higher wages than women. Less than 5% of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies are women. Less than half of women who start out practicing law in firms end up as high-level partners. And even those who make it that far only earn, on average, 80% of what men earn.
We still have a ways to go. Which makes it all the more important – young and old — to take time out, look at, reflect upon, rejoice in the beauty of the glass ceiling cracks.
Share your stories of cracks in the glass ceiling.