When President Barack Obama was telling the story of his grandmother, a woman who became a bank vice president but could go no further because of the glass ceiling; when he said that she had had to train men who would go on to make higher salaries and gain positions of power denied to her because of her gender, he was telling the story of my own mother.
My mother worked throughout my childhood. She went to "business," as it was called back then, earning a pittance compared to what men earned. A serious college graduate, she had wanted to pursue a career as an accountant but was told that "girls" can only become bookkeepers. A damned good bookkeeper she became; a bookkeeper who had to train men for well-paid positions which she could never hope to get simply because she was a woman.
Her take-home pay was half that of male employees even though she did double the work they did and helped to support her aging parents. That she was frustrated about this inequality I have no doubt, but she never complained. Only once did I hear her say that she was upset about the unfairness shown to women in the workforce. That was when the men in her office received a Christmas bonus of a full week's salary while she and the other women there received two tickets to the holiday show at Radio City Music Hall as compensation. There's a big difference between a week's salary as a bonus and show tickets. But that's what women were seen to be worth; they were background workers.
Mitt Romney has the attitude that women should still be in the background. Many truly believe that his upbringing and his values make him see women as ladylike dependents and not as equals. His religion states that women's qualities and attributes are "to birth, to rear, and to love." In my opinion, a man brought up to believe that simply can't make the change to see women as equals.
When Team Romney was asked if the former governor supports the Lilly Ledbetter Act, the answer wasn't an immediate, "Of course we support equal pay for women" but rather a snarky, "We'll get back to you on that."
When Romney himself was asked by Diane Sawyer on national television if he would have signed the Ledbetter bill into law, he still wouldn't give a straight answer. Why not? How could a man still believe that the work done by a woman is somehow less important or viable simply because of her gender? If he truly supported women and equal pay, he would have answered in the affirmative without batting an eye.
His comment during last night's debate -- that he approved flex-time for working women because even his chief of staff needs to be home by five o'clock so that she can be there when her kids come home from school and prepare dinner for them -- further shows what he thinks the real roles of women are. Oh, Mitt! Seriously? I know men who would like flex-time and who also prepare dinner for their families.
As Jena McGregor, columnist for the Washington Post's On Leadership section wrote:
Mitt Romney's "binders full of women" line may be the buzziest comment from last night's debate... Responding to a question about pay equity, which asked what each candidate would do to ensure equal pay for equal work, he began by telling the story of when he became governor of Massachusetts, and all the applicants for cabinet positions "seemed to be men." Rather than say he filled the jobs with highly talented women whom he'd known during his days in the private sector or running the Salt Lake City Olympics, or even that he personally looked for talented women already serving in state and local leadership roles, he said he went several women's groups and asked them, "Can you help us find folks?" This is where the offending remark comes in. They came back, he said, with those "binders full of women."
Does Mr. Romney not think that qualified women can be found elsewhere; that we're somehow relegated to "binders" and nowhere else? Has he never heard of professional recruiters or promoting job candidates from within his own organization? Qualified women should be apparent to everyone, even Romney.
Mr. Romney wouldn't like me. I'm a strong professional woman who enjoys working, has never been paid less than any man with whom I worked, used my brains to get where I am, and who feels that I have the same rights as anyone, male or female, to voice my opinions. But somehow, I get the distinct impression if my opinions were voiced to Mr. Romney he would give me that practiced angelic look he likes to put on like a mask and then pat me on the head as if to say, "Good little girl, now go play with your dolls and leave the important issues to the men." FYI Mr. Romney: I never liked playing with dolls. I preferred being included in the conversation with the big boys and girls.
President Obama believes equal pay is an essential right for all people, regardless of gender. He has respect for women and sees us as equals. He remembers his grandmother and her strength. I like that. My mother would have welcomed his policies and the chance to earn the salary she deserved.
Our rights are in peril with a Romney/Ryan ticket. My mother would have a hard time with those policies.
So do I.
© 2012 copyright Kristen Houghton
"And Then I'll Be Happy! Stop Sabotaging Your Happiness and Put Your Own Life First" ranked in the top 100 books by Tower Books.com
Kristen Houghton is the author of the hilarious new book, No Woman Diets Alone - There's Always a Man Behind Her Eating a Doughnut in the top 10 hot new releases at Amazon available now on Kindle, Nook, and all e-book venues.
You may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.