Performance Perspectives Blog

Promoting Strong Women

by | Jun 8, 2017

This is QUITE a different post for me, but after some recent reflection, decided it was appropriate.

The idea of “promoting strong women” isn’t new for me. I’ve been doing this for quite some time.

When I was mayor of North Brunswick, NJ (2000-2003), I made some drastic changes. For example, prior to my assuming office, the only senior woman was our township clerk, who was paid far below the state’s average (she was even paid less than a janitor; don’t let the title “township clerk” fool you: it’s a senior director-level position, with a great deal of responsibility). With my council’s support, we more than doubled her salary in four years, allowing her to retire with dignity. I also appointed two women as directors and a third as our finance officer (I believe all were firsts in our town). In addition, I named the township’s first female judge.

I think I am partially inspired by my mother, who was a legal secretary (I guess as opposed to an illegal one; she also was a legal immigrant (from Cuba)). She was my family’s sole breadwinner, as my alcoholic father was unable to hold a job. And while she exhibited strength in being able to take on this responsibility, I also fear that she was too weak to leave her marriage. In hindsight, and in reality, at the time, I felt that she had plenty of grounds to do this. Sadly, she departed this earth too young (she was 49) of cancer.

I know of other women who are or have been in marriages they should have walked away from. One particularly good example is a relative whose husband is a pedophile; he abused their children. She knew it, and didn’t take any action, I think partly out of fear that she’d lose him. She preferred to keep him as her husband than protect her children. I found this to be extremely sick and sad. It very much reflected a weakness on her part.

Today, women have great opportunities to excel. And while we haven’t yet seen a female U.S. President or Vice President (other than on House of Cards), we will, as there are plenty highly qualified women.

I’ve never been a fan of affirmative action, but do believe when there is someone qualified, they deserve a chance. My prior town (my wife and I now live in South Brunswick, NJ (we moved a few miles south for the warmer weather)) had two judges, who had historically always been filled by white men. When their respective terms came up, I replaced both of them: the first with a black man, the second with a white woman. Both were highly qualified. The first was recommended by my township attorney, the second by my court administrator. I was thoroughly pleased with the performance of both.

We should all celebrate opportunities to promote strong women: it’s good for them, and it’s good for everyone else, too!

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