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I recently read an article about the new CEO of GM Corporation who is a 30 year employee and an engineer. Apparently, there have been only a hand full of engineers who have headed the company over the years, which kind of makes you wonder since it is a company where engineering and technology are seriously important. On top of her engineering background, the new CEO is a woman and that in itself is pretty amazing.
Despite her degrees, experience, and long service to the company, the new CEO is reportedly making only 48% of what her predecessor earned. You may know who he is or not but suffice it to say that he is the guy who didn't do a fabulous job being CEO. In fact, he did such a bad job that they retained him as a consultant and are paying him an enormous amount of money for it. I wonder if that is because the Board of Directors has some doubt about her ability to do the job on her own because she is an engineer or because of something else. Who knows?
My 19 year old son and I were talking about the situation the other day and he was pretty disgusted by the fact she was being paid so much less, particularly because she is an engineer and in his mind, there is nothing American car companies need more than better engineering. The fact that she was a woman engineer didn't concern him even a little bit but he was disgusted at the thought that it made some sort of difference to other people. I raised my sons right.
It all got me to thinking about growing up with three brothers and no sisters in a neighborhood dominated by boys. In retrospect, I realize that my brothers were amazingly egalitarian for their day. I cannot recall them ever excluding me from any game or any sport that they were playing on the basis of my gender. If they played baseball – I played baseball. My older brother even took me outside and trained me for countless hours in how to throw a fastball, sometimes if I wanted to or not. He was my oldest brother, after all, and pretty much Lord of the proceedings. If they wanted to play WWII, which we did a lot of, they never suggested that I wouldn't be up for the game. I used to complain that they always made me be the Germans but my younger brothers and I got the bad guys role because we were younger not because I was a girl.
My brothers never suggested in word or deed that there was something I could not or should not do because I was a girl. Even though I often played in a group of 6 boys where I was the only girl, I don't really recall any overt reference to my gender or related incompetence level. If I couldn't do something or messed up it was not because I was the wrong sex. My younger brother and I often were designated the caretakers of my baby brother, but that was the way it always was and it was a job to which neither of us objected. We adored him and took him everywhere with us from the time he could walk. We would take equal turns giving him a piggy back ride when his short little legs gave out but I never had to do it any more often than anyone else because I was his big sister.
I realize now how wonderful it was to grow up so close and so equal to my brothers. Bless her, it wasn't my mother who made that happen; I can recall quite early on in my life her telling me that men were just naturally smarter than women and that she really preferred them over other females. I'm pretty sure that she meant that men were smarter than all women except for herself. Whether that was clearly implied or inferred on my part, I can't say, but I'm pretty sure that's what she meant. She worshiped her brothers, hated her sisters, admired her father, and considered her poor mother, “...sweet, but stupid.” So it wasn't my mother who provided me with any sense of equality – she vastly preferred the boys and we all knew it. My brothers, bless them, hated it. They knew very young that I was a second class citizen in the family. Maybe that is why they were so careful to never make me feel that being a girl made me less of a player. I didn't even get picked last for teams.
My sons, particularly my youngest, feel very strongly about the rights of women. My youngest likes strong women who can take care of themselves and wants daughters someday. He likes women who don't whine or complain or claim to be too delicate for things. There is nothing macho about either one of them and they have no restrictions on what they think women can or should do. Their sister, who climbs mountains, canoes rapids, and is fabulously strong is a source of admiration for them both. I am proud of them all.
Maybe someday things will change enough so that naming a woman engineer as CEO of a car company doesn't even cause a ripple in the world and it is a given that she will be paid as much as any other overpaid CEO. Maybe not in my lifetime, but possibly in the lifetime of my sons if they have anything to say about it.
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