Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Times They Are NOT A-Changin'

The AP recently picked up a June 30, 2008, Duluth News Tribune story by Janna Goerdt about my experiences with job discrimination and retaliation in public school administration. These experiences and the litigation that followed are described in my book Plaintiff Blues. Goerdt's well balanced and professional article included an interview with Charlie Kyte, Executive Director of the Minnesota Association of School Adaministrators. However, Kyte's quoted comments and attitudes are reminiscent of the good ole boys back in the good ole days!

When asked about women in the school district superintendent's position, Kyte said, "It's a traditionally male role. One of the challenges they run into is trying to manage a family and manage the time needed to be a superintendent," Kyte said. "You put in so much time, it's hard to be in that traditional 'mom' role." Kyte also said parents in a few Minnesota communities "are still male-centric; they see themselves as being led by a male." If he knows of a female superintendent interested in applying at such a community, Kyte said, he tries to steer them elsewhere.

By all accounts, Kyte is a good leader and spokesman for education in Minnesota. So where do these remnants of past stereotypes come from? Are they so deeply ingrained they seep through our conscious filters? Regardless of the explanation, those comments are classic examples of the glass blocks used to construct the proverbial glass ceiling. After years of post-graduate degree work and thousands of dollars in tuition and books, any qualified woman who applies for the superintendency knows full well what kind of time the job entails. Imagine how it feels to put that kind of time and effort into your career, only to be "steered elsewhere" (however well-intentioned) because some folks don't want your kind - women - in leadership roles? It's no wonder only 14% of 2007-2008 Minnesota school superintendents are women.

And what a put-down to husbands and fathers! Throughout the years, with both of us working full time, I had the full support and encouragement of my husband to get the degrees and apply for the jobs. He had my full support and encouragement to start his own, success business. It's a partnership after all. We both worked, we both raised the kids, shopped for groceries, did the laundry, mowed the lawn, cooked the meals, washed the dishes, etc. Our two sons have wonderful wives and both families share in earning, parenting, cooking, cleaning, shopping, etc. There's no longer such a thing as a traditional "mom" role! There hasn't been for a long time.

But these comments were made today, not the yesterday of 50 years ago. Worse yet, they were made by one of Minnesota's chief education spokesman and leaders.

We have a long way to go, baby!