I have been watching the Democratic National Convention in Denver on television for the past four nights and have found myself completely renewed and excited about politics in America. The last time I was this excited was in 1992 when I was working for the Women’s Campaign Fund in Washington D.C. helping more women to get elected into office and supporting Bill Clinton into Presidency. At that time – Washington, and in effect our country — was a place of hope and possibility. Sixteen years later I feel we are at that doorstep once again.
Although I found myself getting teary in many parts of Michelle’s, Hillary’s, Bill’s, Joe’s and Barack’s speeches, in all honesty the most exciting part for me – the one where I felt most moved by an exhilarating feeling of “AT LAST!” — is when each speaker talked about finally bringing our country to a point where women receive equal pay!
As a preschool teacher for many years, I was in a job that was heavily represented by women who were underpaid. As a full-time employee in a New York school renowned for its early childhood education, I was making just over $20,000 at the start in 1999 and topped out at just under $30,000. On this salary I was trying to live in New York City as a single woman and pay back graduate school loans to a private college that tallied toward $60,000. I chose that school because it ranks among the top in early childhood education. I wanted the best education to help me be the best teacher.
The school, Bank Street College of Education, gave me an outstanding education – but unfortunately I did not last in the preschool classroom. I wanted the best for the children, but also wanted the best for myself. I wanted a life where I did not have to worry about how I was going to pay my rent, pay my bills, pay for the continuing education that I knew as an individual committed to personal growth would be wanting as time moved on.
I left my job as a preschool teacher just one year ago and started my own company, Lotus Blossom Style. Starting this company was my way to continue to give voice to the messages that I put out in the classroom — peace, collaboration, creative expression, and a rightful respect for every individual – and at least have a fighting chance as an entrepreneur (in many ways the American Dream) to move beyond the underpaid status of an early childhood educator.
Just over a year ago, right before I started the company, it dawned on me that maybe we have been in a patriarchal paradigm for too long and that this paradigm was what was throwing ourselves, our environment, our country and our world out of balance. I wondered if war could be decreased if we started to identify and give more time, space, and money to issues that have traditionally been considered more the feminine domain – healthcare, education and family values. I thought about what would happen if more and more women were in power and leadership positions and we turned to a time where women and men were respected and rewarded equally in the workplace. What would this look like?
Michelle, Hillary, Joe, Bill and Barack have restarted my clock of hope. I believe in their ability to walk us forward as leaders into a time where women and men can renew their self-respect and respect for one other as we rebuild our country in partnership, collaboration and unity.
Although Hillary, who was and still is a sign of hope and inspiration for many women, is not our Presidential Candidate – can we walk forward believing that we are at the dawn of a new era where many good possibilities are waiting for us?