By the end of this week, we’ll be driving home from Ohio, with our daughter, a new college graduate. With her diploma in one hand and a bartending license in the other, she’s hoping to find her place in the workforce.
I thought about my daughter this week while attending two cultural events.
Seeing Ann, the biographical play about the late Ann Richards, considered how this woman, Texas’ 45th governor and only the second woman to hold the office in the state, set an example for others to enter politics and seek higher office throughout the country.
In US history, there have only been 35 women governors; five women hold the office at present.
I remember a slogan from the 1970’s when I worked as a news intern in Washington, DC. “A woman’s place is in the House… and the Senate.” To date, 44 women have served in the US Senate; 20 of the 100 senators serving today are women. In the House of Representatives of the 435 members, 78 are women. More than 200 women have been elected in US history.
It doesn’t take advanced math to recognize there’s still an enormous gender gap in US politics. There’s room for current graduates to enter the race.
I also visited Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party now housed at the Brooklyn Museum. I saw the exhibit when it first appeared in 1979. Its 39 ceramic plates displayed atop elaborate embroidered tapestries honor mythological and historical women, beginning with the Greek Primordial Goddess and ending with American artist Georgia O’Keefe. Additionally, 999 women’s names are inscribed on the white, triangular-tiled floor, ranging from 14th century medical educator Abella of Salerno to American writer Zora Neale Hurston. At the time, it was hailed as a breakthrough in feminist art and inspired the advent of women’s studies at many colleges and universities.
I joined a corporate event organized to bring men and women to the exhibit. Most had never heard of or seen the show before. The group works to increase the visibility of women in the company; it encourages women to take “a place at the table,” echoing Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in her book, Lean In. (I haven’t read it but heard her speak about it at Davos. She spoke at my daughter in-law Karen’s Barnard College graduation, where she emphasized the themes in her book.)
As my daughter packs up her things, sorts what she’s keeping, donating, selling or tossing, I know she, and countless other college graduates nationwide, will be wondering what’s next. I hope they have choices, can follow their passions, and will find their places. There’s lots of room at the table, in the House, the Senate, the Governor’s Mansion, and beyond.