In a world where women make 80 cents to every man’s dollar, these South Lake women are working to shatter the glass ceiling
Senna Catenacci ’17
Posted on Monday, February 22nd, 2016
As of 2014, women earned 21.4 percent less than men when both were working full-time jobs. At South Lake, however, women have risen to the top with all but one of the Board of Education members being women, as well as the superintendent and two principals.
“It is an honor and a privilege to be part of a community that has many great leaders, including so many accomplished women,” says Board Secretary Julie Magee.
In recent years there has been an increase in women in administrative and board positions in the South Lake School District. This is a trend that had been seen in education across the country.
But while education is a field that has been recently dominated by women, Magee agrees that other career paths could use some improvement. “I think there is room for continued growth and advancement for women in society and business,” says Magee.
Superintendent Pamela Balint agrees with Magee. “The biggest problem isn’t ability to progress but along the lines of equality and pay,” says Balint. Balint references the ‘glass ceiling,’ which is a term that describes the unseen limits that are put on women and minority groups in many places of business.
According to Ann Morrison, a member of the Feminist Majority Foundation, “[The glass ceiling] is not simply a barrier for an individual, based on the person’s inability to handle a higher-level job. Rather, the glass ceiling applies to women as a group who are kept from advancing higher because they are women.” (http://www.feminist.org)
One reason that accounts for this disparity is that women are often associated with being over-emotional, and this makes them unable to make difficult decisions. Magee disagrees. “I think there is a real misconception that women are too ‘emotional’ and that women shouldn’t be in positions of power, because they tend to make emotional decisions,” she says. “Many women are really good at showing empathy, which I think can enhance decision making skills, and allow a person to make a decision based on all aspects of a situation.”
Board President Charlotte Rebelein says that having women in leadership has been beneficial.
“Overall I believe that the impact of women in leadership positions has been positive in all areas of society, both in the United States and throughout the world,” says Rebelein.
Koepsell Elementary School Principal Diane Larsen agrees. “I think it is important for young girls to see themselves in the images of women in leadership,” she says.
Avalon Principal Jenne Poleski echo’s Larsen’s sentiment.
“It is easier to see ourselves [women] as leaders when our leaders look like us!” says Poleski. “Therefore, the role models that women can be for one another serves as a powerfully positive catalyst for personal challenge and growth.”
Poleski says that women in leadership can send a strong message to young girls and women.
“Positive female role models can help young girls by sharing their stories, their strategies, and self-talk that motivated them to succeed,” says Poleski. “They can be the heros that bring young girls up with them and support them on their journey.”
While women in leadership are helping improve the workforce for the next generation, the numbers show that gender diversity in leadership positions is still lacking.
According to americanprogress.org, only 4.6 percent of the Fortune 500 companies’ CEOs are women, and across corporate boards nationwide women’s presence in top management position is under 9 percent.
Rebelein recalls how when she was younger, women weren’t put into higher positions on the corporate ladder, and how they weren’t paid the same amount as men.
“When my mother was teaching school during the 50’s and 60’s, women were not paid at the same rate as men who were teachers. Male teachers received a higher pay rate because they were considered to be the ‘breadwinners’, even if they were single,” says Rebelein. “At that time it was also very rare to see a woman as a principal or assistant principal in a school. Those positions seemed to be delegated to men. I’m sure that this was true in other fields of work as well.”
In the past few decades however, there has been slow and steady progress for women, thanks to those who are willing to work to make a change. “Women have been their own advocates,” says Balint.
If the trend continues, over time more and more women will work their way to the top of the proverbial ladder, leading others to do the same. This idea is best put by Magee. “As more women work in positions of power, it evens the playing field for women as a whole.”
Photos and graphics by Robert Swetlic.