I am living for Nov. 9.
That is the day after Nov. 8, Election Day 2016. On the ninth, we will know who our next president, our next governor, our next U.S. senator, and a host of other honorables will be for at least the next two years and some up to eight years. I have been confused by much of what has occurred during this election season, words and behaviors of both candidates and their supporters, and it is clear that we are a nation deeply divided in many ways.
It is also clear that a dialogue has opened about American women, who we are, what we are doing with our lives and how society regards us. Love her or loathe her, Hillary Clinton is the first woman in our nation’s 238-year history to head the ticket of a major political party, despite the fact that women make up about 51 percent of our population. And, love her or loathe her, her candidacy is a major American historical benchmark. If North Carolina elects a woman senator this year, she will become one of fewer than 40 women elected to the Senate over that same time period. It is also clear that much of this year’s campaign rhetoric revolved less around the accomplishments of American women than about our physical appearances in the workplace and elsewhere. And, it is crystal clear that a distressing conversation has begun about what is acceptable touching between men and women, but it is a conversation we need to have as a nation.
The Dicksons made it a priority to teach respect for all people to the Precious Jewels, and if they are so blessed, I hope they will do the same with their children.
To that end, I am sharing with them some advice from US. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, known fondly as the “Notorious RBG.” The justice has written a new book, My Own Words, and she shared some thoughts with Bill Murphy writing in the New York Times in advance of her book’s publication. Ginsburg’s advice applies to everyone, but she is aiming her words at parents who want their daughters to become confident, competent, and high-achieving women.
Here is part of what she prescribes.
Nurture a love of reading.
Reading is the tool that opens the door to the entire world. It allows us to explore any topic that grabs our interest, and it does not matter whether we are rich or poor or in what part of the world we live. If we can read, we can go anywhere. Reading enlarges our thinking and trains us to want more knowledge. And knowledge, once we have it, is ours forever.
Teach them to be independent.
If nothing else, election year 2016 has shown us all how many directions we can be pulled in and how much diversity — both positive and negative — is competing for our attention. If we learn to know ourselves, trust ourselves and enjoy our own company, we are less likely to be led astray. Independence is the way we stay true to ourselves and our own values.
Encourage them to seek excellent teachers and mentors.
I can count on one hand the teachers who really made a difference in my life, beginning with my third grade teacher all the way through graduate school. Ditto for people who guided me in my professional life. It makes all the difference when a young person knows she has people to turn to for advice and counsel.
Help them learn to ignore from time to time.
Successful people know that sometimes it is better not to react to some slight, some offense, some unkindness whether they come in the workplace or in a relationship. Put simply, not everything deserves a response — or in our era, a Tweet. Ginsburg’s mother-in-law advised her new daughter-in-law that sometimes it is helpful “to be a little deaf.” She was right.
Encourage them to focus on achievement, not on the barriers to it.
Barriers always exist and certainly did for women when Ginsburg, now 83, was establishing her career and had a young family. She plowed through the days when it was legal to pay women less than men for the same work and when she could not get a credit card without her husband’s signature. She persevered.
Akin to that advice is this. Teach them that they can create their own luck.
Circumstances outside our control always affect us, but it is largely our reaction to those circumstances that determines our outcomes. This may be perseverance as well.
And finally, keep your fingers crossed that they marry the right person.
Handsome, wealthy, and charming are wonderful attributes, but a supportive partner willing to go the distance with us is the goal.
The Notorious RBG looks nothing like a supermodel, but she makes a perfect role model for our young women.