By FRANK WATSON
Contributor 

Removing barriers to gender equality is what really matters

Guest Commentary

 

Last updated 11/15/2018 at 4:37pm



I was raised around strong women. My 4-foot-10-inch grandmother was one of the strongest human beings I have ever known. My mother’s sisters worked on the farm along with my uncles and me.

My sister could whip any kid in school and was one of the finest athletes I have known. They didn’t ask for special consideration, nor did they carry protest signs. They certainly don’t consider themselves victims and dislike militant feminists as much as I do.

I have a good friend who is an ordained minister in his church. I was proud to be invited to his ordination ceremony a few years ago. While there, he introduced me to a friend he had met while in seminary. She immediately began to expound on the great strides that women had made in her particular denomination.

I quietly asked if she was an advocate for Christianity or feminism. She gave me a dirty look, turned and walked away. She is an example of misguided feminism.

It shouldn’t matter if we achieve equal numbers of women and men as ordained ministers or in any other position. What matters is that the barriers are removed.

Once women can compete on an equal footing with their male counterparts, we should quit keeping score. The numbers should not be meaningful, and can be misleading. The emphasis, rightfully, should be on opportunity.

I recently read a study decrying the low number of female chief executives. It is no secret that women have been at a disadvantage in corporate leadership positions forever. It was not that long ago that most women were housewives. The few who worked outside the home were primarily in clerical positions.


The numbers cannot, and should not, change overnight. As more women acquire the requisite training and experience, the numbers will change.

The same goes for high ranking females in the military or politics or any and all professions. If we try to force the numbers as a kind of affirmative action, positions will not be filled by those most qualified and everyone suffers.

While in the Air Force, I had the privilege to work with some of the finest women in the world. Some of the first female missile mechanics worked for me as did several of the initial group of female pilots. I championed their inclusion and found their professional abilities to be on a par with their male counterparts.

As expected, most succeeded, but some failed. I had no tolerance for the few senior officers who advocated return to an all-male force. Thankfully, their objections were overcome by the professional performance of those members of our service who just happened to be female.


I have equal intolerance for feminists with chips on their shoulders or for those who demand special treatment. The few who claim discrimination when they don’t get promoted create an atmosphere that harms all professional women.

It is easy to claim to be victimized by the system. You can be a victim if you have less experience than the male competition, or have less education, or don’t work as hard, or… I have little sympathy for self-proclaimed victims, but I have great admiration for all who strive and succeed, both women and men.

Frank Watson is a retired Air Force Colonel and long-time resident of Eastern Washington. He has been a free-lance columnist for over 19 years.

 

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