Times Are Changing

As a member of the Baby Boomer generation and the proud mother of two successful and well educated female millennials (one a new mother), I found this article to be both uplifting and dispiriting at the same time. I want to begin by qualifying that I am Canadian and probably not the most informed about American politics, but have been following the campaign closely and with great interest.

I will begin by saying that it amazed me to read in the opening paragraph of this article that mothers were calling up millennial daughters to question them as to why they were not lining up behind the Hilary Clinton campaign. To be honest, my own daughter took for granted that due to my age and generation, that I would be a Clinton supporter. That is one of the reasons I feel compelled to share my opinion on this article.

Perhaps I have matured and grown as I have watched my own daughters grapple with their individual definitions of feminism, but I would never once expect that either of my girls would choose to vote for Hilary just because she would then be declared America's first "female" president. Instead, I am convinced that their education and upbringing would encourage them to vote based on politics and platform instead of gender, or at least I would hope so. Isn't it just as sexist to vote for Clinton just because she's a woman as it is be to vote for Sanders just because he's not a woman?

From what I have read about the democratic candidates' platforms and watched in recent debates, American millennial women have a definite choice in this election. I really hope that the issues trump gender preference alone.

As a baby boomer graduating university in the 70s, I entered the professional world at a time when women were just starting to break occupational barriers. It was such a thrill to see women graduating in business, engineering and medicine. Although I personally felt proud and fulfilled as a nurse, I always secretly questioned whether I should have gone on to become a medical doctor. Perhaps that is why, when I had two girls of my own, I wanted to make sure that they had every opportunity to be whatever or whoever they wanted to be and always encouraged them to strive for the stars.

This was not difficult as "times they were a changing", and both were great students and destined for success. As this article ascribes, with hard work, passion and excellence, young women could now earn top scholarships, attend the best schools and graduate at the top of their class in a profession of their choice. This they did. With the increased career competition though, came the need for further education. Sure, it was still possible to top the grad school ranks and aim for the most influential jobs, but the one thing that hasn't changed is how the biological clock humbles even the most ambitious scholar.

Young super educated and promising women are graduating later in life than my generation and are now forced to weigh the career/family dilemma, just when they are approaching what should be the apogee in their career. In Canada, we are very fortunate to have mandated extended maternity leaves and a job guarantee for return to work, but this does not negate the fact that when a young woman takes time away from a career to focus on a family, she still often gets stepped over for career advancement. "Late breaking sexism" remains a sad but veritable reality for every young woman struggling to attain that illusive dream of having it all.

Now, should Hilary Clinton be lauded and rewarded at the polls just because she is female? Is she really a shining example of successful feminism in America? My answer to both of these questions is unfortunately, no. Here is a powerful and wealthy woman who stood by her philandering husband and watched the decimation of a young and struggling female intern. (Not that she is blameless) Here is also a woman who made the personal choice to put her career ahead of family. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with this. It is just a choice that I wish women did not have to make.

It seems as if success is still measured solely by education and career achievement in America. As I mentioned earlier, this article is both uplifting and dispiriting. More young women (with resources) are now gaining the education they always wanted. This is something that can never be taken away from them and can always be applied not only in the work force but also in the home and community. The dispiriting fact remains though, that today, our society does not recognize motherhood for it's remarkable value. We laud the success stories of powerful career women who conquer the board room, and sadly minimize the value of those women who take time out of their careers to raise our next generation of leaders. Hopefully, one day soon, second-wave feminism and political will, will allow young women to conquer the work/life balance and have it all. For now though, I think that every young woman must look at their own goals in life and make a decision at what success means for them.

I mentioned earlier, I once questioned whether I had made a poor decision about my career choice. As a baby boomer now reflecting back on my career though, I can definitely say that I have no regrets. I was fortunate to be able to take the time away from my career to stay at home to raise my young children and then return to the workforce to fulfil my own personal goal as a lifelong learner and to be a positive role model for my children.

As I watch my bright and educated "new mother daughter" struggle with her own decision about how to balance her career with family responsibilities, this article becomes so relevant. I have optimism that this generation of millennials will make the right decisions. New wave feminism is not dead. At the polls, these young women will make the right decision about who best will support their issues and not be swayed by gender alone. That is why younger women aren't excited about electing a "woman" president, they are excited to elect a president who finally supports women.

-- Brenda Sullivan is 60 and lives in Canada

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