I'm in Chicago at a training conference on HR stuff for the week. Seeing Chicago, with its towering buildings and opulent storefronts, reminds me that DC is not actually a big city.
I also have had my antennae up for examples of women living vocations (other than motherhood) passionately. One of our presenters has been working in HR her whole career (she's now around 60). I don't know whether her home life and values are the same as mine (and I have no idea whether she has kids). But listening to her presentation, it's obvious she is happy, and genuinely happy to see everyone who's attending (all strangers), and wants to engage them; she loves what she does and is passionate about it.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to note that she's clearly from the South. Southern women, as we all know, seem to do the loving and sweet bit better than the rest. For my part, I drive well in the snow, love the mountains but not the beach, and can do both formal courtesy and biting sarcasm before I wake up in the morning, but I don't call *anybody* "hon."
Nevertheless, even with all her natural competitive advantages, something about her really struck me. I think she really is happy. It would be easy to say that as she's on the speaker circuit, she's at the pinnacle of her career. But being a speaker isn't so huge - she could be a professor, or a bestselling author, or something, and consider herself even more successful. There's nothing about what she's accomplished professionally that means she should be happy and I shouldn't. And all work is work. Getting to do what you love does make a difference, but this woman apparently loves talking about workers' compensation law. Obviously, it's what she's bringing to it.
Now, I like the line of work I'm in. I like to accomplish my tasks with enthusiasm, and I try to be friendly to the people I work with. But I am not doing what she is doing. Could I do that? Could I make my job a vocation I love? I have to admit, I like doing things well, but I haven't been driven to excel since I've been in school. There's a difference between wanting to do a good job and needing to be the best. (And who likes people who are over-competitive in the workplace anyway?)
Something else that just leapt out at me about this woman was that she is feminine. For some types of public speaking, the speaker can be sufficiently anonymous that no personality need shine through. But with larger-scale talks, you have to get people to pay attention to who you are. And in a situation like that, there is nothing worse a woman can do than try to act like a man. Second-worst is self-deprecating and insecure. She did neither of those things.
Let me tell you what she did. First of all, she was dressed business casual (she's not an attorney). She wore a colorful jacket - not too outrageous but not severe and black. Nothing was too tight, and she wasn't wearing a low neckline or a short skirt. (I imagine some of her evident poise can be attributed to the fact that she was comfortable in her clothes.) Her hair, makeup, shoes, and jewelry were decidedly female, without screaming for attention. She spoke on her topic with knowledge and confidence - but she wasn't bossy, didn't become uncomfortable at all if someone offered information she didn't have, and never talked down to anybody. At one point someone asked a question, and she asked an assistant to write it down for later - but politely and smoothly enough that the fellow might later have turned out to be her boss. (I have had few subordinates in my career, but I tie myself in knots when I try to give them directions, so I was specially impressed with this.) She was warm, and she was passionate without being strident.
I think men *generally* make better leaders and public speakers, though there are men who are plain awful at either of both. The women who justify the inclusion of women on other-than-political grounds are those who can do just as good a job while being completely different people, rather than mimicking the men. I think I may mimic the men.
Maybe this is hard for me in part because of my job training. I'm told they did a study of mock jurors and separated the results by gender. Women tended to react in a similar way - reaction 1. Men reacted a little differently - reaction 2. They also studied attorneys. Male attorneys reacted even more differently than non-attorney men - reaction 3. Female attorneys were indistinguishable from non-attorney men. Interesting, eh? Now all I need is an example of a passionate and feminine female professional who is also a lawyer.