Photo credit: ateart, Imgur
This is my first blog without that annoying pro tempore designation in my job title. Yipppeee! It was starting to feel like a heavy suitcase I had to drag around from email signature to email signature. People who didn’t know Latin or what it meant (and who can blame them?) sometimes thought pro tempore was some special designation, giving me way more authority than I actually had. No, I would say (sometimes) to puzzled looks, the position is temporary….
And so, yes, I feel a lot lighter this week. I also feel excited and energized and definitely heartened by all the expressions of good will and congratulations. It’s been both satisfying and humbling, really. And it makes me happier than ever to work at Memorial and to know how many good people are here and dedicated to moving forward in the best possible ways.
A colleague just sent me the picture above. My husband is still killing himself laughing over it. The declaration of skills itself is pretty popular, adopted by women leaders all over the planet. You can easily buy sweatshirts, t-shirts and coffee mugs emblazoned with the tag line. What I really like here is the photo itself. That could be me and my younger brother whom I started torturing with my, er, leadership skills when I was about seven and he was five. Our parents had bought me a large green chalkboard and I set it up in my room so that I was the teacher and he was the poor, beleaguered pupil whom I constantly reprimanded for one no good reason or another. That early period became a kind of family joke about which we still have a good chuckle. But over time I started to realize the joke had something to do with me and something to do with my gender.
Among the expressions of congratulations in my inbox were many from women—close friends, and those whom I have taught or worked with or both—celebrating my being the first woman at Memorial to occupy the permanent position of Provost and Vice-President (Academic). We are one of the last large universities in the country to have appointed a woman to that job, and I am thrilled to be breaking that ground. Better late than never, wha?
It’s commonplace now that women in positions of power and authority are vulnerable to charges of bossiness or worse—the other B word. Men are not. They might be called bullies, a word for our time, but never bossy or bitchy. Those are gendered words that signify a profound discomfort with women leaders. There’s a great big mountain of literature on the subject, sometimes called the “Hillary Factor,” for obvious reasons, and all of it underscores that tired old persistent double standard. Popular examples point to the difference between, say Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who is labeled “crazy” and “too tough,” while Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is “audacious” and “determined,” a “rare leader who obsesses over finding small improvements.” Let’s not even think of returning to the infamous comparison of former NL Premiers Kathy Dunderdale (and other women premiers in this country) and Danny Williams, and the different ways their leadership styles were commonly characterized in the local media.
Leadership is something one thinks about a lot when preparing for job interviews. I parked my gender at the door, never wanting to make that an issue or excuse to get the job. I’m a woman and I showed up, enough said. But I did think about it a lot, and about how high the glass ceiling remains. Long may it continue to shatter.
I can’t tell you how much I feel the good will of colleagues and friends, and how grateful I am to you all for your support. We simply cannot make things better or move ahead if we keep leaving qualified women out of the boardrooms.
Tina Fey has famously pointed out that you’re no one until you’re called bossy. Well, I am delighted to be called Provost and Vice-President (Academic) and don’t feel I have to wear bossy pants while I’m at it. The pro tempore has gone, but I am mindful of our Latin motto provehito in altum. It’s inevitable that I will not only be launching forth into the deep but et ego ero in innixa – that is, I’ll be leaning in, big time.