By Ellen Wood
First published in the Questa Del Rio News, September 2020 issue,
reprinted with permission
Lately I have been lamenting our current state of affairs and one of the things I thought would make me happy is a united United States. Well, I’m here to report that I have since realized that I am part of the problem. Our country is polarized and although I try not to be too political in my newspaper columns (I have best friends who are for the other team), I too take sides. I may talk about “there’s no separation – we’re all part of the One,” but I’m fervently partisan.
No, I’m not going to push for my candidate – but I do want to talk about women in politics, as well as in business, and how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go to reach equality.
Eleanor Roosevelt, our country’s longest-serving First Lady, once said, “A woman is like a tea bag - you can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” Well, Kamala Harris is certainly being put through hot water. The very day she was chosen to be Joe Biden’s running mate, she was called “Nasty,” “Horrible” and “Phony.” Strong women have often been labeled “nasty” because they are strong and outspoken.
I was called even worse after I was hired as the first female member of executive management of a 13-branch bank in New Jersey. My job was the bank’s first Director of Marketing and Sales, reporting to the new CEO, and I started an in-house ad agency, public relations department, company newsletter and staff training division.
On my first day a woman in charge of setting up business cards and letterhead for executives was in my office and although she was shaking when she answered my question about getting a key, she told me, quite tenderly, that women weren’t allowed to have keys and that we all had to show up once a month on a Saturday to help stuff statements into envelopes. (Of course, I got the key and never stuffed an envelope.) Her name was Catherine and she asked to leave the staff of one of the Senior Vice Presidents to become the first member of mine. His secretary, Gail, also joined my department. They were the start of the best possible team in the world. And I broke the rule that said you shouldn’t be close friends with your staff!
Without bragging too much, our team was extremely successful – earnings soared; we made headlines in national newspapers; and we had fun. I started with the “bank” title, Assistant Vice President, but within three years I became Senior Vice President, an advancement unheard of in the history of the bank which was started in the 1800s. Sadly, I noted that there were whispers about the boss promoting me so quickly.
When the CEO chose me to head the bank’s first Planning Committee, I asked the Executive Vice President, who was the longest-tenured and oldest executive of the bank, to be part of it. He refused and said the bank’s Planning Committee was too important to be headed by a woman!
Yes, times have changed a lot since then – men have given us much more respect for our abilities and women have been helping women – but we need to continue the upward climb.
Editor's note: Because of innovative products created by the bank’s Planning Committee (minus the Executive Vice President), Wood was chosen as “1982 National Bank Product Development Expert” and was a featured speaker at the ABA National Convention that year. American Banker newspaper spotlighted her alongside the convention’s keynote speaker, Henry Kissinger.
Ellen Wood of Questa is the award-winning author of the series of books, “The Secret Method for Growing Younger,” available at www.northernnewmexicoartists.com. Her website is www.howtogrowyounger.com Contact Ellen at firstname.lastname@example.org