When I first read that more women than men are earning college degrees, it hit me as a game changer. I gave voice to that intuition when I took the microphone last week at the 2014 induction ceremony for the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame. Christi and I were invited as representatives of the family of early 20th century politician, writer and suffragist Helen Ring Robinson, the stepmother of my grandmother, the first woman elected to the Colorado State Senate.
During two receptions, we met some astonishing women — U.S. District Court Judge Christine Argüello, Denver non-profit leader Lauren Castell and aviator Penny Hamilton. During the ceremony we heard acceptance speeches by Lockheed Martin Space Systems executive Joanne Maguire, Antarctic soils expert Diana Wall and engineer-entrepreneur Kristina Johnson, among others.
We enjoyed the stories of people who, like my great grandmother, had passed on. For instance, Julia Archibald Holmes was the first woman to climb Pikes Peak. She made a national sensation by wearing bloomers instead of a corset , a long frilly dress and 18 pounds of petticoats.
It was an honor to learn about and be among these great women. I was the only man given the microphone that night.
Before I spoke, hall of fame inductee Jill Tietjen railed against the “glass ceiling” that still keeps down women’s wages and blocks them from political and business leadership. She said this situation exists despite women earning more college degrees than men.
When it was my turn, my first and most important comment was to thank former Colorado Sen. Pat Pascoe, who researched and wrote my great grandmother’s biography. Helen's accomplishments were something of a family mystery until Sen. Pascoe dug into her bills, writings and travels.
The thank you was much deserved, but on the spur of the moment, I added my thought that the glass ceiling may be about to shatter. Perhaps society (specifically Western society) is at a tipping point, I said.
I was inspired by meeting so many women of achievement in Denver. On the plane back to Sacramento, I felt further support for my thought reading an article in Vanity Fair outlining the lives and achievements of 17 outstanding modern women including Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and businesswoman/entertainer Oprah Winfrey.
It just seems to me the women’s movement is about to succeed. The world may soon witness the mantle of leadership falling upon the shoulders of many more women than many would have imagined even five years ago.
As I told them in Denver: Ladies, be careful what you wish for. World leadership may soon be yours and men haven’t left you an easy job.