I am a feminist.
Perhaps it stems from my tomboy roots. While I run and throw “like a girl” with all the negative connotation that stereotype brings, I won every wrestling match with Timmy down the street. Even at a young age, I only wore a dress to church, and my mom immediately changed me into pants when we got home.
I graduated from high school before Title IX was implemented and the only sport for girls was softball.
As an account manager after college, a trucking rep who had messed up a shipment said, “just calm down, honey.” He later called my boss to see if I actually had the authority to throw him off the dock.
In the early 90s I learned not to take a notebook into a meeting so that the men in the room wouldn’t ask me to take minutes.
And not so long ago I actually had someone ask me how it would look if the Tempe Chamber had three women consecutively serve as board chairs.
Being a feminist isn’t about the semantics of organization names or being offended at job titles. It’s not about raising up women to the detriment of men. Being a feminist is being cognizant of where we’ve been and where we’ve yet to reach. It’s about equal opportunity, which empowers individuals and creates a multitude of options.
It means that a woman can be a nurse or a teacher or a secretary. She can be an engineer, run a company or run for office. She can start a business or start a family. Work 60 hours a week or stay at home with the kids. She can make as much money as the man she replaced. She can be assertive and aggressive and not worry about being liked. She can do it all with her individual sense of style, both is how she deals with people and in how she present herself. And it has opened these doors for men as well.
It bothers me when young women vehemently deny being a feminist, but I realize it’s because we’ve come so far that many have not had to face obvious inequality. I pay tribute to the women who have led the way for me, and hope that I can blaze a trail for a few of the folks coming next.
Editor's Note: Mary Ann Miller is the president and CEO of the Tempe Chamber of Commerce. As part of this ‘Women in Business’ special section, Miller is sharing with Tribune readers her insights on what it means to be a “modern” feminist.
Mary Ann Miller has been president and CEO of the Tempe Chamber of commerce since 1999.