When I was appointed by Gov. Bill Richardson as the first woman to serve as secretary of the New Mexico Department of Transportation, I knew there would be challenges in the male-dominated organization. However, I had spent much of my career in the department and knew through hard work and dedication I would rise to the challenge.
As a woman, I was sometimes criticized for things a man never would have to worry about. I was said to be too emotional, too harsh, too direct, not direct enough, too hard, too soft, too supportive of the employees or not supportive enough. There were many times when people were quick to point out what I call “tongue-tied communication errors” no matter how minor — you know, those times when you say something everyone knows was an error but you keep saying it by accident?
In my position as secretary, I knew there would be criticism, but when it came from other women, I was frustrated, deflated and yes, sometimes emotional.
Throughout my career, I have tried to uplift women, to share my experience and knowledge to help them grow and thrive. I have elevated women at every opportunity. I started an on-site day care to encourage more young women to choose the Department of Transportation as a career. When women started working for the department, I always reminded them women needed to support other women.
As I watch the city of Santa Fe Mayor’s race unfold, two My View columns stick in my craw: (“Renters live in real homes, too,” July 11) and (“Vigil Coppler for mayor? Absolutely not,” April 18). These My Views were about a female candidate for mayor; unfortunately, one of them came from a member of the city’s Women’s Commission. As I read through these pieces, I was taken aback by the criticism of the candidate’s inability to articulate exactly what she meant (tongue-tied communication error), and the writer in one instance even criticized the candidate for correcting herself and apologizing.
As women, we have a responsibility to support one another. I am all for holding women accountable for their mistakes, but I also believe we can learn from those mistakes if given good feedback. The political game of gotcha against women by women only serves men of power and influence. It’s discouraging to see women fall into the trap of attacking other women for political reasons.
It does not work, and it only shows how women can fall prey to gender politics. I encourage these women to continue asking the hard questions, not just of the female candidates but of the only male candidate in the race as well. Both genders in the race must meet the same high standard. We all need to remember when women attack women, all women lose.