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.

Rhonda Faught was the first female secretary of the New Mexico Department of Transportation and is a friend of JoAnne Vigil Coppler and all women.

(4) comments

Khal Spencer

Men attack other men in the political arena. Why should women not consider other women fair game when they disagree? The author of this piece acts as though all women have the same point of view and are not in competition with each other as well as in competition with men (and with those who do not fall into standard gender identity categories). If someone cannot take the political heat, he/she/they/it/whatever should get out of the kitchen.

Stefanie Beninato

What I look at is Ms Vigil Coppler's record. Putting banners up for vets gets you lots of publicity but how does it help vets who need mental health counseling, homes etc? Vigil-Coppler supports development at every turn (no surprise--she is a realtor) and has always voted against historic preservation. At a recent appeal from an H Board matter, Vigil-Coppler treated the woman who is the head of the city's historic preservation in a condescending and rude manner--seemingly questioning her professional integrity and then refusing to allow that senior staff to read information in the record because it conflicted with V-C's POV. Yet she complains about the mayor's alleged treatment of Yoland Vigil without ever bringing up a specific instance...V-C also asks questions (like Romero Wirth) that she already knows the answer and which will support her POV. Those type of questions for me confirm lack of curiosity and an unwillingness to entertain contrary POVs. I am not looking at gender. I am looking for a qualified candidate that I think will bring people together and that will care about neighborhoods, essential services including recreation (wellness) and those who work here (and not just the city union workers)

Maria Bautista

So your voting for?

Julie Berman

You certainly have a 'thing' for JVC. Perhaps you could author an editorial about the other candidates given you are such an authority. Given that you are so objective about so many things, it would be nice to see your thoughts about all of the races.

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