Last week, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright revived her memorable quote, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support each other.” She said it at a political rally in support of Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid.
At one level, I agree with Secretary Albright. There’s no excuse for women who sabotage each other in organizational or community life. I think that women should take an active role in each other’s success. But I bristle at the inference that women owe Clinton (or any female candidate) our vote simply because she’s a woman. Reducing our choice to a matter of gender loyalty devalues the electoral process, disrespects women voters, and tokenizes women candidates.
As we continue to evolve our mindsets with regard to gender and leadership, we struggle with an ongoing question: How do we keep pushing to equalize access to the halls of influence without whittling our leaders – and our decisions about them – down to their DNA?
February 13th update. In a recent NY Times article, Albright subsequently apologized for her comments. While she reiterated the importance of women actively supporting each other, she acknowledged that an election was not the right place for her battle cry. So, “Thank you, Secretary.”