On Thursday September 18th, 2009 Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell addressed a crowd of 4,000 women at the Pennsylvania Governor’s Conference for Women, a day-long event featuring seminars, workshops and speakers geared toward empowering women. Governor Rendell has a long track record of supporting women, and is married to a serious alpha female – Judge Marjorie O. Rendell.
During his speech, Gov. Rendell took time to praise Leslie Stiles, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Commission for Women. Apparently, Ms. Stiles, under orders to cut her budget by 25% (ah yes, the recession), opted to take a 40% reduction in her own personal salary rather than lay off a member of her staff, making her a heroine of the state. There were cheers galore from the crowd as Governor Rendell recounted this tale and highlighted Ms. Stiles as a role model of modern workplace.
Then Suze Orman — the keynote, personal finance guru, and queen of the smackdown — took the stage. Aware that the audience had been applauding Ms. Stiles’ salary sacrifice, Suze pointed out that women are, by nature, nurturers. She reminded us that women still earn only 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. “We make sacrifices, putting others before ourselves. To be financially secure, we need to STOP doing that.” She said point blank that one reason we ladies are still earning less than men is that we do it to ourselves. Whoops, Mr. Governor?
There’s no doubt that altruism and self-sacrifice are admirable characteristics — and don’t get us wrong, Ms. Stiles earns plenty of kudos for saving her staffer from the dreaded pink slip. But Suze thinks it’s this type of caretaking that holds women back. So what’s the lesson here? Admire the sacrifices women choose to make and surrender to being forever in second place, or stand up and demand what we deserve?
What do you think?