Terry Branstad and Kim Reynolds have made an interesting pair. She seems bright and worldly, quiet but vital, rather amazingly youthful at 54, one might even say a touch elfin - compared to, I supposed, the governor's wizened, road-tough, gray-bristled ewok. And yes, I do realize I've mixed my sci-fi references.
Over the past couple of years, it has been rare to see one without the other. As joined at the hip as they are, I haven't been quite able to decipher whether it is a case of the the younger lieutenant standing loyally in support of her mentor, or the unbeatable veteran steadfastly training an heir apparent. Maybe a little of both.
At any rate, it felt different to have Lt. Gov. Reynolds stepping out solo through the area on the "Stories of Women's Lives Tour" a few days back.
The purpose as stated was to encourage more women to go into business and the STEM fields and leadership roles. A jaded person might also suggest that it would be an excellent way to begin to build a coalition of businesspeople supporters county-by-county for, say, a go to replace Branstad or Grassley in a couple of years if the old guard ever decides to retire.
Certainly, the lieutenant governor's effort is a grand one. I have a daughter studying in a math and business related field, and I appreciate all the encouragement her generation can be given.
I have to say, though, I was a bit surprised by such a high-ranking state leader promoting meetings for one gender. For that matter, I don't know that it would need to be a woman in state government hosting meetings to encourage women, but I suspect rather than gender being the determining factor in Reynold's mission, it just happens to be an issue she feels strongly about.
I can't help but wonder how it would go over, though, if Branstad toured the state for a series of "Meetings for Men?"
At this point, you would think issues like pay inequity, a glass ceiling for top jobs and offices, and a sense of opportunity to go into any field a person is willing to strive hard enough for, would long since have faded into history - not just for women, but for everyone.
Apparently, that isn't quite the case - yet. Perhaps the very last vestiges of the unspoken old-boy-network discrimination are still holding some back, and if so, shame on us and it's a good thing that people like Reynolds are working on it.
I suspect that before too long, certainly during the scope of my daughter's career, people will look back incredulously at how backward people were to ever have entertained the concept that girls should not feel aspirations to be top scientists, leaders of commerce and industry, or anything else for that matter. Amazing women have proven that wrong - and utterly self-defeating - generations ago. People will view a time when women got a fraction of a man's paycheck for the same job as being as patently wrong as was denying people the right to vote or a seat at the front of the bus a chapter or two further back in Civics 101. Our children and grandchildren will shake their heads over the concept that anyone's talents - regardless of age, region, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexuality - not be welcomed at the table for the betterment of all.
Has it really taken this long?
So, in 2015 we have a top state official holding meetings for women only (an official who could be the first female governor or senator for this state. Talk about walking the walk on the issue of opportunity.) It's 2015 and we have groups just for Latin American citizens. It's 2015 and we have some scholarships for youth offered in Iowa that are aimed at just minority students, only female students, or for gay or transgender students. This is discrimination, I think, too, albeit in a relatively harmless form, to massage our own guilt for raw deals handed out in the past.
Ultimately, short-sheeting anyone, even white straight males, even for a small scholarship, does no one a favor. It implies that people somehow perceived as different need special advantages. What they need is fair and equal opportunity.
I would never want my daughter to get a scholarship or job or community role because she's a woman; but because she's earned it and is the right person for it.
For the record, Storm Lake is a good place to look for stories. Long before Reynolds ever ran for any office, Storm Lake had elected a woman mayor, hired a woman superintendent of schools, seated a woman chairman of the county's board of supervisors in its courthouse and sent a woman representative to voice us in the Iowa House and Senate. It has patronized many women business entrepreneurs, and respected women leaders in education, community promotion, athletics, charitable work, the arts, the faith community. Not just great women. Great people.
We have a way to go yet for all doors to be kicked open to all, but we have a track record of inclusion and choosing based on the best person for the job.
I hope Reynolds' meetings are a big success - in that they encourage girls and women to believe they can accomplish and celebrate great goals. But I also hope that soon there will be no reason for such an event, or for anyone to believe that opportunity is anything but equal. Then we won't need programs for just women, or just minorities, any other group. Someday, people will just be people.