I’ve been thinking about writing this letter for the better part of the last decade, but honestly never got around to it. So there I was, driving to work this morning and finding myself committing to putting my thoughts down for you today.
I know that you know the road to winning the presidential seat is not going to be an easy one, and I also know that you know that you will be faced with more criticism than you will know what to do with. So in light of that, I thought maybe you could use a little bit of a pep talk – so I could thank you for all the pep talks you’ve given me along my journey.
I feel like I’ve known you well for a long, long time. Your husband was the first president I was able to vote for. In my eyes you were my modern day Eleanor Roosevelt, the influencer behind the curtain in a so-called post-women’s rights movement age where still yet women were empowered to talk about education and homelessness, but never foreign policy, balancing the budget, corporate america, or war. The lines of feminine and masculine ownership in the White House were glaringly apparent to me as a teenager, and in you I saw an opportunity for that to change. However, two First Ladies later, the role of the First Lady remains largely the same. Across the country as the percentage of women who earn more than and are in higher profile roles than their husbands meaningfully shifts, it feels like it’s time for the role of the husband and wife to morph into simply “spouse” or “partner”. What would a First Husband be called, I wonder?
As my career progressed, I took your lead as you added to your lists of firsts for women in leadership and focused on simply being the best candidate for the job – it was never about fighting for more women to have a seat at the table. Today, as Chief Customer Officer for a 200 person technology company in San Francisco, I’m on my second run as the only female with an executive seat. But as time goes by and as I hire and mentor more and more people, the reality is that too frequently the candidate pool for senior roles is dramatically under-representative of what we see when we walk down most streets in this country. How do we accelerate the rate of gender and racial diversity in leadership roles in America, I wonder?
Your daughter and I were born one year and one day apart, and we graduated from university at the same time – she from Stanford and I across the bay from UC Berkeley in 2001. We got married a year apart, had a child a year apart, and are now working professional mothers, trying to figure it all out on opposite coasts. In my mind we are the generation of women that will truly reap the fruits of your and my mother’s labor in the workforce. And I wanted to thank you for that. But I struggled in my first few months as a new mom – taking meetings while on maternity leave, attending offsites and pumping in a bathroom, and working hard so that the constituency I represented was supported in critical decisions. I never got a chance to be truly present as my son discovered shapes, colors, and the smell of flowers. However, I still know that I am extremely fortunate to even have been able to take time off from work. Most working mothers simply can’t afford to give up their income. So I wonder – how do we become a society that embraces and supports both mothers and fathers spending those critical first few months with their newborns?
There is a laundry list of other things I think about. I’m sure you think about many of these things too. Your list of things that keeps you up at night could probably wrap around the globe. But I’ve learned from you over the years that while the list of “things” will continue to grow, the most important thing is to connect those “things” to people, and you need to solve the problems that affect people the most. Because at the end of the day, those people are your customers, and you have to look at them in the eye and tell them how you’re making their lives better. And I think you can do that.
Every step you’ve taken for the past 20+ years has led you to this moment in time, and I’m truly looking forward to supporting you through this journey. I would love to be able to thank you in person one day for all the support you’ve given me. In fact, I bet you could use a girl’s night out and have a normal conversation with a normal person without a camera capturing your every word. Give me a call the next time you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area. If you can break away from the press brigade, you should come over to my home for a glass of wine. Perhaps you can tell me how I can help you – because I would love to return the favor.