Thursday, January 31, 2008

Dr. Joe Anna Hibler's Remarks at the Kate Barnard Luncheon, Jan 24, 2008

Recently, I was in a bookstore, which is one of my favorite places to be, and I came across a little book which is entitled, “Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart.” Needless to say, the title—TOO SOON OLD, TOO LATE SMART-- certainly got my attention, and when I read the subtitle, “Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now,” I was hooked!

The book is written by Dr. Gordon Livingston, who is a physician and psychiatrist with over 30 years of experience of listening to people talk about their lives—what works, what doesn’t, and the limitless ways that people have found to be unhappy.

Although the book centers around marriage and family relationships, some of his “Thirty True Things,” are certainly applicable to women in leadership roles and certainly hold true when I reflect upon my experiences as a university president.

One of the truism is, “We are what we do.” As a university president, I found that any success that I had hinged on my ability to recognize and to accept my behavior for what it was—not what I thought, or what I intended, or what I wanted, but what I actually did. Likewise, any success that I achieved also depended upon my paying attention not to what people said they would do but how they actually acted. In management terms, this translates to past performances predicts future behavior.

And the truism, We Are What We Do, is especially important to women who are interested in advancement, because research shows that men tend to be promoted based upon their potential while women are more likely to be judged on their track record. Women are still being measured by a different yardstick. Too often, our successes need to be visable to be counted, and self-promotion is not a characteristic that most women wear with ease.

Because of our unease in self-promotion, an event such as this luncheon takes on special meaning. Not only are you remembering the pioneer spirit of Kate Barnard, you are also honoring a woman’s success in today’s workplace. Too often, we get so busy that we fail to celebrate the changes that are now part of our daily lives. We get too busy to hail the success of the women who have been and are the change makers.

This failure to celebrate really struck home when I announced my pending retirement. As you know when you make that kind of announcement, the next thing to happen is that someone starts writing your career obituary that outlines your various accomplishments. Well, I was pleasantly surprised at all that we had accomplished in eleven years, and I realized that we had not celebrated our successes. Instead we were too busy working on the next project.

So, as part of today’s celebration, I want to ask the age-old question that everyone in this room has heard if they have ever ridden in a car with kids in the back seat. The question? ARE WE THERE YET?

My Aunt Marguerite swore that until her kids were grown, she seldom saw the countryside or points of interest when her family traveled, because she either had her head in the floorboard as she unwrapped sandwiches and pour drinks from the thermos—or she was looking at a map trying to determine how many more miles to the next restroom.

Yes, I can tell from your faces and the heads nodding that many of you have been there!


How would you answer that question if we applied it to the status of women in today’s world ? More than likely, you answer would be, “NO,” even though we have made major strides and continue to see progress each day, there is still much to be done on behalf of women and by women.

But, we should not ignore the progress that has been made in the last 20-25 years. For example, just think about what Title IX has done for women. Without this landmark legislation, young women like Andrea Riley, a student-athlete at OSU and Courtney Paris, a student-athlete at OU, would not be in the headlines; nor would Sherry Coale and Kim Mulkey be coaching at Division I schools.

On a more personal note, the expanded opportunities for women were especially brought home to me when I was appointed president at Southwestern in 1990. SIDE NOTE; THAT’S BEEN 18 YEARS AGO!

Do you know who celebrated the longest and the loudest? It was not my peers or the female students on campus. It was women my mother’s age, and when you think about it, it makes sense. These were the women who had fewer opportunities. These were the women who basically had three career choices—be a nurse, a secretary, or a teacher.

I know that statistics are so boring, but I need to put a few facts on the table if we are going to determine if we are there yet—and if not—how close are we to our destination.

These facts are from the Bureau of Labor and an article in BUSINESS WEEK.

FACT 1: Women currently make up 47 percent of the nation’s work force and hold 49 percent (nearly half) of the professional jobs. This is up from 29 percent in 1970. Or, another way to look at it—in the past 30 years, the number of women in professional positions has increased by 20 percent.

FACT 2: By 2030, women will hold 54 percent of the management and professional jobs, but they will still make up less than half of the work force.

FACT 3: Currently, 20 percent more women than men are graduating from college.
(In Oklahoma, nearly 20 percent (19.4) of our girls do not graduate from highschool and only 1 out of 7 finish four years of college.)

FACT 4: Currently, one in three women now out earns her husband—up from one in five in 1980. Women with master’s degrees in business administration are doing even better. Nearly 60 percent of these women deposit larger paychecks than their spouses.

FACT 5: Women tend to outlive men, (74.l to 79.5 years expectancy), but women also tend to earn less (75 cents for every dollar men earn).

FACT 6: Currently, one in four women retires on an income below the poverty level.

FACT 7: More than one-third of families led by single mothers lives below the poverty level. (In Oklahoma, the number of single mothers with children under 18 years of age increased 22 percent between the 1990 and 2000 census.)

FACT 8: Women make up 52 percent of the voting population, but less than 20 percent of the U.S. Congress.

ARE WE THERE YET? Clearly, the answer is “NO.”


History shows that World War II opened the door for Rosie the Riveter and many other women who took jobs that had previously been thought to be “for men only.” And you know what, women were good at those jobs! And, women are proving every day that we can success in the workplace and that we can hold our own at the decision-making table.

On a national level, Condeleezza Rice followed Madeleine Albright’s footsteps as Secretary of State. U.S. Congresswomen Fallin is at the table. A woman is running for president. Women are making their marks on the national scene.

On a lighter note, have your ever thought about the fact that the inspection teams sent to Iraq were all men? Now, think about that for a minute. We know that men have a blind spot when it comes to finding things. They can’t find the dirty clothes hamper or their clean socks and underwear when they are neatly folded and stacked in their dress drawer. Right?

What would have happened if those inspection teams had been women—mothers, in particular. They could have sniffed out secrets quicker than a drug dog. A group of mothers would have charged up to Sadam, with their hands on their hips, and they could have told in an instant whether he was lying or telling the truth! Think about it!


No, but Oklahoma women are opening new doors every day. Our honorable lieutenant governor, our superintendent of education, our commander of the Oklahoma Air National Guard, our presidents at Cameron, Langston, Northwestern, and Northeastern, our mayor in Tulsa—just to name a few—are influential women in our State, who are serving as role models and making a difference for all of us.

ARE WE THERE YET? No, but the hill is not as steep as it was. The glass ceiling—or as I prefer to call it—that dense layer of men—does not pose as large an obstacle as in the past. More women are pursuing professional careers, and if projects hold true, women will hold the majority of management and professional jobs within the next 25 years.

This meeting today is chucked full of capable women who are making a difference in communities across our state. I broke through a 55-year-old ceiling when I was appointed in 1990 to serve as president at Southwestern. I am convinced that my appointment happened because: (1) I had the necessary credentials; (2) I had the support of strong mentors, who were all men; and (3) the members of the Board of Regents of Oklahoma Colleges were willing to step out and take a risk. I think these three conditions are still necessary today; however, there are strong female mentors on the scene today.

Invariably, I am asked to share my experiences through those eleven years, and it always comes down to my reflecting on what worked and what didn’t work—and I can assure you that there were days that nothing worked! But overall here’s what I found worked for me:

DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Be prepared. Women will still be tested and judged more than men.

GET THE LAY OF THE LAND. Find where the real power is. (public schools—janitor; legislature—secretaries).

LEARN TO BE A GOOD LISTENER. Especially listen with your third ear and hear what is not being said. What is the body language telling you? Has the smile reached the eyes?

LEARN TO SEPARATE PROBLEM SOLVING AND DECISION MAKING. If the problem had been easy to solve, someone else would have already taken care of it. Problem solving is often a group activity; while decision-making is the leader’s individual responsibility.

SOMETIMES A RED DRESS IS AN ADVANTAGE. Use it; but don’t abuse it!

KEEP A SENSE OF HUMOR. It can relieve strain and enable people to relax and see things in a different light.

No, we are not there yet. But, we have made progress. It is going to take the continuing efforts of women like you, like me, like this group to hold the doors open for the women who follow us.

I can’t help but think about a remark that Madeleine Albright made in a recent interview. When asked how important it was for women to help one another, she said: “. . . there is a special place in hell for women who don’t.” That may be a little harsh, but I say AMEN.

Speaking publicly is much like having an affair—it is easy to start, but awkward to end! So, I’ll simply say that I have said all I want to say: I appreciated the invitation to be here today; and, now, I’m going to sit down!

Posted with Dr. Hibler's permission, Jan 31, 2008

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