March 18, 2013
  • 3/18/2013 -- The rise of the ‘weaker sex’ 

    By Sue Lempert 

    San Mateo Daily Journal 



    There has been much attention to the importance of women this year and this month. In the last 

    election, women were a significant factor in electing President Barack Obama. In 2016, Hillary 

    Clinton is a strong possibility to run for president. This month, PBS featured a program on 

    women’s changing lives and the impact on U.S. society over the past 50 years. Betty Friedan’s 

    groundbreaking book, “The Feminine Mystique,” a rallying cry for housebound frustrated 

    suburban women, has been reissued. Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer at Facebook, a 

    mother of two and shatterer of glass ceilings, has written “Lean In,” about how women can and 

    should rise to the top of the corporate world. And now San Mateo County will be celebrating its 

    annual Women’s Hall of Fame at its new permanent home, the San Mateo County History 



    Are women taking over? Are they taking the jobs formerly held by men? San Francisco has had 

    a woman police chief and fire chief in recent years. Santa Clara County has a female sheriff. The 

    city of San Mateo has a female police chief who last year was elected chair of the California 

    Police Chiefs. At several prestigious law and medical schools, women now outnumber men. 


    And Rotary Clubs, long the bastion of men, see increasing numbers of professional and business 

    women in their ranks. 


    In education, there is definitely a tilt toward women in management positions, especially at the 

    elementary level. In the San Mateo-Foster City Elementary School District, males are 

    outnumbered three to one. There are 15 female principals and only five male. It’s slightly 

    different in the San Mateo Union High School District where there are four male principals and 

    just two female. And the last two county superintendents of school have been women. In the 

    county as a whole, there are 15 women school superintendents, including the county 

    superintendent, and 10 males. 


    It used to be that there were few women city managers. Now there are eight out of 20 cities in 

    San Mateo County. Meanwhile in San Mateo County government, half of the 22 department 

    heads are women; 199 of 361 management personnel are women; and 2,953 out of 4,819, or 61 

    percent, of the regular work force are women. The county manager is and has been traditionally, 

    a man. 


    Twenty-nine years ago, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors (with a nudge from female 

    supervisors) set up a Commission on Women and established a county Women’s Hall of Fame, where outstanding women who made a positive impact on the community would be honored. 

    Today, 270 women have been so recognized. Usually, the awards ceremony is held in a hotel at a 

    dinner meeting. This year, it will held at the San Mateo History Museum in Redwood City, 

    Friday, March 22 at 5:30 p.m. The museum is the new permanent home where the Hall of Fame 

    will go high tech. Usually about a dozen women are recognized but this year the honors will go 

    to three elected officials, Rose Jacobs Gibson, recently termed out of the Board of Supervisors; 

    U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, (former county supervisor and one of the founders of the 

    Hall of Fame) and former assemblywoman Fiona Ma, who represented San Francisco and also a 

    small portion of northern San Mateo County in the state Legislature. 


    “It is really exciting that the Women’s Hall of Fame will have a permanent home at the County 

    History Museum. IPad based, it will feature profiles of all honorees. Eventually historic timelines 

    and historic events will be added. This is a wonderful partnership between the Historical 

    Association and the Women’s Hall of Fame,” according to San Mateo County Supervisor Carole 



    Tickets are available online at


    Since the advent of Title IX, the explosion of medal-winning female athletes and the expanded 

    role women are playing in the military, it would be silly to refer to today’s women as the 

    “weaker sex.” In the political sphere, no male opponent or colleague would consider U.S. Rep. 

    Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, or the many women like her, a pushover. She’s smart, tough, brave 

    and a very successful politician. So should us females want women to take over? Most women 

    are not asking for that. Just a level playing field where no matter what your sex you have the 

    opportunity to chose the field in which you excel. And receive the same pay as your male 

    counterpart. No closed doors because of one’s chromosomes. The best person for the job whether 

    it’s a she or a he. May the best man or woman win! Wow! If only our mothers and grandmothers 

    had lived to see this day. 


    Sue Lempert is the former mayor of San Mateo. Her column runs every Monday. She can be 

    reached at