My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

HYDE PARK, Monday—I have a letter which I think I should give you virtually in full. It does not describe anything in my own experience but I have heard such complaints a number of times from other women, and I think those of us who hold executive positions should bear such criticisms in mind.

My correspondent begins by saying that she heard me speak of the progress women had made in filling executive positions in the commercial and political fields, and then she says:

"But would you perhaps write or talk sometime about the attitude of these women in executive places to the members of the staff?

"During the past few years, I've been working for two different women, one quite prominent, and both successful in their different spheres. Their attitude to those below them, when not obvious and pathetic, is most regrettable. Why is this? Well, I suppose I can analyze it really, but I hope it is worthy of a comment by you.

"Both the women of my experience make extraordinary demands of others, and coddle themselves when the circumstances are the same. Their entire disregard for the frailties of ordinary human beings, other than their own, reaches a near peak of inhumanity. Should not their leadership take the form of example rather than result in piffling nagging and in privilege for themselves alone?

"If superior ability is justly rewarded by so very much more pay, as well as an understandable degree of advantage, why not make slight allowance for the mediocre talents? Is this not reasonable?

"Small wonder, then, that so many girls and women confess their preference for men employers and superiors. There's so much less downright nonsense, too belittling to list really. So unnecessary—the superior and imperious tones of their instructions and criticisms. From the ranks of the meek and mild I've become, of necessity, a rebel—and I don't like myself this way. I find myself answering back sharply when I really shouldn't.

"To resort to the cliche—we can't all be sergeants, let alone colonels. Why women are establishing such a poor precedent so early in the game of careers for women seems remiss.

"It may be that my working experience is limited—that both men and women indulge in these small practices. I'm not certain. But I do hope that women will begin to show the way to a better relationship between those who must work together and not help build undesirable barriers."

This seems to be a case of example being more important than words. Consideration, and an ability to think of other people, is an essential for men or women in executive positions.

E.R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL