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The One Time I Heard “That Job is for Girls” – and Liked It

Since today is Hillary Clinton’s last day as Madam Secretary, I couldn’t help but remember this precious moment of empowerment she helped inspire.

4th Grade Government Art!

4th Grade Government Art!

This time last year I was teaching 4th grade Writing and Social Studies in rural Louisiana, and we were knee deep in the Government Unit. We spent a lot of time going over the role of each of the three branches (in addition to singing the Schoolhouse Rock Constitution song on an almost hourly basis).

At the end of the lessons about the Executive Branch we had a discussion about which position you would want to have when you’re older. Most went with President. But Derreck, who could always be counted on for entertainment, slammed his hand on his desk and announced that he would be Secretary of State because then he could go to Poland whenever he wants (do not ask me where he got Poland from).

Well, Aja did not like his answer. She stood up and proudly proclaimed, “You can’t be Secretary of State because that job is for GIRLS.”

I, being teacher/peacemaker, respond with a surprised – “Why would you say that Aja, of course Derreck can be Secretary of State.”

Aja then backed up her claim with facts. “Ms. Q – you told us about Madeline Albright, and Condoleezza Rice, and Hillary Clinton – you did not say anything about boys being Secretary of State.”

I proceeded to calmly explain that anyone (boy or girl) could have the job and that there had been many male Secretaries of State, including Colin Powell the first African American to hold the position. But on the inside I was jumping up and down with feelings of feminist victory!  Aja had been presented with so many female role models for that particular position of power she literally thought boys couldn’t have the job. How often does that happen?

Of course, there is still a huge need for more women in top administration posts (we’ve all seen the picture) – but the fact that Aja could draw the conclusion that Secretary of State is a “job for girls” means we’ve at least gotten somewhere.  This is a misconception I’m happy to clear up.

Five of my smart ladies who know they can grow up to be Secretary of State – or anything else.

Five of my smart ladies who know they can grow up to be Secretary of State – or anything else.


The students’ names have been changed.