When Madeleine Albright was sworn in as secretary of state in 1997, she became the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government at the time. She is also a mom of three daughters.
So it’s fitting that during a recent stop in Austin to promote her exhibit “Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection,” which runs through Jan. 21 at the LBJ Presidential Library, she had some strong advice to offer young women and their families.
Rule No. 1? Learn to interrupt.
“You have learn to interrupt,” Albright said. “I have been in so many meetings where I was the only woman in the room and I’d think to myself, well, I need to say something. And then I think, oh my goodness, it’s going to sound stupid, and then some man says it and everybody thinks it’s brilliant. The point is that young women, old women, powerful women have to learn to interrupt, and if you’re going to interrupt, you have to listen differently and you have to know what you’re talking about. You have to say it in a firm voice. You can’t wait to be called.”
As for her thoughts on the #metoo movement?
“Women need to be recognized as equal citizens and very much not dismissed and not assaulted and not rejected,” Albright said. “It is something that might have been a movement in the first place, but it seems as if some of the women’s issues are being pushed back rather than moving forward.”
The key to moving forward, she says, is to remember that the fight for equality isn’t over.
“I have three daughters and six grandchildren, and I think that what has to happen is not to raise generations of angry people but to have people understand that there needs to be gender equality and gender respect,” Albright said. “It’s important to have those of any gender be able to live the lives that they want and be rewarded for the hard work that they do. The thing I’m unhappy about is that there’s so much anger about everything and not enough discussion about things. I’m very afraid that we’re being pushed backwards. There are a lot of younger women who have taken for granted that they were going to be treated with respect and equality when some of us that were there a long time ago recognize that the job is never done. It’s something that we all have to work on together and not forget and not take for granted.
“Young women really do have to understand that they all have very important roles to play in our society,” she added. “Women must be appreciated, and, at the same time, women have to work harder. You can’t just expect things to happen.”