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 
Museum. 
 
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 
Groom. 
 
Tickets are available online at brownpayertickets.com/event/326478
 
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 sue@smdailyjournal.com.