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A double dare for Filipinas everywhere

Last night, thecommich had the honor of attending the Filipina Women’s Network Salo-Salo (gathering) honoring Mona Pasquil, the first female,  Filipina Lt. Governor of California. Over a classic (read: delicious and heart-stopping) Filipino meal of adobo, sitaw, bangus sisig and lechon kawali, Filipina women of all ages and backgrounds gathered together to toast a true trailblazer.

Mona gave a beautiful and moving acceptance speech, citing her immigrant grandparents – and their capacity for hard work and hope – as her driving motivation for being an agent of change in the US. Even in the face of blatant racism (“where’s your grass skirt?”), Senate hearings where her patriotism was called into question, and various other obstacles that you would have to be a woman and a Filipino to understand (including my favorite, being called a monkey),  Mona kept the flame alive. For one simple reason: as her mentors told her time and again – If you don’t work to get a seat at the table, you can’t complain.

That “table” exists everywhere – in the halls of government, in boardrooms, bedrooms and city clubs where women are still traditionally excluded. How then, do women – and minorities at that – get a seat at the table? Why, we invite ourselves, of course!

How do we get our voices heard so our concerns are met? Who will fight for maternity leave, laws against domestic violence, gender-tinged perceptions in the workplace or racism in all its blatant and hidden forms – if not we who are directly affected by it? How will the glass ceiling ever be shattered if we don’t go at it with a determined, brown-skinned, estrogen-fueled battering ram?

The commich’s double  dare – today, make a real effort to support women in decision-making circles; or better yet, become a decision-maker yourself.

Just like Oren Ishi-i in Quentin Tarantino’s classic Kill Bill, it’s time for us women minorities to take a katana blade to all the haters who question our qualifications to lead. We need that burning desire to get to the top, if only so we can start shaping the landscape to suit our needs. I always wondered why women only get a few months of maternity leave and no day-care benefits once they get back to work. Could it POSSIBLY be because women account for only 15% of Fortune 500 leadership positions, or that as of 2007, 44% of workers polled still thought “men made better leaders?” No qualifications on WHAT kind of a man he is; not a care in the world on whether it’s Barack Obama or Bernie Madoff….if he’s a man, we’ll take him.  Jeez Louise.

Find the female assemblywoman the district nearest you and volunteer to help in her upcoming campaign. Email your female corporate executive and let her know that you are ready to help work for any policies that affect you as women and minorities – be it harrassment in the workplace, work-life balance, racism, or childcare (I once had a coworker who needed to pump breastmilk for her infant at work. Instead of giving her a private office to do her business, the HR director – a WOMAN at that – made her go into a broom closet filled with cobwebs, no ventilation and no chair to sit in).

Most importantly, dare to vie for top positions. Be a group leader. A discussion leader. Project manager. Organizational head. Aim for CEO even if you’re coming in as a sales associate. Women like to say “whatever you prefer”… well, lady friend, it’s time to prefer yourself.

If you don’t keep making a way, like Mona Pasquil did, your beautiful brown daughters won’t have a way.

**Next post: Mama Elen’s favorite Christmas Recipes… buuurp.