Supt. Kathleen Williams lauds women's accomplishments but says there is more work to be done.
Whatever men can do, women can do, but they have to do it better if they want to be taken seriously.
That was the message Lawrence Public Schools Supt. Kathleen Williams told members of the Professional Women of the Chamber during a speech Tuesday at the Lawrence Holidome.
"It's an absolute sheer miracle that I am here," she told the 57 women in attendance. "In Kansas there are 303 superintendents; 19 of those are women. Eighty-eight percent of the superintendents in the nation are male; 12 percent are female. In 1993 it was 7 percent and in 1982, 1.2 percent.
"There is cause to celebrate. We've come a long, long way but there is more to go."
Williams combined stories of her background and how she got to her current position. She shared her thoughts on the past school year, which was her first in Lawrence.
"When I first came to Lawrence to interview for the position I thought, 'I'm dead,'" Williams said.
The reason: She had been told that school boards that had a majority of women members almost never hired a woman superintendent.
"I was dreading the fact that people of my gender would prevent me from getting the position," she said.
To make matters worse, board member James Hilliard couldn't make it to Williams' interview, so she sat face-to-face with four women and two men.
"Well, you know the rest of the story," she said. "Things worked out quite well for me. They gave me a chance. I've been working very hard so they don't regret the choice they made."
Williams said it was particularly important for her to speak to women because "I think there are things we can do for each other."
"There are stereotypes we have to overcome," she said. "We have to help each other and be supportive."
Professional Women of the Chamber steering committee member Brenda Krones said the group asked Williams to speak because of her enthusiasm for the Lawrence community and her willingness to lead the school district into the future.
"She has had such a positive influence on Lawrence and in the school system," Krones said. "She's brought women to the forefront because she's in the public eye."
Chamber liaison Betty Markley said she welcomed the opportunity to hear what Williams had to say to women in the community.
"I think she's great," Markley said. "I wish I had some kids in the schools, still."
-- JL Watson's phone message number is 832-7145. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.