U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright is about to become the first female secretary of state. Rep.-elect Loretta Sanchez has given Orange County political fixture Bob Dornan the boot. Shannon Lucid got a medal from President Clinton for her record-setting stay in space. These recent events have shown up on the radar screens of ambitious high school girls, who told JIM BLAIR that they do notice--and appreciate--older women who continue to crack the glass ceiling.
AMY MESSIGIAN: Senior, law and government magnet, Franklin High School, North Hills
I want to major in international relations in college and to go into government service. I think Madeleine Albright's appointment as secretary of state has broken a major glass ceiling.
I don't think, though, that [a government career] will necessarily be easier for me. I think each woman has her own struggle to get ahead.
Just because one woman breaks the barrier doesn't mean the barrier has been broken for every woman, but I do think that it helps.
Older women role models make you respect yourself. The greatest example I can give is my mother, who started her own public relations firm and has done everything even though there's always been someone who's told her she couldn't. Her college counselor told her not to go to work, and just get married and be a good little wife. She's shown that you don't necessarily have to listen to what people think. You can do what you feel. And she's done that. She's been a powerful influence in my life.
What's really important is that while we're seeing this happen at high places, there are so many people who are still being affected by glass ceilings. There are so many women whose careers are just being stopped. It's not something that's going to end overnight.
GRACIELA QUINTANILLA: Senior, Los Angeles High School
My mother and Hillary Clinton are my biggest role models. My mother's been a hair stylist for more than 25 years and has always been very independent. She does her own work. She never depends on my father in any way and she dedicates a lot of time to her family. I'd like to be like that some day. I'd like to major in education and become a high school teacher, probably of English.
Hillary Clinton inspires me because because even though so many people criticize her and say she's not like other presidents' wives, she stands up for what she believes and won't let comments put her down. I like that.
SALENA McDANIEL: Senior, justice and law magnet, Woodrow Wilson High School
I heard about Madeleine Albright and Loretta Sanchez. I think it's good because they're tearing down a lot of stereotypes--Madeleine Albright [especially] because she went through everything everyone else went through, went to school and became a professor, then ambassador to the United Nations and now she's going to be secretary of state.
To me, a glass ceiling means that everyone might have the same qualifications to do the job, but [some] are held back, not permitted to excel because they're a woman or of a different race.
After I graduate from high school I plan on going to a university and getting a bachelor's degree in business administration. After that I want to become an accountant and, hopefully, an internal auditor for the FBI.
When I was in the 10th grade I had a biology teacher, the only female African American science teacher. She would help me with my school work and encourage me to be the best I could be and not let anyone put me down. She's my major role model.
LETA MARIE ESPINOSA: Senior, Santa Ana High School
Loretta Sanchez came with President Clinton to Santa Ana and the whole senior and junior classes got to go see her. Her speech really hit me hard. It gave me the shivers. I was very happy that she won. Dornan had been in there for a long time and it seems like nothing ever got accomplished. [When she is sworn in,] hopefully things will get accomplished.
I've thought about the criminal justice system--the law is interesting to me. I'm thinking of becoming a lawyer, a police officer or perhaps working with juveniles in the justice system. I applied to many different colleges, but Cal State Long Beach has a pretty good criminal justice program.
If I were faced with a glass ceiling, I would probably be angry and say, "What's the difference? Because I'm a woman I can't fill the same position as a man can?" If you put a man and a woman behind two doors and they had to answer questions, people wouldn't know [which was which]. If you answered better than a man then they would take you.
SOO-JEAN CHI: Senior, North Hollywood High School, Los Angeles
I am quite undecided about a college major, but I'm particularly excited about Shannon Lucid just because I know the sciences are one area where women have traditionally fallen behind. So I'm really excited that she stayed as long as she did in outer space. It's a testament to her abilities as an astronaut and as a scientist and it makes her a hero, which is not a role traditionally held by women.
One person who's definitely influenced me has been my older sister, who is now interning at the Department of Justice, because she's never let anything get in her way, especially not her gender. She's confident, sets clear-cut goals and goes about accomplishing them without [worrying whether they are] possible.
When I was little I was really excited because I thought to myself, wow, my generation will never face sex discrimination. But it's really scary to me as a grown up. I watch around me and see little hints of bias and people not letting go of stereotypes. That's really disturbing.