Smash glass ceiling, says Thai-American heroine

Smash glass ceiling, says Thai-American heroine

Thai-American US Senator Ladda
Thai-American US Senator Ladda "Tammy" Duckworth shares her views via a video recorded in Illinois, US and played back at Bangkok Post International Forum 2020 at Centara Grand at the CentralWorld convention centre in Bangkok on Wednesday. (Photo by Varuth Hirunyatheb)

Women need to challenge gender barriers and take leadership roles in their own way, says Thai-American US Senator Ladda "Tammy" Duckworth.

Speaking on Wednesday at Bangkok Post International Forum 2020 on ‘The role of women in tomorrow's world’, Ms Duckworth encouraged women to break through the "glass ceiling" limitations to career advancement and other barriers of the status quo, such as gender discrimination and a patriarchal mindset, that are preventing them from reaching their full potential and taking leadership roles.

“I’ve spent my entire life in male-dominated fields. First in the military and now in Congress. Back in the army, I was the first female commander of my particular Black Hawk company and in that role I took on tasks that focused on the wellbeing of my crew, making sure they had everything they needed to be the best they could be,” she said via in a video recording made in the US state of Illinois.

“I made sure that on every sub-zero morning there were hot teas and hot cocoas for my crew because it’s so cold in Chicago in the winter, but some of the male commanders and platoon leaders started to call me ‘the mommy platoon leader’. It was meant to be an insult. At the age of 25, I bought into it and was convinced that in order to do my job better, I needed to be tough like the other guys instead of listening to my own instincts. I was so wrong,” Ms Duckworth said.

“Once I took away the warm teas and warm cocoas, my guys performed worse because they were cold. They were doing better when I provided them hot beverages to keep them going. What I should have done is to fight like a woman and beat those male leaders by doing it,” she added.

Ms Duckworth said that from flying helicopter overseas to passing bills in the Senate, she has learnt that different perspectives always lead to better ideas.

“Women are half the world's population. Neither in America nor in Thailand will women ever be as strong as we can be as long as we keep accepting the status quo that doesn’t fully accept half of us. Our nations will never be at their best as long as 50% of our population have to keep ducking our heads to avoid hitting that glass ceiling,” she said.

“National security is a women's issue. The economy is a women's issue. Healthcare is also a women's issue. Our countries will never reach high stature as long as we keep siloing women's issues in the way we are used to, because women's issues don’t start and end with equal pay,” said the former military officer, who lost both her legs when the helicopter she was co-piloting in Iraq was shot down in 2004.

As a US senator and mother, Ms Duckworth said she wants to see more bills in Congress that actually look out for working mothers, like legislation guaranteeing paid parental leave.

“I became a better legislator after I became a mom. I’ve passed legislation that looks out for parents in ways I would not have thought of before I had my two beautiful daughters. But we need to fight even harder to get more women into leadership roles. Elevating women only makes all of us stronger,” she said.

Ms Duckworth also said she wishes to see closer ties between Thailand and the US, and hopes cooperation between the two countries will expand.

“For centuries, our countries have learnt from and leaned on each other militarily, diplomatically, economically and culturally. From law enforcement to education, national security to the economy, we’ve helped one another grow and evolve, adapting to an era in which technology allows allies half the world away to be there for each other in an instant,” she said.

“There’s a reason Thailand is often called Washington’s oldest ally in Asia. Ever since Washington’s ship landed on Siam’s shore more than 200 years ago. Ever since King Mongkut offered to send elephants to President Abraham Lincoln. Ever since we agreed to help strengthen one another's economies with the Treaty of Amity and Commerce and helping defend one other through the Manila Pact.”

“I’m an American, but my Thai heritage makes me a living example of a long history of friendship between our two countries. Our nations have proved that nothing is worth more than a partner you can count on in times of both peace and conflict,” she said.

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