I want to bring to your attention some new cracks in the glass ceiling. Let’s celebrate some good news today.
Javier C. Hernández, writing for the New York Times, notes, “The 25 largest orchestras in the United States have something in common: Not one is led by a woman.” That is about to change with the appointment of Nathalie Stutzmann, a conductor and singer from France, as the musical director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. A world-renowned contralto singer, Stutzmann was discouraged from becoming a conductor by her music teachers because of her gender. The field of conducting has long been dominated by men, and Stutzmann gave up her dream of conducting. Although she became a successful singer who toured widely and made more than eighty recordings, she always longed to be a conductor. She explains, “When you sing you have only one line, one melody. When you conduct you have a hundred lines in your hands.” Hernández explains that she eventually found mentors, including Japanese conductor Seiji Ozawa, who saw her talents and encouraged her development as a conductor.
Hernández points out that roughly one-third of the music directors of the largest orchestras in the country are planning to retire in the next few years. Perhaps the time has come for women to be more fully represented as musical leaders.
The Associated Press (AP) announced the promotion of Daisy Veerasingham to be its new president and chief executive, the first woman and the first person of color to lead the organization in its 175-year old history. Katie Robertson reports that the AP “employs several thousand journalists reporting from 250 bureaus around the world.” Veerasingham, now fifty-one, joined the AP in 2004 in London and was promoted to chief revenue officer in 2019. She succeeds Gary Pruitt as CEO and president.
Tomb of the Unknowns Honor Guard
In September 2021, for the first time ever, the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery, a hallowed military tradition, was carried out by three women. Maria Cramer, writing for the New York Times, notes that “the image of three women upholding a sacred ritual underscored how visible women have become in the military, and moved fellow soldiers, veterans and military historians.” While individual women have been part of the Tomb Guard since 1996, “to see not only one female, but to see three just feels really astounding . . . and something I never thought I would see in my lifetime,” explained First Lieutenant Ruth Robinson, who attended the ceremony.
Cramer explains that the Tomb of the Unknowns was created in 1921 for the unidentified remains of a soldier killed in World War I as a symbol of mourning and sacrifice. In 1937, the military installed a twenty-four-hour guard post at the tomb. She notes that women were not allowed to volunteer for the Tomb Guard Platoon until 1994. While three women earned the Tomb Guard Identification Badge between 1996 and 1998, allowing them to serve in the Tomb Guard Platoon, no other woman did so again until 2015.
The image of three female soldiers performing the ceremony of the changing of the guard provides a “visual marker” of the “often unrecognized sacrifices that women and other marginalized people in the United States have made for the military,” notes Professor Micki McElya, a professor of history at the University of Connecticut. She goes on to say that “women have served either officially or unofficially in every single war that country has ever waged.” She also points out that because women have never been drafted, they served because they wanted to.
It’s important to stop and take a moment to celebrate these new cracks in the glass ceiling. It’s about time for these changes to occur, and there are many more needed.
Photo courtesy of Tony Fischer (CC BY