Jaime Schultheis is the first feminist I ever knew. I can say with certainty I knew she was a feminist before I even knew what that meant. She stands up for what is right, and has always encouraged me to do the same. She is brilliant, outspoken, kind, opinionated, generous and funny. She’s a mom who loves to work, and she works harder than almost anyone I’ve ever known.
Jaime spends her days facilitating one of the most difficult things humans experience: relationships. As a divorce mediator she is surrounded by high emotions and must always remain objective. Truthfully, I can’t imagine a better person to have in the room when you need someone most.
What advice would you give a woman who is facing divorce?
Surround yourself with lawyers, mediators, financial advisors, bankers, counselors, friends, family, neighbors- you can’t have enough support and you should not stop talking. It’s normal to want to wall yourself off from opinions and people when you are dealing with a loss. But, in the case of divorce, be open to the experts and the love from your support. If you feel like you have too many opinions, too many dates with your girlfriends, and way too much time on the phone with family, you are probably doing it right!
What does feminism mean to you?
Feminism is the voice on my shoulder that speaks to me daily: when I purchase a Justice League toy over a doll for my daughter (and, I really love buying dolls), when I encourage my son to take a dance class, when I correct myself when referring to homeroom parents as homeroom moms, when I hear a sexist remark. Feminism reminds me that we’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go. And, while it’s been tough getting to where we are now– voting, more opportunities in sports and careers, closing the gap on equal pay, moving closer to a female president– I feel the next part of our journey as feminists will be harder, because now we’re faced with the question of, “When will women ever be satisfied?”
How can we improve equality? What do you find is lacking most?
I will probably get negative comments on this, but here goes… I think we need to let men open the door for us. I fight the “I can do this all myself” battle constantly. And, if we are keeping score, I’m losing. I, like many women, try to do so many things that it is very hard to excel at anything. A great step in equality is to let men do more (housework, errands, homework, shopping), just let some of it go. We don’t have to do everything. And, given the chance to focus on a few things (like most men do), we will excel.
I have experienced, and whole-heartedly acknowledge, the barriers women face. But I have control over one barrier: myself. If you want to rise in the board room, the PTA, the community- you have to give yourself a fighting chance by giving it dedication. Too often we’re stretched thin and we walk into the battle handicapped. We can control this. So, I let my husband hold the door for me, I gratefully kiss him on the way out knowing we’ll tackle the day equally (almost equally, I’m still working on this) addressing the needs of our family, and I keep walking without worrying about how it will be perceived that he attends the soccer game because I’m working, volunteering or getting together with friends.
What advantages do you think you have because you’re a woman?
Nurturing is innate for me. I understand nurturing is not innate for all women, but it is a trait in a lot of women and we are so fortunate to look at a situation or problem and not just want to solve it, but to attempt to make it a good resolution for everyone. I try (emphasis on try) to approach my kids, husband, friends, career and civic responsibilities with the gift of wanting to leave them knowing I care and will do everything in my power to help them grow. This is easy for me because it is inbred in me and I embrace it. To be honest, I probably exploit it. I’m most successful when I reach out to people and have a genuine interest in their well being. When I care about someone, I thrive because I have a tremendous support network of people that appreciate this and offer the same support to me.
What do you hope to see improved for your daughter’s future?
This is easy: Equal Pay. It’s reprehensible that we are even discussing this in 2013.
What women have inspired you in the past?
When I was in 5th grade, I said I would be the next Sandra Day O’Connor. I never even made it to law school! But, her accomplishment stuck with me. I find myself thinking about the possibility of America electing a woman as President. When it happens, the impact on young women will be exponentially greater than Justice O’Connor’s accomplishment and this makes me very, very happy.
On a more personal note, my husband’s mother passed away a year ago. Even now, I have a hard time thinking of her in the past tense. She changed my outlook on feminism. Mary Schultheis was a feminist that approached the barriers women face by rolling up her sleeves and gracefully barreling through them. I suspect she would not want me to call her a feminist, per se, but in my eyes she is everything a great feminist embodies: grace, intelligence, strength and gumption. I learned from her that the fight for equality for women does not have to be won with a bull horn. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a great bull horn rally. But, for me, the fight for equality for women is won with small decisions and actions every day. Thank you, Mary. Oh, and thank you to the women with bull horns who paved the way so I may be more graceful in my approach to equality.
Who is a modern day feminist you admire?
Confession… I’m tempted to Google a great response and find a compelling quote by a great feminist to make myself sound incredibly in touch. The truth is, I respect a lot of the modern feminist that are well known- Hillary Clinton, Lena Dunham and Sheryl Sandberg to name a few. But, I admire (and I mean really adore and wish I could clone) the women most people don’t know; my mother who raised 3 kids as a single mother and runs a successful company, wonderful aunts who are accomplished as moms and businesswomen but never forget a birthday or the opportunity support and laud accomplishments, a best friend that had her daughter at 17 and proceeded to manhandle destiny with her drive to be successful and raise a budding young feminist, co-workers and clients that I admire and emulate as I watch them strive for the balance between life and work, teachers who encourage, support and enable girls to pursue their dreams.
What book has made a positive impact on your life?
Rebecca, you are killing me. I’m going to have to admit that I am a fiction junkie. I really want to say Lean In or The Feminine Mystique. But, the truth is less erudite. To Kill a Mockingbird was the first book I read and truly identified with the message of equality. Also, I’ll debate till my death that Jane Austen was a feminist. I get it, she writes about women seeking marriage. But, she wrote about interesting, complicated women that develop skills to survive. So, to answer your question, pretty much anything Jane Austen.
What is your favorite thing about yourself?
My smile, it’s awesome.
Follow Jaime on Twitter @JaimeSchultheis.