Susan Combs, former Texas Comptroller, is unsatisfied with the treatment and position of women. She was the state’s top money manager for close to a decade, serving as Comptroller until last year. Before that, she was Texas Agriculture Commissioner and a state representative.
She’s decided to take what was left in her political coffers and start a nonprofit aimed at helping women lift each other up. HERdacity is a website and phone-based platform that will bring women together in small groups and one-on-one conversations to answer questions for each other around the proverbial campfire. She’s also written a book called “Texas Tenacity: A Call for Women to Direct Their Destiny“.
Part of the desire to focus her attention on helping women achieve their full potential came out of a March 2015 incident with the Austin City Council. After the city council election, the majority of council members were female. But a city staffer decided that this was such a shock that to deal with the women on the council, the city would need to hire a special consultant.
“[He said] women were notorious for two things: they asked a lot of questions – which was obviously going to be time-consuming and wasteful – and they didn’t understand about numbers,” Combs says. “That really hacked me off, and stronger language has been used elsewhere, … and I decided if this happens in Austin which is known for being so-called progressive, then there’s something deeply wrong.”
In the introduction of her book, Combs writes that she’s embarking on a definite and deliberate mission to help women. “Being pissed off is who I am and I embrace it – and use it for good,” she writes.
“I decided to write ‘Texas Tenacity’ to show how women can have rich and varied lives if they recognize opportunity when it knocks. And if they come to a closed door, they have to learn how to unlock it, or they have to find a new door, or they have to work around that door. Or they just have to plain kick it down. Basically, we women have the tools necessary – if we choose to use them.”
We spoke to Combs about her new mission.
On the gender bias and women using the tools they have:
“Some portion of women – and this is well documented, unfortunately, by research – we don’t believe we have the tools. … There’s also this fact that we are so good at sitting down and being good in school and not making a mess and not making a fuss, we don’t, in many cases, have the self-confidence – although we’re fully capable.”
On identity politics and feminism:
“I’m very much an individualist. I would say that I’m a person first, with certain views, and a woman second. … I’m a personist. I believe in people being able to fulfill their potential. I’ve got three sons. I want them to fulfill their potential. I want every man, woman, child, wherever situated, whatever type, to have the ability to direct their destiny to the life they want.”
On when gender became important to her:
“In a particular case, this moron who ran our local electric co-op said to me at a meeting – and it was because I was female – about a power line ‘Sue, if I explained it to you, you wouldn’t understand it.’ Well, that got me, to quote my friend ‘very pissed off’ and I decided that is bogus. He probably would not have said that to a man. But he said that to me and I was outraged.”
On her nonprofit HERdacity:
“We want to help each other. … You don’t have to give us your name and you can ask a question and you can voice things that you mightn’t be able to voice someplace else, but that are really a burr under your personal saddle that really bug you. And we want to help you get past that.”
Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.