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There’s a glass ceiling in the Michigan Capitol.
Designed as a glass floor for the building’s rotunda, it’s a big draw for school groups and other Capitol visitors. Little girls lay on it, faces pressed to the cloudy glass to see if they can make out shapes moving one floor down.
But to the women entering below – staff, consultants, public relations professionals, interns, journalists, lobbyists and lawmakers – it’s a visual reminder of what they’re pushing up against.
More than 40 women who work in and around Lansing politics spoke with MLive about how the state’s political culture can be damaging to women and their careers.
A pinch on the butt. Feeling tokenized as the lone woman in rooms. Being accused of sleeping with your boss. Warding off propositions for threesomes. Seeing your male subordinates promoted while you spin your wheels. Explicit conversations in the workplace. A mental checklist of men to avoid finding yourself alone in the elevator with.
The women on Lansing’s political scene come into work every day with more work than their male peers, running complex calculations on how to strike the balance between avoiding uncomfortable situations and being taken seriously. And they remain outnumbered, particularly in leadership roles and other powerful positions.
For Abby Clark, owner of Athena Strategies, the glass ceiling crystalized when she watched men she’d mentored get jobs in the tier she couldn’t seem to break into in progressive politics.
“Glass ceiling is a phrase we heard our whole lives. I did not know what it actually meant until I ran into it with my head, very hard,” Clark said.