From the 46th floor of the Duke Energy Center, Charlotte opens up from downtown skyscrapers into tree-covered suburbs and rolling hills, with interstates snaking off to the horizon. Some of the most powerful women in town are gathered in this rarified air to network and hear Carnegie Mellon University professor Linda Babcock describe her research into why women are less likely to negotiate — and the impact on the glass ceiling and gender pay gap. Sitting at a front table, Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts raises her hand: “What about the gender revolution?”
In July, a baby was born in Canada without being assigned a gender. The January cover of National Geographic featured people with seven different gender labels. What it all means for negotiation in the workplace is not yet clear, but on a brisk walk back to her office, Roberts tells OZY: “I think this is going to be good for women.” She’s an unusually qualified cisgender woman on the topic.
Roberts started hearing about nonbinary gender a couple of years ago from her daughter, who was reading about it in college. Then, in February 2016, just two months after Roberts took office, the city council added sexual orientation and gender identity to its nondiscrimination ordinance for public accommodations. It set off a conflagration in Raleigh, where conservative state lawmakers banned all local nondiscrimination ordinances, and Charlotte became the epicenter of a nasty national debate over whether transgender people can choose which bathroom to use.
The controversy helped oust the state’s Republican governor, but Roberts rejected a compromise brokered this year by her fellow Democrat, Gov. Roy Cooper, to return to the pre-2016 status quo. Still, Roberts remains a face of the gender revolution — a profile that has her being talked about for a U.S. Senate bid in 2020.
But first, Roberts, 57, has to win reelection as mayor, and she’s got a tough fight in September’s primary because of the other firestorm that defines her term: last year’s police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, and the protests and riots that followed. Read more via Ozy