SONGSOPTOK: What, in your experience, is the status of a girl child in the family? Is she treated in the same way as the male child? If not, what are the major differences in treatment?

MARY L. PALERMO:  In 21st century America, I believe the gap between how girls and boys are treated is slowly closing. Yet, the gender relationship between females as being the primary providers of child rearing tasks in life can cause a form of discrimination. Even though the roles for female children and their ability to successfully perform and hold down a similar job are now shown, it still is lacking. Until the value of a shared responsibility for nurturing a family is adopted, female children will get the more menially viewed task or responsibility.

SONGSOPTOK: Does the girl child have equal access to education in your country irrespective of economic or social status? What are the main factors that affect the equality or inequality of access to education?

MARY L. PALERMO:  In American, unfortunately it is still mainly the economic , social status, and race that dictates the education of a girl.  Poorer families already strapped for money, find it hard enough as it is to put sons through college. But with the aide of grants, and scholarships, females are able to further their education if they are willing to work hard to obtain it. The importance of setting a goal early on, and working towards it is essential.   

SONGSOPTOK: Do you think that women, contrary to men, always have to make a choice between home life and professional career? Is it fair either on men or women? What is your personal experience?

MARY L. PALERMO:  I believe women, just because of their reproductive role in producing offspring, has a more complex decision to make career wise.  She can elect to have no children, become homemakers for short duration, and then return to work. The problem of maternity leave, the high cost of childcare, and its effects on performing well at work becomes an issue. When I had my children in the 70's, I did the expected practice of raising my children, and worked a job with flexible hours.  Once they were in school, it allowed me the ability to totally concentrate on my career.

SONGSOPTOK: Detailed studies have shown that there are very few women across the world who occupy really top positions both in the private and public sectors. How do you explain this fact? Do you think that women are less qualified to hold top jobs or are there other explanatory factors?

MARY L. PALERMO:  I think a woman can be just as qualified as a male to hold an elite position in the job force. But, I believe the perception of what is viewed as a 'masculine' and 'female' vocation can differ. Surprising woman can hold top positions in the actual educational system designed to train males for top positions. I believe the infringement of family responsibilities makes assigning a female a top level position more risky.  

SONGSOPTOK: Even in the advance countries in the world, there is a large disparity between the number of men and women in political parties resulting in an under-representation of women in governments and elected councils. Do you agree with this point of view? What in your opinion are the main reasons?

MARY L.PALERMO:  I disagree with there being more men than women in the political parties in not only the world, but sadly in America. It is hard for me to believe there has yet to be a woman president of our great nation. But with females like Hillary Clinton, hopefully change is on the horizon. Around the world, especially in the Middle East, women are still viewed as inferior. It doesn't matter about their education or ability, it is their gender. Females are still viewed as the weaker of the sexes.  Until this view universally changes, I thing women will be discriminated in political agendas to a certain extent.

SONGSOPTOK: Do you think a larger participation and presence of women in all domains – economic, social and political- are actually required? Would it substantially improve the nature and quality of services and make the society a better place?

MARY L. PALERMO:  Yes, definitely the more areas a women can prove their value the better. Women tend to view the solution to a problem differently than a man.  Now actual statistics show woman can be just as smart as  men, but comparatively different. This allows for many new inventive avenues of thought effecting many different fields of everyday life.

SONGSOPTOK: Do you think that for women the choice of a career and that of a family life with children should be mutually exclusive? Do you think that women who opt for both are not totally successful in either sphere? What is your own experience?

MARY L. PALERMO:  I think depending on the career choice, a women can obtain success doing both. The raising and rearing of children should not be taken lightly.  It is a task that one's children should not suffer at the hands of their mother's job. But, I think a strong woman who has her objectives firmly in place can obtain this. Personally, I understood the role I played in guiding my children to be productive members of society and the workforce. The sacrifice I made to my own career were viewed secondary to my importance as a wife and mother.

SONGSOPTOK: What is your opinion about the role played by the mother in bringing up children? Do you think that mothers should take more responsibility for the well-being of the children more than the father given that other than breast feeding, almost every other responsibility can be equally shared between the parents? Please explain your answer.

MARY L. PALERMO:  I believe initially the bond between a mother and her children is one viewed as a female role.  I feel this ideal should be viewed as more of a shared responsibility. In other countries, such as Norway, this way of thinking carries over into the beneficial aspects it has in the workforce. It balances the inequality for not only the female, but the male's impact as being a role model.

SONGSOPTOK: “Women have been called queens for a long time, but the kingdom given them isn't worth ruling” said famous American writer Louisa M Alcott. Do you agree? What, in your perception, is the kingdom given to women?

MARY L. PALERMO  No, I believe if you only focus on the negative believe in anything you defeat overall change you can make. To me 'the kingdom' is a constantly changing realm of our own expectations and dreams. As women, alone and combined, we can move mountains for future generations to come.

SONGSOPTOK: Do you agree that professional women have to work at least twice as hard as men to attain credibility in her chosen career? What is your personal experience? Do you think that it is a rule rather than an exception? What in your opinion needs to be done to bring greater equality in the workplace?

MARY L. PALERMO:  Yes, I think a woman can be expected to work twice as most men  in a given job to attain credibility. Women overall earn about 77 cents to every dollar a men earns for the same job.  This combined with her necessity to prove herself to an employee can make her feel she has to 'prove' herself. I have felt at times I had to show I could work just as long hours as a man to feel I had succeeded. Several things I believe need to have in this area. The duel responsibility of children rearing and overall equal pay can close this gap.

SONGSOPTOK: Women who choose to be ‘homemakers’ often feel that they are not respected by society in general since they do not go out to earn money, though they probably have to work harder and for longer hours. Would you agree? What needs to be done to really valorize the homemakers?

MARY L. PALERMO:  The actual impact of women that are homemakers should not be minimized. Even though a woman is not bringing home a paycheck, the time and energy she is investing in her children does have a value. The children she is rearing is the future wage earners of another generation. This impact not only affects the economic and financial ability of a country, but it's moral and social values.

SONGSOPTOK: On the other hand, working women very often have to juggle their professional and personal lives to be perfect both at home and at the workplace. What is your personal experience? Do you think that a woman really have to be perfect in both spheres or is this idea self-imposed? In your society, what is expected of working women?

MARY L. PALERMO :  In America  as in any country,  you should be a responsible person. When I married and decided to have my three children, I knew the importance of this role. Who and what my job title was, no matter if it was mother, or wage earner, was for the overall benefit for my family. The choices I made to have a lesser paying job, yet more flexible hours, balanced with the benefits of being there when my children needed me. Never did I allow myself to feel my role as a mother was less. Actually at times, it even seemed more difficult. Raising three children can be very demanding, yet fulfilling at the same time. I would like to think that I did a great job as mother, and that my children will carry this view on.


Professional songwriter and poet. 61 years old. Married and grandmother, lives in southeast Texas. Her first book of poetry- 'The Enchanted Poet' is to be released very soon with more to follow. She has written several country songs such as 'When You're Near Me' which was produced in Nashville, Tennessee, and has won awards. She has been featured on numerous radio talk shows, and newspapers, and has hundreds of fans and supporters from all over the world.

We sincerely thank you for your time and hope we shall have your continued support.

Aparajita Sen:
Editor, Songsoptok.)


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