For this week’s Woman Wednesday, AY About You sits down with Carol Frazier Maxwell.
Maxwell grew up in Hope, where she says she lived across the street from Mike Huckabee and where her parents knew Bill Clinton. Maxwell mentions that she was fortunate to grow up somewhere that allowed her to have some career opportunities and subsequent success.
Maxwell earned a master’s degree in social work in 1980, and has been in medical social work and health care for most of her career. She has been at Arkansas Children’s Hospital’s main campus since 1990, and currently serves as the director of social work, family services, and interpreter services.
An avid horse rider, Maxwell says that if she had the land and time, she would ride horses every day. She is also a self proclaimed science fiction nerd.
Maxwell shares with us what it means to her to be a woman. “I’m in a profession full of women, so the discrimination is not really that prevelant as far as prejudice goes. Historically women in leadership roles have been a challenge. At Arkansas Children’s Hospital, our CEO is a woman, which is a wonderful step forward. Women in general in the United States still tend to be underpaid, though. Fortunately, I had a family who encouraged me to do what I needed to do, and that encouraged me to do what makes me unique. I have good female mentors in my life who have helped me with my career and to make good judgements. The hospital has supported me in my involvement in a national organization. I had a lot of good mentorship, support, and leadership to push me in that direction.
“My mother dropped out of college to marry my dad, so she never finished college, but she was one of the smartest people that I knew,” Maxwell says. “She was an at home mom for all of my life, and was supportive of women and women’s rights.”
Maxwell takes a moment to expand on the struggles that she has faced as a woman.
“Health care tends to be heavily women oriented and so does nursing. It’s more about perceptions of people who choose to work versus at home moms, and it seems like both sides don’t like each other, as opposed to supporting one another. It seems to be an inherent struggle for women who become mothers, not knowing which way to go. I’ve declined work opportunities because I’ve felt pressure to stay home and do things. So mothers are juggling this all of the time, and face subsequent regret, and wonder if every decision that they’ve made is the right one. If you choose family over career, you don’t have the opportunity to advance in your career,” she says.
Maxwell elaborates on struggles that even young girls are starting to face. “We’re emotionally connected, and things impact us more emotionally. We’re perceived as weak. If you’re aggressive, you’re seen as too manly or angry. Our society tends to fear strong women. There is a prevalent unfairness in labeling people. There are lots of studies about girls in elementary school and high school where girls hold their learning back because boys don’t like smart girls.”
Maxwell offers advice to the women and girls who may end up reading this article.
“The last few years between my nieces and young coworkers, so many young women are changing their last names when they get married. Why are people losing their individuality? Young women have been looking up to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. A lot of young women today don’t know the struggles from just 40 to 50 years ago. The divorce rate is so high and women are having to change their name again, and what was the point? I am so glad that I was pretty independent. I see so many women who are taken care of by their husband and who are so dependent at a younger age that they have no idea how to be on their own as they grow older. Keep your own identity, and be true to yourself.”