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Women's History Month 2014: Carmen Fariña Battled Discrimination While Moving Up the Ranks

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NY1 concludes our coverage of women's history month with Carmen Fariña, the city's new schools chancellor, who worked her way up through the ranks, which she says included battling institutionalized discrimination against women within the very system she now runs. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

When it comes to being a woman at work, Carmen Fariña says it's easier running the nation's largest school system in 2014 than it was being a teacher in the '70s.

"Men always had the preference," she says.

For example, back then, Fariña's principal repeatedly rejected her applications for summer school jobs.

"She said, 'Look, by far, you're the best qualified, but men have to support their families,'" she says.

Seven months pregnant, Fariña was forced to go on maternity leave. Then, during her second pregnancy, she was asked to give maternity leave to start a gifted class, but she says, "There was a protest, and parents actually said that they didn't want me to take the job until they could actually interview me, and I had to go in front of a group of about 20 parents, and they asked me questions like, 'Who is going to take care of your children if they're sick?' 'What kind of child care do you have?' 'Do you feel that you can give this all your time and energy?' I was known as a teacher who took a lot of class trips. 'Does this mean you will no longer do class trips because you have to rush home to your child?'" she said. "It was a really grueling one hour where they said, 'Well, we need to come back every six months and kind of make sure that being a mother is something you can do.'"

When Fariña returned to work, she said that several other teachers stopped speaking to her.

"I was a bad mother," she says. "I may have been a good teacher, but considered a bad mother."

She says that her daughters, one who works in publishing and the other who's a police officer, fortunately see things differently.

"I think it's this generation, especially now that I have two strong daughters, who've kind of taught me that this is expected," she says.

Now, Fariña is one of several women at the highest levels of city government.

"We see ourselves as being part of a, kind of a mini-revolution," she says.

She says that they make a point of checking in with one another.

"You also need to know that you can pick up the phone and ask for help, and I find that women are much more likely to do that, and say, 'Can you stop for a cup of coffee? I just want to run something by you,'" she says. "And I've had so many discussions like that with women that I feel the job is a little easier because of that."

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