Jim Gray discusses empowerment of women at UK forum

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray speaks at William T. Young Library in Lexington, Ky. on Friday, Sept. 14, 2012. Photo by Emily Wuetcher | Staff

By Nini Edwards

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray emphasized the importance of empowering women in the workplace in his speech to the UK Women’s Forum on Tuesday.

“I feel comfortable with my engagement with our female candidates,” Gray said. “Four out of seven commissioners in our government today are female.”

Gray discussed powerful women who influenced him growing up in Kentucky, calling these women “stout women.”

“I don’t say strong deliberately; I say stout because these women were determined, but not aggressive at all,” Gray said. “They were wonderfully caring, but not overly caring.”

After his father died, Gray watched his mother raise six children and run a business.

“She was just 50, had six kids and a business to somehow figure out, and she was able to do that,” he said.

Gray praised past teachers, his aunt and grandmother, for being stout guiding figures.

Another strong woman Gray complimented throughout his speech is Sally Hamilton, Lexington commissioner of general services.

Gray recognized Hamilton twice during his speech for being his friend and colleague for more than 30 years. Hamilton graciously accepted his compliments.

“(Gray) gives all of us the opportunity to say what is exactly on our mind,” Hamilton said. “You don’t have to agree with him all the time.”

In addition to speaking about inspiring women, Gray made comments throughout his speech about the leadership roles and challenges he faces as a mayor.

“You have to be transparent about everything in this business, which is why I decided to come out with my sexuality,” said Gray, who is openly gay.

Although Gray encouraged women to step out and take leadership roles, he concluded that it should not matter what gender role we play in the community. Everybody faces challenges and should be equal, he said.

Hamilton spoke up in agreement with Gray, putting her own spin on the situation.

“I always tell people to take all those fabulous qualities that women have; the adaptability and the amazing attention to detail,” Hamilton said. “And then take that one male trait and don’t hold a grudge. Those females that are able to do that really succeed, in my opinion.”

Sarah Nikirk, Chair of the UK Women’s Forum, shared her wish for equality of all people.

“The goal is that we don’t have to have a goal. The playing field is equal and we are who we are without gender having to play a role,” Nikirk said. “It shouldn’t have to be an issue.”