Back in the 80s and 90s, I worked in the male-dominated world of technology. Yes, there were a few women, but rarely in any significant role. Most of them, including myself, were secretaries or support staff. (Well, actually I started as a security guard, but that’s a story for another day.) And then I had the great good fortune of working for a woman who was in management. She not only opened my eyes to a whole other side of the business, but to my potential within it. Dee-Ann Fox was a mentor before I’d heard the word. And because of her, I left the secretarial world and ventured into sales.
The sales world had a few women in it and most of us stuck together. Unfortunately, the cut-throat nature of sales created women who played like the boys and put winning above all else. There were fewer women in higher levels who took the time to nurture those below them. I am grateful for those men who filled that role in my life, and know that a big reason for my leaving corporate was due to this lack of female role models who put out their hand to lift me up.
Enter my entrepreneurial phase. Because I felt the void of women supporting women, I made it my mission to bring this issue front and center. I started joining women’s networking organizations and women like Rosanna Imbriano and Marlene Waldock and Holly Kaplansky showed me that not only could women be business owners, but they could be successful leaders as well. I met Cindy Joseph, who believed in loving your age and stage, and Cindy introduced me to Ann Voorhees Baker, whose Women at Woodstock retreats opened new ideas and pathways. I ventured into NYC and had the great good fortune to run into Jan Goldstoff, the Gal with the Golden Rolodex, who selflessly introduced me to the likes of Anne Akers, another selfless connector, and Cheryl Benton, the Head Tomato at The Three Tomatoes, who are all about helping women over 50 live their best lives. And Carole Hyatt who opened her home up to amazing women to gather and celebrate our achievements. Jan Mercer Dahms introduced me many women and to the idea of crowdsourcing, and Joya Dass, introduced me to a whole other culture and the amazing women who are a part of it. Jeanne Sullivan was the only person who GOT my concept of the Professional Women’s Center and encouraged me to pursue the dream. And Alice Aspen March, who, at 90, is still working to highlight the need for Attention, and continues to remind me that it is never too late to be of service.
I literally could go on for hours listing the women who I have met in the decades since I left the corporate world. I wish I could remember them all now and list them, for I’m sure as soon as I hit send I’ll be berating myself for forgetting this one or other. And while acknowledging the individuals is deservedly important, my point is this: I would not be here without them. All of them. Each one, in their own way, saw me and put out their hand to lift me up, without thought of where it would benefit them.
And where am I today? Ironically, back in a corporate job! I do not feel it is any accident. As a talent coach at Barclays Bank, I have the opportunity to do what I can for the young women coming into the workplace, to be that hand that lifts them up. Been there, done that, have more to give.
As we close out this month to honor women, I say THANK YOU to each woman who has touched my life and made me who I am today: a strong woman who is honored to be there for others, carrying on what we do best: Being SUPERB.