Being a Woman Who Worked: Looking Back
As far back as I can remember I wanted to be a woman who was part of the working world. I also knew from a very young age that it was a very special and good thing to be a girl.
My very early years were spent in a largely male environment, but the women (grandmothers who had no formal education, aunts who did and my Dad who had a strong female side too) were dominant. I am not sure why it was so important to all of them way back then, but each in their own way made me believe that I was strong and could do and be anything I wanted. Even better, as a girl I had special powers that I could use to get there. (Just ask my brothers how well I internalized that lesson!)
They talked big. Even then a woman as President was something that found its way into our conversations about politics and dreams. If I was running for the number two office on a student government ticket, they were proud, but slipped in a subtle question about why not number one. My grandmother Rose added money to the mix, commenting often that women needed their own money, not to buy things but because money give one power to make choices. And, she, said you need that too.
As I grew up, I continued to relish my femaleness. I remember specifically scouring the pages of LOOK and LIFE magazines, taking particular notice of and pride in those (albeit few) women on the inside pages (movies stars were usually on the covers) who were doing something notable and making a real difference. When NY Magazine came along in '68, followed by Ms. in '72, images of successful women became less rare. I wanted to be one of those women, blazing new trails and going where women had not gone before. And, I wanted to do it as a woman, to be noticed for doing it as a woman. I never ever thought that there was a benefit to blending in or showing up as a man.
Now that I have had time to look back on my career, I don’t think I ever gave up that thought. In the workplace, I always believed that women had something special to add--not just because we made our environments look different, less boring and more fun, but also because we approached things differently, and had special perspectives and insights that made the workplace and the work product better.
My daughter is now working and of course didn’t have to look very far for an example of a woman who worked. She has seen and experienced it all, the good, the bad and the really hard, up close and personal. We don’t often talk about work from a female perspective, but when we do it confirms that my being a woman played a large and overall positive role in what I accomplished. I hope being women serves our daughters well too.