I grew up hanging out with my two brothers: Tim and Tom. My early memories are of us building forts, watching cartoons, and rough housing with my dad. We learned to ride bikes together, went sled riding and dunked each other in the pool. You could say I was in a man’s world from the cradle.
There came a day when my brothers were better at something than me. Dad put up a basketball net on the garage in our driveway. We started playing ball and I discovered that I could not shoot a basket. The boys could. It was a shock to me. Was I going to be left out—not able to keep up with them?
Mom came out and sized up the situation. She sent the boys on an errand and showed me how to shoot a basket. My life might have turned out differently if Mom would have said, “Karen, come inside and play with your Barbies.” But, that wouldn't have been my mom. She showed me how to set my aim by holding the ball high and lining it up just above the rim. Then I had to bring my arms down so the ball was between my legs. Finally, I heaved my arms up and let the ball fly. (Ok, Mom was no Candace Parker.)
That wasn’t how my brothers were shooting baskets, but after a few tries, I heard the “swish"; the ball went right through the net. The technique Mom taught me worked well enough for me to win more than a few games of P-I-G with my brothers. (Later, Dad taught me a more socially acceptable approach to shooting baskets.)
Later, I would take science and math courses in high school. My guidance counselor suggested a home economics curriculum. I ignored her advice. I went on to major in chemical engineering, attaining a Master's of Science degree. I worked in the chemical industry in research, manufacturing and business. I was the only or first woman in many positions for most of my career. I worked twice as hard to prove myself, but also learned how to build confidence in my own strengths. With every challenge I overcame as a woman in a man’s world, I heard the “swish.”