I have never been afraid to be different. As a young woman growing up in the 1960s, I majored in math and went on to pursue a career in statistics. I attended many college courses in the early 1970s where I was the only woman. How many women were taking Differential Geometry? I went on to a very interesting and successful career in marketing and opinion research.
In the early 1980s I recall looking around and noticing that all the senior women at my Fortune 100 company (of which there were only a dozen or so) were both childless and unmarried. On the other hand, all the senior men were both married and had children. That sent a very strong message to me about the sacrifice that women had to make to move ahead in the business world.
Because I have always been the primary wage earner in my household (whether married or not), I worked hard, ultimately took mid to senior level jobs in marketing research consulting firms and became reasonably successful. What I noticed from this new vantage point was that most of the mid-level positions were held by women. These were the jobs that fed the revenues and were the mainstay of these mid-sized companies’ success. However, almost all of these companies were owned and operated by men. Many of these men had had the guts to start their own company while only in their early thirties.
I toiled endlessly during my thirties. During my forties, I fantasized about starting my own business but found a multitude of reasons for not going for it: too risky, no one will hire me, I will only get small, boring assignments, it will be too scary and so on. Of course, an additional factor I had to consider was that for a good part of my forties I was a single mother of a young daughter and I worried about the impact of taking a risk and what that would potentially mean for her too.
In my late forties, I met a man who changed my life. He is now my husband and I have often told him that turning 50 was one of the best years of my life. It is the year I married him and the year I started my own business. It was my husband’s encouragement, support and willingness to jump in and take over at least half of the household duties (including caring for our two children) that made it all possible. Of course, the fact that his job provided a stable base-line income and health insurance didn’t hurt either.
My business has succeeded beyond my wildest expectations and I like to think that — while it took a few decades to get there — that I finally leaned in and realized my dream.