New Year's blessings
The New Year customarily brings resolutions and renewed optimism for the coming months. The highlight of my 2014 is the expansion of our family. Both our daughters-in-law have announced pending births—one this month and another around Mothers’ Day. What a tremendous blessing this is! One daughter-in-law has revealed that a little girl is on the way. Gender, of course, is not important to me as long as the babies are healthy. And certainly with respect to working in our family business, gender will not be an impediment for this next generation. More and more family businesses are establishing employment policies emphasizing hiring based on merit, not primogeniture.
However, according to Jim Kristie, editor of Directors & Boards, corporate America is lagging behind family firms. Just 4% of Fortune 500 CEOs are female, and only 16% of the directors at these companies are women. While the business glass ceiling is still prevalent—notwithstanding the naming of Mary Barra as the first woman CEO at General Motors—medicine and law have been much more balanced.
When I graduated college in 1975, women were just beginning to expand their career choices beyond the typical teaching and publishing positions. Harvard Business School had recently invited women to join their class ranks (1973), and business in a broad sense was beckoning. I began my career with a regional commercial bank that generously paid for me to work on my MBA at night. Many of my prospective male clients resisted working with a female banker, particularly one who was 24 years old. I definitely could have used a book like Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In to deal with this concern.
Times have changed and, of course, so have the laws. Young women today don’t consider gender to be a detriment. Moreover, many women are choosing to stay home with their children while developing businesses on the side. Another pivotal improvement for working women is the availability of female mentors. Fashion icon and family friend Tory Burch, for instance, established a foundation that supports economic empowerment for women in the U.S. through microfinance, education and mentoring.
Thus, my outlook for 2014 is one of optimism for the next generation, particularly for young women. As my husband, Bob, pointed out in his Thanksgiving address to our family, “We have laid sufficient groundwork so that you, our children and grandchildren, can succeed. Starting out, you have more education and greater resources than any other generation in history … combined with guts, hard work, and imagination, you can apply your talents and resources to creating a future that will live up to your hopes and dreams.” Amen, and Happy New Year.
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