Last week, I shared Part 1 of my homage to women as part of our celebration of Women’s History Month. Through this series, I hope to honor all of the women who have come before me, who have paved the way, and who continue to change the world through their bravery and brilliance. It is as part of this lineage that I use my own story to highlight two things:
- What the journey of a professional woman often looks like today
- An example of what is possible when we focus on becoming who we are meant to be
The following are just a few of the pivotal moments in my life, as a woman and leader. They are crossroads I have faced as I travel the road to doing work I love. I share them as my own history, as a reminder that our work as women is not even close to being done, and as confirmation that you have the opportunity to be a role model and source of inspiration for other women and girls in ways that you may not even be aware of.
You, too, have an important story to tell.
Pivotal moments – choices that matter
Women always have and continue to navigate balancing the many roles they hold in their lives; professional, entrepreneur, wife, partner, mother, sister, daughter, widow, divorcee, just to name a few. I was, and am, no different.
My life, like yours, has been a series of choices and transitions. They have been frightening, overwhelming and sometimes exhilarating. I have not always known if I were making the right decision, or not, and yet inevitably, every one of them has been one small step bringing me closer to a life and work I love.
One of the earliest choices I made was to get an MBA at the same time I got married. You would have thought that I was committing treason. Those in my class thought I was crazy and irresponsible, and could not understand why I would want to earn my masters degree at the same time I was moving back to suburban Connecticut, without a job. I was quite young to marry (a story for another time) but knew in my heart, having just finished two years working as a financial analyst for CBS, Inc., that getting this degree would impact my life, although I wasn’t yet sure how. And I was right. Getting my MBA at the NYU Stern School of Business gave me knowledge, skills, and credibility that would support my journey in countless ways over the next few decades. It gave me an edge and acted as a differentiator, allowing me to stand out in whatever job searches I found myself.
In 2004 I got divorced after fifteen years of marriage, talk about a game changer. It was not only hard to have my relationship end, but with two small children, it was also hard socially, parentally, financially, emotionally and professionally. I found my courage, resilience, compassion and grace in those years. Going through it led me to a personal and professional development journey that eventually inspired the launch The D Spot, my “side hustle” business, to serve and support women to navigate the transition of divorce with grace and intention and to create their new and next chapter. I know, clever name, but it was truly my desire to find the opportunity to be a force for good during an otherwise painful time. While my private practice has grown and evolved, I hold on to my hustle and remain deeply committed to serving and supporting women.
We can’t do it alone
My parenting journey has been a significant part of becoming the woman I am meant to be. I am proud to be the mother of two boys who are now amazing young men. Raising two boys while devoting myself to the empowerment and advocacy of women, gave me a unique and powerful understanding that women can’t, and shouldn’t have to, do it alone. We can have it all, perhaps not all at once, but we can’t do it alone. Our relationship to men (as professionals, partners, mothers, daughters, direct reports, supervisors…) is critical to our journey. In the same way that I have been focused on raising sons who love, support and advocate for women, I am also aware that men and women need each other to be at our best.
It wasn’t until just before my children left for college that I knew I was ready for a significant pivot in my career. Many years earlier, as I finished my MBA, I had taken an “interim” Director of Membership position at our local Jewish Community Center. This job led me to a 25 year career in nonprofit management and development, so much for “interim”. As the kids prepared to leave for college, and after ten years of building my own business and coaching practice as a side hustle, I knew it was time.
The truth was that I wanted to find my way into a career that would include developing people and supporting them to become the best of who they are as people and leaders. It was preparing for this pivot that fear, doubt and the good ‘ol imposter syndrome raised its ugly head.
Doubting that I could make the transition to leadership and management consulting, I took what I thought could be a great bridge job at a regional economic and business council. It was still a not for profit organization, but it was moving in the right direction. While in this job, I gained confidence, but still held tremendous fear around making the leap to what I really wanted. It was also at this time that a mentor, my very first real, and formal, mentor, showed up. As a long time CEO, he saw something in me and asked to sponsor my professional evolution. In fact, he was able to see in me what I could not.
Over the years I have had many role models, coaches and advocates that are women, and they have been invaluable to me. I am choosing to highlight this mentor, a man, because through his mentorship, support, relentless belief in me, and his often uncomfortable stretch assignments, I found myself creating a powerful vision for doing the kind of work I truly desired. He challenged me to go after what I want, and step by tiny step, I began to believe in what he always knew was possible.
As you know by now, I am a staunch advocate of, admirer of and celebrator of women…all women. Always have been and always will be. What I hadn’t known was so important to me or what would be possible, until my active and intentional search for work I love, was being able to work with and for a women owned firm.
My non-traditional journey led me to InspireCorps, a firm that, outside of its commitment to doing extraordinary work and supporting clients to spark, sustain and scale inspiration, focuses its energy and attention on:
- Becoming women who lead, in all areas of our lives
- Celebrating women at every age and stage
- Supporting, advocating and developing women to become who they are meant to be as leaders
Our three founders, Jen Grace Baron, Allison Holzer and Sandra Spataro, are an extraordinary blend of talent, commitment and exemplification of what it means to be women leaders. With them, I have found a place where I can stand fully in my strengths, passion and purpose. They, we, remain deeply committed to paving the way for a new generation of women, and creating a world of work where people are having their best days more often.