I began to understand power as a child. My dad had power outside our home. He brought stories to the family dinner about his union’s struggles, selling raffle chances for the Catholic Church, setting up the company bowling team and organizing the factory retirement dinners. Mother had power inside the home. She handled the money, paid the bills, decided what we ate and wore and when we would visit the dentist. I saw power inside and outside the home and I wanted both! I wanted to be outside making decisions and inside I saw the importance of money and with it came security and independence.
Understanding power for me was instinctive but also learned. I never feared or disliked power or those who had it. I studied power and learned to modify when necessary my behavior. In my eclectic career, I was a government relations lawyer, managing state, federal and international government affairs for two corporations. I had to master understanding all levels of power to effectively do my job.
Being comfortable with power and understanding its dimensions through the years has been valuable in developing my self-confidence. Through my mentoring of young women, I have seen a lack of comfort or understanding of power. How to deal with it or change it. This leads to frustration and self-doubt by well educated, intelligent future women leaders who think something is wrong with them as opposed to understanding they have to learn how to handle the power system they are facing!
The women in my family, mother, grandmother, sister, aunts and in my life Catholic nuns and public school teachers, were all traditional women who shaped the nontraditional woman who I am. Many of the values I like about the woman I am today, is a direct result of my observation and interaction with these women.
My memories and values were not learned from women who were in the corporate executive office or heading a nonprofit but learned from traditional women in their kitchen or classroom.
My mom has been in corporate America for the 29 years of my life; my grandma in education for over 40 years, my great aunt was a successful lawyer, and the list of successful women in my family continues. Watching these women take on a world where they did nothing but work hard and strive for success was inspiring and motivating. They all had made some form of “non- traditional” choice in their life; none of them were stay-at-home moms. They all fought the stereotypes by being full-time caregivers and full-time professionals.
We Millennials exist in a world where non-traditional women are the new majority. Many view the word “traditional” almost as a negative. My family still doesn’t understand my complete disinterest in dresses, make-up, heels, purses, or anything society deems as the norm for young girls. I can talk sports as well as the next guy or drive a golf ball further than many men, but society still has expectations for how a professional woman should act and dress. I have seen this stereotype first hand in my professional pursuit of becoming an athletic administrator. The number of women in administrative positions in athletics is unfortunately extremely low.
For example, out of the 313 athletic directors in Division 1, only 37 are women. However, whether it is considered traditional or not, my passion is athletics and I will not let the statistic keep me from pursuing my passion. It is this quality I have been fortunate to inherit from the many successful women in my family. Being a non-traditional, I am not afraid to pave a new way. It is important to respect the traditions laid before me from the many women who overcame challenges to create a better life for myself and future women. However, it is equally as important to set a new precedence for the women of the future. I could accept that women should wear heels to work, but my confidence motivates me to choose sneakers instead. It is choices like this that I hope young women, regardless of their profession, are bold enough to make!
No one gives you power. You have to take it from them.” – Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi
For each of these leadership topics we’ve shared our own individual experiences as a baby boomer and a millennial, shared some of the questions we are often asked and seek to answer in our work, and some related resources for women who want to explore further on their own.
Dear Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World Jennifer Palmieri
Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead Sheryl Sandberg
Marie Claire The Power of You
Time Staying Power: Loathed by the right, under fire from the left. Nancy Pelosi says she isn’t going anywhere Molly Ball
The Wall Street Journal Work & Family Gaining Power at Work When You Have None Sue Shellenbarger
The New York Times When Leaning In Doesn’t Pay Off Scott Schieman Schafer and Mitchell McIvor
The New York Times Be Yourself Is Terrible Advice Adam Grant
The New York Times Powerful Women? Yes ‘Feminist’? No Susan Chira The New York Times “Lean In:’ Five Years Later Judith Newman
The New York Times A Feminist Hero, Not By Design Amy Chozick
The Wall Street Journal Record Late of Female Hopefuls Janet Cook
The New York Times The Number of Women at the Top is Falling Claire Cain Miller
The New York Times Hillary’s Office Politics Jill Filipovic
The New York Times Sunday Business Exploring Lean In’s Sheryl Sandberg Problem
The New York Times Nancy Pelosi’s Last Battle Robert Draper
Sarasota Herald-Tribune With Facebook under fire, heat on No. 2 intensifies Barbara Ortutay, AP Technology Writer
Prime Women Influencing Without Authority Valerie Sokolosky
Here are the crucial things I think Sheryl Sandberg did. First, she made women question not just what’s wrong with the corporate structure, but ask themselves “How are you holding yourself back?” – Sunny Bates, Chief Executive, Sunny Bates Associates Consulting Firm