I did not have many girlfriends growing up. I finally decided to expand my horizons in college, only to have a couple of the girls tell me that they could no longer hangout with me because they felt the guys we met were talking to me more. For real. Towards the end of college, I was lucky enough to meet two girls who still have a large influence in my life, but it took 21 years to find them!
My career started in the same way. I found myself surrounded by male bosses and cultures that focused on men advancing their careers and women being “cute” PR girls. Fortunately, I met some pretty strong women on my way up the ranks that made sure I was equipped to break the glass ceilings of male-dominated cultures. These women are true examples of living into the true authenticity of what it means to be a woman, while also holding down their seat at the males’ table in the executive suite. They taught me that being a successful career-oriented female does not mean hiding your femininity and becoming “one of the guys.” No, a successful career-oriented woman knows she brings worth to the table as a WOMAN and does not hide who she is. She embraces every part of herself and never lets anyone diminish her worth, no matter what. She proudly stands up for herself and the high-value she brings with her.
In honor of International Women’s Day, I want to highly eight women who have made me the career-oriented businesswoman I am. Here you go:
Susan was the president of a company I used to work for, and I knew the moment I saw her present at a company-wide meeting, that I wanted to be her when I grew up. I’ve never ever seen someone demand the attention of a room like her. Every single person was engaged in what she was saying, her voice the only noise in the room. She showed me what it means to be a graceful, intelligent, strong woman in a completely male-dominated industry. She held tightly to her seat at the table, while still embracing her femininity. Susan was my first hope that I could eventually be on an executive team AND still hold onto my style and who I am as a woman. Incredible.
I recently became totally obsessed with an app called Sanity & Self. I’m researching self-care apps, and this app already secured first place on day two when I started Melanie’s “Self-Respect” podcast series. I have always prided myself as being a woman with self-respect, but Melanie’s series completely changed my perspective on what having true self-respect means in today’s environment. It’s a lot less self-care and a lot more standing up for yourself. My favorite gem from her series? >> It’s okay to listen to others’ thoughts to learn about ourselves, but it’s never okay to use their thoughts to evaluate ourselves. UMMM—HELLO.
Marsha! Ahhh. Such an amazing woman. I met Marsha a few months into my social media career when I had a mere 73 followers on Twitter. I self-taught myself social media, and a big part of that was reaching out to influencers and asking them questions when I got stuck in certain places. Marsha’s influence especially caught my attention because she attended the same college I did >> University of Miami. Marsha responded to my tweet immediately with genuinely helpful information. More than that, Marsha stayed following me throughout my career, and now we share each other’s posts regularly. She even became a rock in my life when I went through chemo last year. This woman embodies how others should use their influence to positively impact the lives of others.
So corny and cliche, I know. But, if you talk to my husband, I am quite the corny and cliche person in my personal life, and I embrace it fully. I’m incredibly lucky to be raised by a fierce woman that my high school boyfriends are still terrified of. My mother taught me never to sink to their level, no matter how tempting. When I called her and complained about shitty women at work who were spreading rumors about me, she told me to ignore them and prove my worth through my work. She always likes to remind me that God loves me exactly as I am, and that’s enough. Mom also engrained in me from a young age to build my career and be able to fully support myself before getting married >>, which I did. Even more than that, she ALWAYS encourages me to take every single risk and opportunity that I’m presented with. I’ve been able to lead a truly beautiful, colorful life thanks to that encouragement.
Oh, how I love Deb! I met Deb at my first big girl job in NYC. She was brought in to work on PR initiatives, and my boss thought I would like her to mentor me since my degree was in PR. Yes, Deb taught me A TON about PR, but she also taught me how to be a strong female voice throughout my career. Perhaps the best advice Deb ever gave me and regularly applied was “Act now, ask for permission later.” I mean, that’s really what a lot of social media, especially in its earlier years, is all about!
She Who Shall Not Be Named
I make it a point not to shame people on my blog. After all, how can I be a blog based on positive, raw, authenticity, and tear another woman apart right here and now?? However, good and bad experiences make a strong woman, so I cannot write this post and ignore the terrible experiences that showed me who I do not want to be as a woman. This placeholder is dedicated to that generic woman who steals other women’s crowns rather than helping them fix them. The first time I had one of these women as a manager, my parents told me to use this experience to make sure that I am never that type of boss nor person. That advice stuck close to me, and when I became a manager for the first time, I made damn sure not to be that woman. I didn’t want my team to go through the same traumatic texts full of cuss words and Saturday afternoon emails tearing me apart to bones. I am now thankful for that manager because I might have acted exactly like her if I hadn’t known the raw pain of having someone you’re trying to trust demean you. So, thank you to that woman.
Ruth actually went to high school with my dad!! Hehe. I love that’s how I met her. She attended the funeral of my dad’s best friend (super sad occasion, unfortunately), and we immediately vibed. First off, she is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in my life. Second off, she has the best positive energy that makes you just want to be around her all of the time. She boldly embraces, being a high-fashion female working in a very competitive fashion industry. She is a no apologies, go into it with everything you’ve got kinda gal. Last time I saw her (which we do not see each other often enough!!), I told her that I would love a career doing what she does, and I wish I had the talent. She immediately infused me with courage and inspiration while telling me that I would be perfect for a fashion job, and you should always go after what you want. I love that she never lets anything box her in and goes full-forward into her projects with love and grace.
A few years ago, I was going through a self re-branding of sorts. I got out of a long relationship and was living in NYC as a newly single girl. I worked for a male-dominated organization, which fueled a lack of enthusiasm with parts of my job. I decided to have a shut-in weekend where I only read books, lit candles, drank tea, and ate super healthy foods. I was determined to come out of that weekend with a brighter fire within. One of the books I ordered for that weekend was Rebecca Campbell’s “Light Is The New Black.” First off, READ THIS BOOK. OMG. Second off, this book represents a very sharp turning point in my life and career. Rebecca’s way of finding the empowered woman within her made so much sense to me. I kid you not; I entered my office the next Monday full of the confidence I needed to stand up for my projects and work. I was reinvigorated and started doing more things in my free time that made me a stronger person able to help others.
I started in life having very few girlfriends, but now I rely on strong women to keep me going in my life and career. I don’t know where I would be without the women who have pushed me to break stereotypes and go after what I want in life. I am so thankful for the eight listed here but know there are so many more that are my daily inspiration and breath of life.
Who is a woman who has inspired you in your career? Let us know in the comments!
– Marji J. Sherman