– An executive in the publishing industry.
“I have so much ambition, so much energy, so much more I want to do, but the guys up top look right past me.”
– 57 year old lawyer, 30 years of practice, 3 kids, one elderly in law at home
“I don’t want a pity party.”
– Superstar women’s basketball coach, 59, announcing she plans to continue coaching despite early onset dementia.
These women all tell different stories with one theme: persistence.
Ironically, persistence has been running in boomer and first wave X-er blood since the early days of our careers. I can remember working at an ad agency when I was about 38 and being told by a senior male colleague, “Well, even though things won’t work out for you, I guess you feel good that the next generation will reap the rewards of the ground you broke.” I jumped out of my skin and down his throat, “I’m happy for whatever the next generation achieves, but I’m just getting started!” That was a time when the word “pipeline” (“There aren’t enough women yet in the pipeline”) was code for “we aren’t going to promote any of the women we already have even if we are promoting less competent men, just because…” Sadly, I still hear that as an excuse for lagging leadership diversity decades later.
Ageism toward women isn’t new, but I had hoped it wasn’t getting worse. To think that 42 is considered old. But in some industries, it is. (I realize it’s not limited to women, but in practice it’s worse for them with the added burden of young and pretty as an unspoken job requirement.) That a woman who is at the prime of her talent is shuffled into the heap waiting for retirement—crazy! Crazy for men, too, but the lawyer quoted above stayed home for about 10 of her kids’ growing up years, so she feels like she’s got a lot more in her to give at an age where her male peers may be dialing down.
And finally, I was struck by today’s heartbreaking but stirring revelation from Pat Summitt, coach of the University of Tennessee’s women’s team, with a record of 1,071 victories, 8 national titles and an Olympic Gold Medal. Only Pat, her school, her team and her doctors can figure out what she ought to do. But I love that she is not giving up. That she is showing what she’s made of, just as she asks her young players to do on the court.
Do not count us out. As consumers. As professionals. As women. Not now. Not ever.
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