Daughters need badass female role models now more than ever. Sons need to also take note. Actually, you know what, let’s just say everyone needs to learn the history of women who have shaken generations of entitled dudes off corporate ladder.
In her new book Earning It, journalist Joann S. Lubin interviewed more than 50 female executives to find out how they crashed through that glass ceiling (but not without their share of cuts and scrapes). Lubin is actually one of those badass role models she’s writing about: Pulitzer Prize winner, Management News Editor for The Wall Street Journal, and the first female intern for WSJ‘s D.C. offices back in 1969. She even has her own sign-of-the-times story that involves a boss and inappropriate kissing. Fortunately, those days are waning. Allow these 8 women to show your kid what an equitable working world should look like.
Linda Hudson: Don’t Assume The Playing Field Is Level
Linda Hudson is the former CEO of BAE Systems Inc., a defense contractor and major Pentagon supplier owned by BAE Systems PLC (not Drake, as the name might suggest). Hudson was the first woman to run a major Pentagon supplier, but she doesn’t take her success for granted. She told Lubin women shouldn’t “assume the playing field is level today,” and “These gains are relatively recent. They could be just as fleeting.” As a dad, it’s your responsibility to not assume anything’s a given for your daughter, either.
Beth Mooney: Be Tenacious And Go For Broke
Beth Mooney is the Chairman and CEO of the regional bank Keycorp, and the only female CEO among the 20 largest banks in the country. She got her start as a management trainee at Republic Bank, after basically refusing to leave until the head of training would take her seriously. He gave her a shot, and she quickly rose to the top of her class and into a full-time position — faster than any of the men. “Tenacity and going for broke is part of my personality,” she told Lubin. That, and a determination to Get. Shit. Done. “If I focused on what I did, they would forget I was female.”
Abbe Raven: Start At The Bottom, Keep Your Eye On The Top
In 1981, Abbe Raven set her sights on a career in television after 5 years as a professional stage manager in New York City theater (where she’d already made history by becoming the youngest woman stage manager at age 22). At 29, she networked hard, got the name of a studio production vice president at a crowded Daytime (now A+E Networks) launch event, and insisted that he meet with her and give her something — anything — to do. Her first assignment? Makin’ copies. But eventually she became a senior vice president and, in 2005, the network’s chief executive. “I hear people say, ‘Don’t be a secretary,’” she told Lubin. “Excuse me, that’s how I learned finance. If you are good, you will shine.” Started from the bottom, now (she’s) here.
Meg Whitman: Be The Best, Even On The Little Things
Whitman is the former CEO of the now-defunct Hewlett Packard, who made her leadership mark in her Procter & Gamble days by taking every assignment seriously — starting with a memo about the size of the hole in a shampoo bottle cap. She told Lubin she succeeded because she vowed to do “the very best job that has ever been done” on every task, no matter how trivial. Remind your daughter that when she tells you it shouldn’t matter if she makes her bed.
Andrea Jung: Volunteer For The Job Nobody Wants
Jung is the former CEO of Avon and a board member of General Electric Co. and Apple Inc. She stood out early in her career by taking on challenges at Avon that weren’t strictly part of her job description as marketing manager — such as creating a global brand strategy. It was an intimidating assignment that no one else was particularly jazzed about, making her move to volunteer for it even more notable. “That is, I think, one of the best ways to get ahead,” she told Lubin.
Melanie Healey: Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone
In her early days at Procter & Gamble, Healey decided to speak out against the company’s unappealing, “very antiseptic looking” tampon designs that made her feel as if P&G thought of menstruation as a “problem.” Telling a room of executives that they were clueless about what women actually want was a risk, but she told Lubin that “I am a person who my entire life has gotten out of my comfort zone.” The higher-ups listened, and it paid off: When P&G launched the Tampax Pearl, it grabbed 17 percent of the market. And in 2009, Healey became the first woman to lead the North American branch of Procter & Gamble.
Dawn Lepore: Stop The “Imposter Syndrome”
Long before she became the CEO of Drugstore.com in 2004 and sold the company to Walgreens in 2011, Dawn Lepore was a music major at Smith College. She started getting more interested in technology and business post-graduation and started working at Charles Schwab, but was hesitant as to whether or not her music degree made her qualified to move up the ladder — a predicament any woman you know will easily recognize as the dreaded “imposter syndrome.” But once she shifted her mindset, her career took off. Her advice to young woman is to acknowledge that “the talk in your head could be your biggest enemy.”
Cheryl A. Bachelder: The Best Lessons Come From Failure
Before she became the first female CEO of Popeyes, Cheryl A. Bachelder was fired from an executive position at KFC after she couldn’t find the right strategy to boost the chicken chain’s lagging sales numbers. But, the lessons learned from that experience made her better prepared when she met the same challenges at Popeyes (and it had nothing to do with the Colonel’s secret recipe). “You have to be humbled, and you have to find the better rules to lead by,” she told Lubin. “The leadership rules that I now know to be phenomenally effective came from what did not work.” And important lesson for your kid the next time they come home with their report card.