It’s an interesting time to be a 30-something woman. This election has left me, like many others, worried over the progress we’ve made in terms of gender equality (equality in general, really). I was raised to be a feminist, though I don’t think the word was ever used to describe it. Instead, my parents led by example; showing me that mom always had 50% of the decision-making power and dad was expected to (more than that, he WANTED) a 50% role in child-rearing and household duties. In graduate school, my consciousness around issues like power structures, patriarchy and symbolism evolved and I felt a new calling to try and spread that awareness. As I’ve navigated a career path, I’ve often turned to Madeline Bell, my CEO mother-in-law, for mentorship and perspective on female experience in the workplace. Through collaborating on her blog I’ve felt both frustration and motivation; frustration at recognizing the scenarios that still exist for so many of us (I own my own business but am still greeted by some male CEO’s as “kid”), and motivation through her never-ending quest to rise higher and bring other women along with her.
So where does that leave us? I have found within my network of female friends, there is a supportiveness, a level of consciousness and ambition that doesn’t leave much room for anything other than optimism about the future. My greatest source of motivation and inspiration are my female peers that are fearless in their pursuit of success and equality. I decided to ask some of them 3 questions, in hopes that what you’ll read below will spread the optimism I so strongly feel. This will be a 2-part series, with the rest coming next week.
Are you optimistic about the next generation of female leaders?
Where do you get your motivation and drive to succeed?
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Jessica McCarthy is a Senior Project Manager at David Stark Design and Production. She is 31 years old and lives in Brooklyn, NY.
- Yes, but I think generational divides are less important today. I’m optimistic for women of all ages, ethnicities and nationalities. Through technology we can seek amazing change with access to one another’s shared struggles, dreams, and successes that would have been impossible less than 30 years ago. I have hope that this ability to share will empower women in unprecedented ways and that we’ll be strongest and loudest together.
- My ambition comes from a desire to be at peace with myself, knowing that if I’ve given 110% and enjoyed the journey, I think (and hope) I will be satisfied with any outcome in work, and in life.
- I’m most proud of paving my own way, by rules I had to make up as I went along. My choice to pursue work in the events industry was surprising to my family and friends. I had always said I wanted to be a lawyer or work in foreign service, but I took a chance on doing something that inspired and excited me. My mother always said to do what you love to do, be the best you can be at it and success will find you. I believe her!
Christine Davison is 35 years old and is the Associate Director for Human Subjects Protection at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA. She holds a Master of Bioethics degree from the University of Pennsylvania and is a Certified IRB Professional (CIP).
- I’m optimistic about the next generation of female leaders, but I’m pessimistic about society. The structural inequalities and societal expectations that have prevented many women from reaching the highest levels of leadership continue to exist. Without concrete laws and policies in place to keep women from being discriminated against in the workplace, I fear that it will be difficult for women to reach their full potential as leaders. I’m hopeful that as more and more women obtain leadership roles at their companies and institutions (including in government), these obstacles will begin to break down.
- I think my drive comes from my desire for continuous improvement, whether I’m improving my own skill set or making a process at the office more efficient. It’s very difficult for me to accept the status quo (no matter what the setting) when it can always be improved upon.
- In October I completed an Ironman triathlon, which I’m very proud of, but I’m even more proud of learning how to swim. Although it’s a physical challenge to complete an Ironman, the mental challenge of training was the most difficult part, particularly when it came to swimming. It’s a total cliché, but it really wasn’t about the race for me, but the hours and hours of training time I’d put in to gain the endurance (physical and mental) necessary to complete the race. I’m already signed up for another Ironman race next year!
KC Sledd is 30 years old and is a Senior Manager of Strategy at Atlantic Media Strategies, the digital consultancy of The Atlantic. She holds a Master’s degree in PR & Corporate Communications from Georgetown University. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and two cats.
- It’s sometimes so tough to feel optimistic about gender parity in the workforce when you see the statistics of women in senior-level positions. But I look around at the women I work with, went to school with and who I am friends with, and I think that there is absolutely zero chance of stopping them from achieving their goals. It’s when it gets personal that I know we can defy the statistics that say “you can’t.”
- Even with a few crushing moments of doubt, I’ve never questioned that I can succeed. I’m a Capricorn, and I’ve internalized that I will keep climbing to the top of whatever challenge I’m looking to overcome. If you tell yourself you can’t fail enough times, you will make it your inner dialogue and it will come true. Fake it ’til you make it is so real.
- In one day this summer I interviewed Diane von Furstenberg in the morning and won the Washington Women in Public Relations’ Emerging Leaders Award that night. It’s going to be hard to top that.
Caitlin Campbell is 26 years old and a Senior Marketing Communications Coordinator at EMC Outdoor. She currently lives in Philadelphia, PA.
- I am very optimistic about the next generation of females. I believe that women encouraging other women to achieve their dreams is more prevalent than ever. Books, podcasts, blogs, peer-to-peer mentoring are all instances where I see women leaders providing a support system to foster the upcoming generations of women in almost all industries.
- My mother is the root of my ambition, drive and motivation to succeed. She is one of the most brilliant, hardworking, capable, strategic, caring, driven, resourceful and determined people I have ever met. She not only reached the top of her company, but did it while caring for two daughters and making it to every single extracurricular activity. I also believe my choice to attend an all-women’s college played a large role in my desire to succeed. I attended Stephens College in the heart of Missouri. In my freshman year I joined Kappa Delta Sorority and had a senior tell me she thought I would be wonderful for a VP role in the next election. It was just what I needed! I ran and became a member of Council as freshman. Success and encouragement in this role led to me earning the role of President the following year. With just a few words from a woman I respected, my outlook on what I could achieve changed dramatically.
- I am most proud of a very recent accomplishment at work, where I was asked to join the Operations Leadership Team; a group of forward-thinking, strategic individuals who meet to discuss how to make our company better. I’m proud that my opinion is respected enough to make top-line decisions that will steer our company toward a brighter future.
- Yes, now more than ever women have the role models and support systems in place to dream big and achieve big as well.
- My mom runs a small business (a law firm) and I think having a mother who has run a successful business for her entire adult life had a huge impression on me. I’ve always known I would be self-sufficient and work hard to create the life I want through pushing myself towards success.
- I’m incredibly proud of a charitable event I worked on back in 2014. It all came together in three weeks and I was tasked with procuring multiple big name celebrities to attend/perform – what a crazy, amazing experience. More recently, I promised myself that in 2016 I would book a celebrity for a major commercial and I’m glad to say it’s filming today, just 3 weeks shy of my self-imposed year-end deadline.
Cassie Corey is a 32-year-old teacher at Mastery Charter School in South Philadelphia and mother to a tremendous and ferocious one-year-old daughter.
- I look at my daughter and feel incredibly optimistic. I know my child will encounter obstacles because of her gender, but she’ll have much more language with which to combat it than we did and I bet she’ll have the courage to make waves. These things don’t change rapidly, but I’ve seen a difference in our time, and that’s very exciting.
- Money, status and power are non-motivators for me. Love has always propelled my biggest life choices. You don’t need to look far to find people who are marginalized and those are the people who get me out of bed each day, either to help them outright, or to raise a child who will one day be solving problems.
- I am most proud of my years teaching. I cared ceaselessly, and my students knew it. Our kids take anonymous surveys in which they are asked to honestly answer questions about how much they believe their individual teachers care about them. My results were consistently stellar, and that always made me damn proud.