In the year leading up to the Election, the women I know became increasingly exhilarated by the existential shift in power we anticipated with the inauguration of our first woman President. We imagined the new possibilities that would be generated for all of us, with a woman entering the White House as President this time, instead of in a supporting role.
Unfortunately, we learned that it was even harder to break through the highest glass ceiling than we thought. Post-Election we became depressed, stressed and filled with angst, finding it hard to reconcile Hillary’s election defeat with the interwoven brighter future we’d been visualizing for our daughters and ourselves.
But just because a woman won’t be holding the highest office in our country any time soon, doesn’t mean that we have to give up on breaking through gender barriers to fulfill our own career dreams. In fact, it’s never been more important, or more possible, for women to become leaders than it is now. If, like me, you consider yourself an entrepreneur, or aspire to be one, there is much to celebrate. According to the National Women’s Business Council’s latest report, 10 million women were heading their own businesses last year. Women are fueling entrepreneurship, particularly women 40+.
Steve Jobs once described creativity as “connecting the dots,” adding, “most people don’t have enough dots to connect because they haven’t had many diverse experiences.” That’s certainly not the case for women over 40, which is the average age women start their first businesses. As mid-career women our wide-ranging experiences have provided us with thousands of accumulated dots and we’re leveraging and synthesizing what we’ve learned to launch 1,200 new businesses a day. Following our purpose and passions in ways we weren’t able to when we were younger, we’re finding enormous support from the women in our lives.
Two years ago I started WHAT NOW WHAT NEXT, a collaborative network for women entrepreneurs and business owners 40+ with my Co-Founder, Peggy Doyle. We were both facing empty nests and reinventing our careers. A lot of friends were in the same boat. Many of us had either opted out or, been downsized out, of jobs that no longer suited us. We were re-evaluating our options for moving forward, and while we had decades of experience, we had gaps in our knowledge too. We discovered we all knew something that others didn’t, so we decided to get together and share stories, strategies and solutions. It was powerful to brainstorm ideas with a group of like-minded women, and it was liberating to admit that we didn’t have to know it all. Each of us had a unique piece of the puzzle and we served as a collective “board of advisors.”
Many of us, particularly those of us who had worked in corporations for years, were surprised by how natural it felt to generously support other women, instead of competing for the limited number of spots at the top of the ladder. We didn’t have to cater to male bosses egos and we weren’t afraid of being called ‘bossy’ for speaking up and being leaders. We quickly realized how much more effective it was for us to work together, helping each other grow our ventures. Our community has expanded over time and now women across the country and across the globe can promote and sell their products and services and support other women-owned businesses.
As someone who grew up with gender-based ideas about what was possible for women, I’ve found great fulfillment and freedom working with and mentoring other entrepreneurs. While we may not have a woman in the WHITE HOUSE yet, we CAN definitely support each other to become Presidents and CEO’s of our own ventures. As Hillary so eloquently said in her speech the day after the election, “never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.” Now’s the perfect time to own our power….and our own businesses. I hope you’ll join us!
Originally published at medium.com