After my post earlier this month on the good ole boys, I received many comments from women in the boomer generation about how lucky the Gen Xers are to have women role models, as boomers did not. Nancy Johns-Wood, a banker, said “I could write a book about my positions as one of the first women bank managers in Nashville; however, as I look back on this time, there were no role models for us.”
In talking to other boomers, I came to realize we did have female role models in addition to male role models – just not the same kind as women today. Some were our relatives, others pioneers. Here’s what some boomers told me about their early role models
“My role model was a college dean who worked with me on a project. She was savvy, personable, smart, direct, attractive, confident. She challenged my thinking and assumptions in a constructive way and dressed in a way that was feminine and fun and serious.”
“My role model was a 54-year-old man. I was terrified of him. He was super critical and mercurial. One day I went to his office and stood up to him. We talked for an hour. After that he treated me as a professional and a peer.”
Then, I thought about my own situation and I realized that, in addition to male role models, I had two strong female role models – my mother and my first female boss.
Mom was secretary to the head of a national brewery before she married and had kids and became a “homemaker” and volunteer secretary at our school until she decided that if she was going to work that hard she should get paid. She became executive assistant for a hospital research lab.
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I always thought it was the norm for a woman to work. An early job was in a hospital public relations department, before it was Kosher for hospitals to promote themselves. My boss, Jean Moore, convinced the CEO that the hospital needed public relations and created what was one of the first hospital PR departments in the south. Jean didn’t finish college, was a single mom and one of a few women in leadership. Not only was she a pioneer as a woman executive, she was a pioneer in bringing professional status to health care public relations.
So who are the role models of today’s up and coming business women? Here are some comments from Gen Xers on their role models today:
My aunt, a successful CPA, is my role model. She showed me you can succeed and be a successful woman without having to be married.
A superior at my first job is mine. She led by example by being a patient, humble, and decisive leader. I learned to challenge myself daily, have a professional attitude, pay attention to details, and to engage.