When I was younger, I never paid much attention to International Women's Day. I wondered why we needed to celebrate being women; why did we need to single ourselves out? So the day used to come and go with me wondering what the fuss was all about. Perhaps it was because I grew up in a business environment of extreme competition and a time when women were just beginning to break through glass ceilings. Women weren't supportive of one another but were trying to fit in to a male model of business where competition was the dominant model. As Leora Tanenbaum discovered in researching her book, Catfight, female rivalries are common. Naomi Wolf writes about female rivalries and the intensity with which they can occur and devastate the women involved. I have seen it too; and have been the victim of it. Those experiences were very painful.
As I've grown in my career and in myself, along with so many women around me, my appreciation for the sisterhood has grown. Where women were my rivals they are now my supporters; where they competed in a win/lose environment they now look for mutual success. When and how did this shift happen in my life?
I look around at the women in my life and realize that with maturity has come a sense of security, wisdom, reflection and the realization that we can do more with each other than alone. When women come together to share what they know with one another, then they each grow. With maturity comes the wisdom of knowing that we each have unique gifts and by sharing those with other women we enrich our own lives. So much of what we say and do is driven by fear which colours our lives and our perception of what we see around us. What a loss to let that dominate.
In my work with women, I have been privileged to hear the stories of so many women. Their willingness to bring me into their lives has humbled me and has helped me appreciate all their journeys. None of their journeys have been easy and many of the women have walked with fear inside and courage outside. Women carry many burdens and their lives are never as they appear to be. There is always more depth, more complexity and more compassion than I can imagine. We also don't give ourselves enough credit for our successes.
My favourite quote from the movie The Help is when Abilene says "You is kind, you is smart, you is important." We need to tell ourselves that more often. So ladies, on International Women's Day, repeat Abilene's words to yourself. And remember, the sisterhood will always have your back.
With now-ex-husband Steve, Elaine Wynn founded a casino empire that included The Mirage, Bellagio, Wynn and Encore resorts, among others.
With late husband Johnnie, Johnelle Hunt founded J.B. Hunt Transport Services in 1969 and grew the company into one of the largest truckers in the nation. Pictured: Jane Hardin, daughter of Johnelle Hunt, accepts a volunteer of the year award from John White, chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville on behalf of her mother.
Meg Whitman made her fortune as CEO of online marketplace eBay Inc. After a failed bid for California governor, the tech exec has taken on the challenge of turning around Hewlett-Packard.
In 1979, Judy Faulkner founded electronic health records company Epic Systems, which will be used by over 40 percent of the U.S. population by next year.
Andrew & Peggy Cherng came from China in 1966 and together founded the Panda Express restaurant chain, growing it into a $1.6 billion business that operates 1,500 locations.
Lynda and Stewart Resnick own POM Wonderful, Fiji Water, the flower delivery service Teleflora and some of the nation's largest nut and citrus farms.
The nation's only African-American billionaire, Oprah Winfrey came from meager beginnings to build a television empire with massive influence on what people around the globe read, eat and think.
Marian Ilitch and husband Michael opened a pizza shop in 1959 and grew it into the Little Caesar's Pizza chain.
Diane Hendricks is chairman and co-founder, with late husband Kenneth, of Wisconsin-based ABC Supply, the largest roofing, window and siding wholesale distributor in the country.
Doris Fisher and her late husband Donald founded the Gap in San Francisco in 1969. Gap Inc. has grown to include Banana Republic and Old Navy brands, among others, and operates over 3,000 stores across the world.
Gayle Cook and her late husband, William, created the medical device company Cook Group in Indiana in 1963. Gayle continues to serve on the board. (<a href="http://www.heraldtimesonline.com/" target="_hplink">Chris Howell, Hoosier-Times, Inc.</a>)
Immigrating from South Korea in 1981, Jin Sook and husband Do Won created the Forever 21 clothing chain, which now spans nearly 500 stores. The couple is No. 79 on this year's Forbes 400 list of richest Americans.
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