How did I get here?

I have weighed in several times on the debates about “leaning in” and “having it all.” It was just about a year ago that I was asking myself “how much is enough?” Although I concluded at the time that I am enough, I continue pondering issues around women in leadership, and the hurdles they face. A recent study finds that “Deep-seated bias, not lack of confidence, knocks women off the path to success.” The findings in this study are disturbing at best, but it also makes me wonder, how have women who have made it into leadership overcome these types of hurdles. I have rarely been accused of lacking in confidence — although it’s something I gained over time as I matured, completed my various degrees and moved up the ladder of success. However, I haven’t always been aware of any hurdles in my path, which may be part of the secret of my success. I credit my mother for giving me the ability to go beyond people’s expectations and my own, to chart my own course in life, and to believe that I could do just about anything. Although she certainly tried to impose her own gender stereotypes on me, once she saw my abilities, she backed off and let me be who I was, which was many things all at once. Athlete, musician, student, writer, whatever it was, I always gave it my all. So somewhere in there, between giving it my all and breaking through stereotypes, I managed to find a path to getting the things I wanted in life. A great career, a family, keeping up as an athlete. However, I wouldn’t be who I am if I wasn’t always striving for more. The problem has always been figuring out that next step. I realize that I have been incredibly lucky that opportunities have presented themselves, although it wasn’t always apparent at the time that it was the right step. In almost every instance of a major change in my life, there was someone who saw something in me that made them recommend the next step. I’m not particularly fond of the old chestnut “things happen for a reason” — but somehow it’s generally been true. I think I’m moving in one particular direction, and certainly in the last few years, I have found doors closing, what looked like an opportunity fading, or what I once thought was my path going into a dead end. I have made many friends along the way, and learned a great deal. I guess that is what much of life is about, learning from experiences, whether they led to the next step or not.

So I would have to say that the answer to the question in the title of this blog post is that I got here with a lot of help from others along the way. Certainly my own determination played a major role in where I am today, but I owe a debt of gratitude to the family, friends and mentors who encouraged me, and in particular those who moved those hurdles out of the way. So I will conclude with a simple THANK YOU.

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