I know who you are. You are smart. You are infinitely capable. You want to be seen, and you have ideas that you dream about. Some of you are already taking chances and starting businesses on your own. Some of you are working by the sides of your mothers and fathers to learn your gifts. To each of you, I am your biggest fan even though I don’t yet know your name. This I know for certain: You are going to be spectacular.
I came before you, just like my mother came before me, and before her my grandmother. Zetella was my grandmother’s name, which was the name of a great Indian princess. Her name was as unique as she was. She started to pave our way in 1940. She didn’t care that she was one of only a handful of women at Brigham Young University. She obtained her bachelor’s in home economics and her minor in chemistry. She became a women’s guidance counselor in a high school where she helped other young women find their path. Her DNA was passed along to my mother, another warrior.
My mother, Janis, was a mathematics major and a psychology minor — a black-haired beauty whose gift with numbers was as impressive as her outward appearance. She had three young daughters by the time she earned her degree. She stayed home full-time and raised eight children, five of those daughters and also warriors.
They paved the way for me. I am an executive in human resources and now the CEO of my own company. I started my work life at the ripe old age of 10, selling greeting cards door to door to earn a stereo after seeing an ad in Tiger Beat magazine. My road was a long one to get to where I am today, but that’s how warriors roll.
As you step into your life, we must have the discussion: the birds-and-the-bees of being in the workforce as a woman. There is no reason to be discouraged or dismayed. But there is a truth in the experience that I want you to understand early so you will be best prepared for success.
You can become and do all you dream about. But it will not be as easy as you think. Some of your struggle will come from others who don’t believe you have the right to your dreams. Even worse, there will be some who think your dream is wrong for a girl.
Blaze past them. They are not your enemy; they will only give you fuel to do all you desire. The enemy that poses the biggest threat is inside you where the se of self-doubt are already taking root. If you feel it creeping in, you must do whatever you can to stop these thoughts. Tell your mothers and your fathers so they can help you find ways to build greater confidence. Get involved in intellectual pursuits, music or sports as your remedy. The constant practice of victory and failure in these endeavors will ready you with the strength of spirit you need to learn early that mistakes don’t make you weak and they don’t measure worth. Mistakes teach. Your ups and downs are building resilience and self-esteem.
Find Your Voice
Men are not the enemy. They are often great allies and may be great mentors and leaders in your journey. Men will also sometimes say and do things that hurt you in the workforce, most often by accident, but sometimes not. It happened for my grandmother, my mother, for me and even my daughter. Your lesson is not to create greater walls between us, but to learn to be bold and strong and to speak up in the moments when corrections need to be made. Say nothing, and the price is that the wrong is not made right for the next ones.
When you do speak up, it will often be imperfect in its delivery, but like a muscle, as you practice, each time will come with greater ease. Remember you have a responsibility to pave the way for new warriors — your sisters and those not even born yet that will come behind you. My life was made easier by my grandmother and mother. Pay it forward.
As you rise, always remember to reach your hand down to bring others with you. This is not a competition. There will be times when you will fool yourself into thinking there is just one winner, but these thoughts are misguided. It is not a contest, but rather a long-distance race where everyone is striving to do their best. If a fellow warrior ne your help, stop and give it. There is room for all of us. Abundance will beget abundance. Small thinking will only feel good for a moment.
Don’t Be Ashamed Of Your Gifts
I want to leave you with an assurance that whatever personal gifts and uniqueness that make you the one and only you should never be pushed aside. These gifts are yours! You are meant to use them to make your special mark on the world. As a young girl, I was ashamed of my ambition. It wasn’t until I was a mother of three children of my own that I realized my ambition was my gift, not my curse. The moment I gave my gifts oxygen, I came alive. And you will too. Never repress who you are or what you love. Every crazy career that has ever existed was born from a great daydream.
We need you. We need your voice in this world. This isn’t a journey for the faint of heart, which is exactly why I know you are just the person for the job. You are a warrior. Put on your armor. Look up. Square your shoulders, and step into your confidence and the future that awaits you. Take my hand, and let me pull you up into your destiny. You’ve got this.