As some of you may have heard, starting on September 1 I have a new job as CEO of Rodale, Inc. It’s a company that my family owns (I’m the third generation), and that I’ve worked for since age 13. (Well, there was one year after college when I worked in Washington, DC, for Fenton Communications…but that’s a complicated story best reserved for another day.)
Even though I have been chairman of Rodale for the last two years, I didn’t expect to be taking on the CEO role this soon. Still, I always knew that one day I would lead the company. I’m getting more and more excited about it with each passing day. One of the reasons I’m excited is that we have so many awesome and talented working moms, including many at top management levels.
You have to understand, when I first started working full-time—while raising a 5-year-old child—it was just par for the course in the business world that golf and fishing were critical components of long-term strategic planning. And all the real business happened at the bar—in a kind of “last man/woman standing” kind of way. The person who could drink the longest usually curried the most favor.
Those were the years my sister Heidi fought mercilessly to get a company daycare set up, and finally had to pull family rank to do it (it’s now one of Rodale’s best benefits…thanks, Heidi!). I did my time wearing cheap pantyhose and bad suits trying to be one of the guys. Then, one day I decided to just be myself, and that’s when I started getting much better at my job.
Fast-forward nine years…. I can think of at least 10 women on our top management team who have more than one kid at home. It’s no surprise that in 2007 we were named one of the 100 best companies for working mothers by Working Mother magazine. But now the real fun starts. No offense to the guys, who bring a lot of great attributes to the table, but working moms usually know how to get things done fast, and without fuss. We aren’t afraid to do the messy stuff, show tough love, and get us all to the same place in one piece and on time.
I stopped feeling guilty about working years ago. When I first started out I was a single mom, so working wasn’t a choice but a responsibility. Now I work because I want to, because it gives me great meaning and purpose, and I think it sets a great example for my daughters. My daughters are all good workers, too—even the 3-year-old!
As a working mother and a CEO, I don’t have a lot of role models to follow. In our media industry, the women leaders tend to be celebrities without young kids at home (Oprah, Martha). My challenge is going to be doing what needs to be done at work, which is a lot, while still being a great mom to my kids, which is also a lot (but involves plenty of laying around on couches and beds together…fun!) I look forward to leading the team—both men and women, moms and dads included—and I expect that together, we might just be able to create a new model of what it means to work, lead, love our families, and live meaningful, satisfying lives.
Are you up for it? I am!