Working Women, Unite!

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!

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17 Responses to Working Women, Unite!

  1. Shelbi August 5, 2009 at 9:49 am #

    Congratulations!!! You’ll be great!

  2. Steph August 5, 2009 at 10:04 am #

    Wow! You’re definitely someone to admire … not necessarily because of your title, but because of your strength and determination to always be true to who you’ve become; as a woman and a person. Balance is key, and you sure seem to strike it well. Congratulations!

  3. Brenda August 5, 2009 at 10:29 am #

    Thanks for the inspiration! One of many great stories you’ll tell I’m sure. It’s great to know that a successful person as yourself needs balance. The key to a happy life is living, laughing, loving, not just “making a living”. Congrats!

  4. Jackie August 5, 2009 at 10:53 am #

    What a great perspective! I am looking forward to following your journey. I agree that doing work you love gives meaning and purpose to your life and how great that you are incorporating it all together with your mothering priorities, instead of abandoning that role to take on a corporate life only. Good luck Maria! Keep blogging so we can share and learn from you!

  5. Anonymous August 5, 2009 at 11:09 am #

    I’d love to help! I love perspective, and I’ve been in the publishing industry, as well–previously met with both Liz Perl and Nancy Hancock just before each left (not great timing), but I’m a Prevention reader, a FBD success story, and an author. I’d love to write for you Maria.

    Becky
    http://www.twitter.com/beckytirabassi

  6. Dana August 5, 2009 at 2:11 pm #

    Congratulations, Maria. It’s been great to be (an albeit temporary) part of the company and watch you work! Can’t wait to see how the company continues to flourish with your lead!

  7. Kim August 5, 2009 at 11:49 pm #

    Well said Maria!

  8. Amanda August 6, 2009 at 12:44 am #

    My mother is my hero. She was a stay-at-home mom until I was six. When my younger sister was one, she went back to work and eventually became one of the company’s top executives. What matters is seeing your mother loving life–whether that means home-making or CEO-ing.

    And many congrats. Can’t wait to see what happens next with the Rodale brands!

    http://mmmmmama.blogspot.com/

  9. Liz August 6, 2009 at 9:36 am #

    Awesome article! The article totally motivates me and wants me to do even more well and to help get the company to the next level. I admire your strength, determination and yes the balance between work and being a mother. You definitely said it all! I am very excited to see the next level and where you take Rodale. It is a great company! I wish you the best and I have all the faith in the world that you will be very successful!

  10. Bradi Nathan August 6, 2009 at 11:54 am #

    Something tells me that we’d get along seamlessly! I have such admiration for women who achieve personal and professional aspirations. And, thanks too for making a difference in the workplace for mothers. I do hope that other companies will follow Rodale’s example in offering childcare to its employees. Kudos to you for being celebrated by Working Mother… know that I would be so PROUD to feature you on my site as well as I’ve made it my mission to see that we, as moms, succeed in all aspects of life. You are an inspiration to mothers everywhere.
    Bradi, Co-Founder, MyWorkButterfly.com

  11. K August 6, 2009 at 11:57 am #

    Umm, I work in publishing also, and it’s filled with women running companies that have kids at home. I do wish we had the daycare benefit though…

  12. Arjan Stephens August 6, 2009 at 1:39 pm #

    Hi Maria,
    Congratulations! I glad to hear that Rodale is fully under your stewardship now. From meeting you at Organic Food Products Expo West last year, I know you are a genuine and very sincere person with a big picture of where you want to take Rodale. Best of luck from me and the rest of the Nature’s Path family.

  13. Alan Lawrence August 6, 2009 at 5:29 pm #

    I am very happy for you and to see that Rodale press is solidly in the hands of another Rodale. I knew your grandfather, J.I. and met Bob once or twice, when back in the 50′s and 60′s I worked for Paul Miner who did PR for Prevention and Organic Gardening and some of the other J.I. projects. I have some very sad stories of our trying to get Prevention time on the air and being turned down for unknown reasons (that we guessed at). Organic Gardening was a more successful project.

    alaw1@mindspring.com

  14. Angela Ann August 6, 2009 at 11:29 pm #

    Congradulations! I’ve read Organic Gardening for years and years (I just missed the Ruth Stout years but was there for Mike (still miss him). Please remember all us old timers (hey, I’m only 61) and don’t change the magazine to House Too Beautiful. It’s the perfect time to introduce tweens to gardening and animal care. Let them learn to eat out out of the garden and how thrilling it is to grow plants without chemicals.
    I wish I had worked at a business with daycare when I was a single Mom. Go get um, girl!

  15. Maria (farm country kitchen) August 6, 2009 at 11:37 pm #

    Ahhh, Ruth Stout…one of my all time heroines! She gardened naked!

  16. Laura K. August 7, 2009 at 12:55 pm #

    It’s great to read your thoughts about this big shift for you, after seeing the local and industry news about it. Aren’t blogs great?!

    You touch on something that I often resent though – the perception that working mothers are better than non-moms or men at getting stuff done. I’m hypersensitive to that since my attempts at motherhood have failed but I still manage to kick ass, multi-task, take care of business and other loved ones even without children. Even as a non-mom, I always look at Working Mother for the best companies to work for.

    That said, big ups to you on this adventure!

  17. HuckleberryArts August 20, 2009 at 10:23 am #

    Great post and inspiration Thank you and congrats on your new Job title

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