During the coming months, I plan to write a lot about issues affecting women in the business world, from pay disparities to the differences between male and female work styles. But first, I'd like to tell my own story.
This morning, I was driving to my office after accompanying my boss to a live television interview when my cell phone rang. I was surprised to find that the voice on the line belonged to my boss, who I had just left minutes ago and who was driving the car I could see behind me in my rearview mirror. He wanted to tell me that he was really proud of me and how far I had come in the 17 years that he had known me while working together. He reminded me that when we first met I was a single mother struggling to make ends meet, with three sons, living in a small apartment and driving a car that started on some days...and then on others would not.
And it made me stop and think about where I am today in my career, my journey, and how I got here. I am one of the fortunate ones who had a mentor in my life who has not just been interested in me and has supported me, but one who has challenged me and driven me to wake the sleeping giant inside ... and then cheered me on!
During the 10 years I spent as his Executive Assistant, my boss encouraged me to keep learning and developing new skills. He encouraged me to go back to school and get an MBA, despite the fact that I hadn't finished college. He would ask me what books I was reading, what articles had stood out to me, what I was learning each week. He saw things in me that I couldn't see in myself. But most importantly, he created an environment in which those things could flourish. Each day, I think about how I can do the same thing for the people who work for me.
The other day, I was chatting with a colleague over coffee when he repeated something a boss had told him years ago, "Never underestimate the power of storytelling, because everyone has a story." This thought stayed with me the remainder of the day and into the night. Every life IS a story. And every woman has a unique story to tell. The question we're always thinking about is "How do we harness the power of those stories and drive women to keep adding new and exciting chapters?"
Several years ago we conducted research on what women are looking for. What drives women? What does success look like to them? What we found from our study formed the seeds of a movement. Women basically want connections, conversations, community and causes. Women were quick to tell us that their female friendships were extremely important. But not just important -- they wouldn't give them up! Not even for a day of shopping! And they said that they gained psychic rewards like confidence from their networks of girlfriends.
That's why Chain of Confidence was created -- to provide the means for women to connect and have conversations. The site also connects women to our cause, Boys And Girls Clubs of America, to help kids become the confident men and women of the future. By supporting the Chain of Confidence, I hope I can play a role similar to the one that my boss played for me.
Nothing I've done in my career has been more satisfying than watching Chain of Confidence grow from an initiative to a movement that now links women from the US and Canada to women in India, Indonesia, Germany, Russia, South Africa, Brazil, Uruguay and Mexico. All of them are linking arms to help the women in their countries find their confidence by raising funds and volunteering with charitable organizations that benefit women and children.
My passion is finding ways to keep this movement growing so it can continue to enlighten and empower women. I'd love to hear your ideas for sharing confidence with other women. I'll share the best ones in an upcoming entry, and of course, with all the women who make up the Chain of Confidence movement.
Elinor Steele is Vice President of Global Communications and Public Relations, Tupperware Brands