04/26/2013 12:28 pm ET | Updated Jun 26, 2013

An Answer to Sheryl Sandberg


Yes, Sheryl, you got most of it right. Women should be less timid in the workplace, not hold themselves back or internally repeat negative messages and improve their self-confidence. Many women do diminish their career expectations, while taking the major share of home and child care. But you left out a whole group of women who are the opposite of timid -- women running small businesses. These are women -- very successful women -- who do it all. They are entrepreneurs opening business startups at 1.5 times the national average, and account for 8 percent of the U.S. GDP (U.S. Census Bureau statistics).

How do I know this? Because I am a woman who has run small businesses, and, even more importantly, I am a member of the Committee of 200 (C200), also serving as the Chair of The C200 Foundation and Vice Chair of our Governing Board. C200 is a membership organization comprised of the world's leading female executives and entrepreneurs. Our mission, success shared, is to foster, celebrate and advance women's leadership in business. And we do. Our members are entrepreneurs and the leaders of large companies. The vast majority of our members are married with children. They range in age from their 20s to their 80s. Were their careers linear -- a straight line up? Absolutely not. They were cyclic -- ranging from frantic, unexpected, exhausted and in crisis to joyous, inspiring, uplifting and life-changing. Do they lean in? In every way possible. Do they have a seat at the table? They do. Is it easy? No.

I have personally started, grown, run, turned around and sold entrepreneurial businesses in financial services, health care, aerospace and professional services over a career of 40 years -- and recently launched a children's music and books small business. I serve on the board of a Fortune 300 company and pay it forward with service on multiple nonprofit boards including a business school and a law school. I have a glorious husband (44-year marriage), a son and daughter-in-law and four divine grandchildren -- plus an extended family with whom I am very close. I am in good health (haven't always been) and blessed in every way to be able to do what I do now.

There were times when I triple-mortgaged the house, stood on the verge of financial disaster, worked seven days a week, ended up in the hospital with exhaustion, lost five pregnancies over multiple years, went to school at night while working all day and trying to fit child care, husband care and personal care into the mix. My son experienced many instances when neither my husband nor I could be there for important concerts, games or similar life moments. Yet we made it through -- everything worked out and our son is a successful corporate entrepreneur, husband, father and very loving son.

It never entered my head not to have a career, but I did make compromises: I didn't go east to business school nor could I ever be a full-time graduate student. It was night or weekend graduate school for me -- and the school had to be close to home and part-time so that I could work to help support our family, and be both mother and wife while I pursued my career. Men do that too. That was the way it was -- and not doing it, in my mind, was not an option. After all -- I had a life.

So Sheryl is right -- stop worrying about whether, just get on with doing -- and remember that being in business is rewarding and gives you multiple ways to personally make a difference. Small business is a righteous way to live your life -- an independent way -- where you can have it all.