For the last several weeks, we have been having a very familiar conversation about women, family, career, leadership and power. The common question is "can women have it all?" and the expected answer is "not all at the same time." I think we are asking the wrong question. The better question would be: "What would you like your life to look like as a woman"? and "are you doing what it takes to get there"?
I'm a young female leader in my community, and people frequently ask me what success looks like to me. I tell them that living my life according to the things that I value most is what success means to me. I am a practicing attorney, which was my childhood dream. I work in an environment which allows me to have a fairly regular 40-hour work schedule that allows me time to do advocacy work in the community, to travel and speak about issues of poverty and education and time for my personal life so that I can spend time with my family and friends.
I am happily married and have chosen not to have children up to this point in my career because I wanted to focus on other things. My life reflects my current values and that is what makes me happy and successful. I'm a smart and talented woman whose life looks the way she wants it to. I happily take my seat at the table and lean in. I am a shameless self-promoter who doesn't apologize for trying to be better every day. I try to help and promote other women.
I was homeless as a child, and after several months on the streets with my mother, I was sent to live with my maternal grandmother. I remember getting off the bus and my grandmother was waiting for me and she said to me that I was lucky enough to be born in a different America than the America she was born in (she was born a black woman in 1920 in Mississippi) and that I was born to the greatest generation of women that has ever lived and what was I going to do with the opportunity.
My grandmother challenged me to be someone great and to serve others. We must fight to have the life we want, just like the women who came before us had to fight. Below are my strategies for success:
1. Have a strategy about your career
2. Pick a great partner
3. Give voice to the most important values to you
4. Create your own vision of what your life should look like
5. Don't apologize for your ambition
6. Embrace Your greatness
7. Don't put limits on your dreams or goals
The women who came before us sacrificed so that we could have choices about our lives. Honor their sacrifice by living life fully and on your own terms. That's how you find success and that is how you have it all.