The little girl playing in a comfortable suburban living room barely notices the subject Oprah Winfrey is talking about on the TV that sits idly in the backdrop, yet is fully aware of the presence of the popular talk show host, who at the time was just getting started on her road to multi-million dollar success. Awards, movies, book clubs, etc. were yet to come. Popular culture at the moment is all about women working, breaking barriers and accomplishing everything from supporting the household to single motherhood. Reruns of movies like Mr. Mom, Tootsie, and 9 to 5 play in a continuous loop on cable networks like HBO. The little girl is inspired. By age 17, while many of her friends dream about future weddings and children, she has her sights on being a bonafide business woman with her own multimedia company. Not long after, she's working her way to doing just that.
It's the 1980s and 90s. That little girl is me. I am forever thankful that I had the exposure that I did to smart, accomplished women while growing up. Not just on television but also in my home. Had I not, you may not be reading this column right now.
Yet, despite that there are more women like Oprah Winfrey than ever, more women doing big things in business, more women breaking barriers and obstacles down, an enormous number of ambitious women across the country lack women business mentors and role models. In fact, studies show that it is one of the biggest obstacles women in business face, and a potential culprit for why certain industries still lack in attracting executives from the female gender.
"Female role models are crucial for women in business," said Page Adams-Geller, founder of Paige Premium Denim, a fashion apparel company that has been said to earn upwards of millions in sales every year. Adams-Geller receives tons of email from young women who want to work in the fashion industry, as models, designers, stylists or run their own companies. "I am happy that I can help in any way I can by being a good example."
Its not just young women or old women but all women that benefit from seeing examples of the various things people can be. Role models like Michelle Obama, Hilary Clinton, Arianna Huffington, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, and all kinds of women doing big things in business aren't just shaping the women of tomorrow but the women of right now too. It's prompted dozens of companies, organizations and universities to implement programs to help women reach the top.
"Women have to help each other," said Barbara Adachi, National Managing Principal, Initiative for the Retention and Advancement of Women at Deloitte. The company has had an array of efforts to mentor and promote women workers for dozens of years.
As Adachi and I talk shop via phone, I think to the group of women that I have met and know, the real life network of some 500 plus women founders and executives from across the country that the New Power Girls series is loosely based on. We work together, we play together, and we all support each other in business. Need a good book agent? There's someone who has been published. Want to take a foray into the internet world? Plenty of women who will step up to share insight and help.
"I'd be lost without my group," said Miss Meghan founder and New Power Girls co-creator Meghan Cleary. Like many women founders, Meghan equally lends her experience and skills to other women in business. It's something I've noticed common among the female entrepreneurs I know. They're not just interested in benefiting the bottom line, but lending a hand and being an example for other women to do so as well.
When it comes to strengthening the present and future for women everywhere, Power Girls play their part. If you're a woman in business, help another woman coming up the ranks and you'll benefit women everywhere.