Each year, we dedicate the month of March to honoring women throughout history. While there have been so many exceptional women who have worked hard for the progress we have made throughout the past several decades, I wanted to point out a few women throughout history who were particularly successful because they had a plan. Planning is core to the success of anyone, regardless of his or her goal, but these five women were able to make a significant impact in our history because they had a plan.
Mary Anderson: A plan for clear vision
In 1902, Mary Anderson invented something that makes our lives a lot easier (and safer): windshield wipers. As an Alabama native, Anderson visited New York City for the first time, and rode a trolley on a frosty day. She noticed the windows became frosted and the driver drove with both panes of the windshield open so he could see. When she returned home, she created a plan that acknowledged a problem -- frosty windows -- and a solution: something to continually wipe the windows while the car is in motion.
Anderson planned out the physics involved to create a lever for the wiper blade and hired a designer and a local company to create a working model of her vision. While most probably noticed the problem when it came to difficulty seeing through foggy windows or rain, no one actually came up with a plan to fix it until Anderson. By 1920, the windshield wiper became a standard feature in all new automobiles and is something we'd likely have difficulty living without today.
Mary Callahan Erdoes: A plan for profitability
Mary Callahan Erdoes is the CEO of JP Morgan Chase and is known as the most powerful woman in finance. She's running one of the most profitable businesses at the country's largest banking company and certainly did not get this far in her career without a plan. For the past four years, she handled more than $2 trillion in assets for Chase's wealthiest customers. She also helped the company survive many recent targets from regulators and a fairly large turnover of C-suite executives.
Despite many challenges, Erdoes continues to lead the most successful and largest banking company in America. Without a detailed plan that involved careful research, number crunching and legal management, Erdoes would not likely be where she is today.
Jennifer Siebel Newsom: A plan to shift cultural norms
Jennifer Siebel Newsom is the founder, president and CEO of the Representation Project, an organization that uses film to influence cultural transformation. Her film Miss Representation looks at stereotypes of women in the media and the impacts these representations have on society today. The movie led to the creation of the Representation Project which now has impacted the lives of millions of women and girls nationwide.
Newsom's goal was to enact cultural change -- she wanted to make a difference in how women are not only perceived in the media but also treated in society. With this goal in mind, she had a plan. She needed to carefully lay out the steps it would take to create a film and get the right message across to the point where it would be widely received and acted upon.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski: A plan to raise hell
Sen. Mikulski is a 78-year-old Maryland Democrat and the longest serving women in the United States Congress. She announced this week that she would no longer seek reelection and when making her decision she asked, "Do I spend my time raising money, or do I spend my time raising hell?" While Mikulski is one of the most influential members of congress for her work pushing for gender and race equality and fighting for the working class in Maryland, she also clearly had a plan.
As she leaves her tenure in Congress, she figured she would have more value serving her community locally. She carefully thought through the pros and cons of reelection, and determined where her resources would be best used.
The creators behind Always' #LikeAGirl campaign: A plan to change the game
Always became known for more than just feminine products this year as they created one of the most influential advertising campaigns of the year. The #LikeAGirl campaign debuted during the Super Bowl, and featured young girls and boys portraying what they believe it means to do things (run, throw... etc) like a girl. The differences in the way young girls responded compared to young boys showed a clear difference in the way boys and girls are treated and how it impacts their self esteem.
Not only was the ad considered a huge hit because of the virality of the campaign, it was also a game changer when it came to advertising targeted towards women. Traditionally products geared towards women are advertised in a way that makes women feel as though they need to be better. For example, they should have a spotless house, be a "supermom" or be tall and thin. Instead, this ad portrayed a realistic version of women with an empowering message.
It took a lot of planning to determine how to make this campaign viral -- i.e., what words, images, phrases and hashtags to include that would resonate with viewers and ensure that the idea spreads.
All of these women are strong, smart and successful. But what's more, is that they believed in themselves enough to create a plan of action to achieve their goals. As a CEO of a largely male dominated field, I understand the challenges women face today despite the major progress we've made. The most important piece of advice I have for women out there is to never give up on your goals. Create a plan of action with detailed steps for how you will get to where you want to be and never give up.
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