The scene among the business women entrepreneurs and executives in business I have met and know has changed from what it once was just a few years ago. The dreams and goals we had and hoped for now pay the bills. Conversations that used to be about what we wanted to do and who we have wanted to be now center around managing and growing it all.
We are, among the first generation of daughters born from the feminine movement, the evolution of women in America and empowerment that has threaded through our society for decades now. We were born 'leaning in' and have spent much of our lives doing so, particularly (but not exclusively) as adults. We were the little girls told by our mothers that we could do or be anything, that we could provide for ourselves, pave our own paths, march to the beat of our own unique drum. Women doing what women want to do, and being what they want to be, is hardly new or novel today -- it's a story that has continued through out the course of time long before today, and with hope it will be one that continues long after as well.
The days of our being women in little places with big dreams and plans have shifted. Boozy brunches and late night dinners on the town have shifted to low key get togethers, cooking dinner together at somebody's house. We talk about managing the businesses we now own, swap services, share referrals for accountants and lawyers. Dating has evolved to relationships and marriages for many, while others are embarking on families of their own. It's sparked a much different dialogue, needs, direction, focus, than in the previous years. New territory, new issues, new problems and things to do, be and solve.
What happens, after the climb.
It's not something limited to the women in business that I have met and know, but the men too. It's also not limited or exclusive to any specific age or stage -- where and when it happens is as unique as the plans and goals themselves. It is and can be every bit as sweet as you may have hoped. More often than not it comes with a whisper versus a shout, and in many cases it can be uncomfortable and awkward. After all, it is new terrain. Where and what to do, how, what to wear, how to handle new situations, all arise as you land on the other side. Life becomes broader, bigger, with a lot of new elements, as with anything else that scales and grows. Just the same, things can change in the very idea of what you want, need, or want to accomplish. In many cases, the 'brass ring' becomes an entire jewelry box and often little involves business goals.
"I'm just not sure that I care that much anymore," I tell a friend of the business goals and dreams that once took precedence in every area of life. "I mean, I care in that I love it, it's a part of me, I would not give it up. But there's so many other things I want to do and be than just this woman in business, and my life is a lot better as a result."
It's a far cry from the echo of the famous Steve Jobs quote, 'Stay hungry, stay foolish,' or the mantra that seems to permeate the women's culture at the moment of go, go, go. Go after that big career, get after that big prize. The sentiment is understandable, and has value -- after all we should all take full hold of the gift of existing and living life. But at the same time I can't help but to wonder if society's drive to be 'at the top' in our careers overlooks the joy and satisfaction of being at the top of where and whatever is inherently your own vision in life -- and that it may not have anything to do with business at all. The women I know who are more driven to be wives, simply have regular, everyday jobs, or care for families, are as satisfied -- if not more -- than the women I know gunning for the giant career prize. Society sends a message that this isn't 'okay' or that it can't possibly be as fulfilling but in reality, of course it is.
As dinner wrapped the other night with many of the women that once inspired this very series years ago, I realized, this is what happens after the climb. You find, that while the climb and the goal is always worth it because it was what you worked for, the valley on the other side is so much bigger, so much broader -- and has far more than just a job or title. And you wouldn't want it any other way.