Alfre Woodard, Barbara Walters, Barbara Walters retirement, Katie Couric, mentoring women, Oprah, supporting women
Recently, a fabulous eighty-four year old Barbara Walters ended her storied broadcast career on The View. And she went out with a bang! With Oprah leading the charge, Barbara’s career culminated with a parade of female journalists who’d followed in her footsteps, marching in single file, storming the stage. Seeing all of those women streaming in–everyone from Oprah to Connie Chung to Robin Roberts to Katie Couric – was powerful!
As Oprah announced each journalist, there were smiles, tears, hugs, love, admiration and most of all POWER. Woman Power. Seeing all of those women up there gave me goose bumps–and as always, because I’m truly becoming a softie, tears!
I was crying tears of joy, amazement and pride because of what can happen when women band together, help each other, share experiences and insights and empower each other. Barbara Walters started her career 50+ years ago with a resentful, hostile male co-host who didn’t want to share the news desk with her; didn’t think a woman deserved to be seated next to him and NOW to see Barbara, an historic figure–a legend, complete with an impressive group of journalists surrounding her–all women who were inspired by her, was simply beautiful to watch. A real testimony.
Just as wonderful, actress Alfre Woodard hosts an annual gathering for African American actresses in Hollywood. It’s a safe and supportive place where they are free to express their fears, share success stories and celebrate victories. This year Oprah was there and you can bet that her sage insights and wise counsel were the cherry on top! What woman wouldn’t be enriched by such an experience? I think every woman would!
All this takes me back to my very first job and my female mentor. I had been selected for a scholarship/internship during my college years at a company and Ruby was my super smart, well-respected and admired, loving and kind, boss. Her name is fitting because she is truly a ruby (my birthstone, no coincidences in life!). Ruby is a gem. On my first day of the internship, she greeted me with a smile, my very first briefcase (remember those?!) and my very own pager (remember those?! I’m tipping my hand at my age!) In my orientation meeting, Ruby told me that I wouldn’t just make copies, but I’d get to do real work as well! I would go with her to real meetings, have my own work area, phone and responsibilities!
Ruby took me out and taught me how to conduct myself at a business lunch. She took me with her everywhere, and would debrief with me in the car afterwards. Even though I was only seventeen, Ruby introduced me around and ensured that I would be respected and taken seriously.
I was so in awe of her. We became very close, and Ruby followed me all through my college and law school days and was right there crying at my wedding. I love Ruby. Some days I think what my life, especially my work life would have been without her? Ruby gave me the confidence, the boost, the support I didn’t even know that I needed then. Ruby gave me an example to follow. Because of her high rank and level of accomplishment, I knew what was possible for me in my own professional career. Ruby gave me everything; she didn’t have to, but look what happened because she did.
Now I mentor younger women, and it’s something I take great pride in because I know personally the positive impact it can have. Unfortunately I’m also familiar with what can happen when the Ruby’s of the world aren’t around. Sadly, one of my worst professional experiences was at the hands of a high-ranking woman at another job. She made my time at that company miserable. She wanted nothing to do with helping me, or any of the other women that worked there. She was one of two women at the highest level at this firm and she never extended a kind word or gesture or helping hand to any of the women there. In fact, she would cut off your hand if you reached out to her.
It was awful.
I vowed to never do that to another woman. Professionally or personally, I’ve learned that there’s nothing women can’t do when we band together and help each other. We’re powerful. We’re smart. We have the very best ideas. We’re compassionate. We’re insightful. We’re wise. We’re resourceful. We’re strong. We’re resilient. And we need to continue instilling all of these values into our girls and young women, paving the way for them in every single area – from the board room to the playground and everywhere in between. Because “The View” that transpires when we do is simply beautiful!