Reinvent Yourself!

Dare to reinvent yourself!  Here are some role models. 

How many other women over 40, let alone over 50, never attempt something new or frightening because they feel uncomfortable, inferior or otherwise unworthy? Do they just give up, rather than muster up the confidence to dare through their fears?

Being that there were few examples of women leaders to learn from, I set out to do my own study, focusing on strong women over 40 from various walks of life – not just business. I studied women over 40 in the arts, in politics, in nonprofits, in the sciences, and in other fields – seeking as many relevant examples as I could find.

 

Here are a few stellar examples:

 

Juliette Gordon Low, pictured left, who was 52 when she founded Girl Scouts of America.

 

 

 

 

Jean Nidetch, right, founded Weight Watchers, today the world’s most respected weight loss program, when she was 40.

 

 

 

Liz Claiborne, left, was a Seventh Avenue veteran in her late forties when she rightly perceived that the fashion industry was not serving the needs of everyday working women, and thus began and led a valuable fashion empire for decades.

Today, these women, and/or the companies they began, are household names. Not one of them thought of herself as a “super-woman.” Basically, they just saw a need, and dared to meet that need, despite several hardships along the way.

Business school aside, I learned more about leadership from researching these daring role models over 40 – their heartaches, as well as their triumphs – than I had in my entire career. What they, and their 21st century counterparts, can teach millions of women over 40 from all walks of life, is that having conviction, commitment, competence and confidence is not the sole purview of men over 40. Nor are hoodie-clad post-pubescent wunderkinds the only geniuses among us. (Facebook IPO, anyone?) These women were daring at a time when being over 40 meant you were “done.” Necessity may be the mother of invention, but daring are the mothers of reinvention.

All of us over 50 have the opportunity, power and duty, every single day, to become positive role models, whether for our peers or for the younger persons who look up to us. It’s high time we all do our part to mash the myths, slam the stereotypes and blast the biases that a woman over 50 is “over” or on a “short runway,” a bias term that seeps like sewage into the daily parlance of leadership coaches and H.R. executives alike when describing professionals over 40 – of any gender. In the current economic environment, that bias is reprehensible. Assert at every opportunity that you’re nowhere near “done.” And, whatever you do, stare down and prove wrong anyone who calls you a cougar, “toast” or “so frigging old.”

Remember the words of Robert Frost:

Between the woods and frozen lake,
The darkest evening of the year.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
And miles to go before I sleep.

 You have much to do and wonderful miles to go – so reinvent yourself!