THE A LIST
There are any number of prominent business women who have paused their careers. Consider Linda Zecher, past CEO and president of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Brenda Barnes, past CEO of Sara Lee.
Linda started her career as a geophysicist. She managed to move into business by taking a job at Bank of America when she and her husband moved from Denver to San Francisco. Soon, she caught the start-up bug and joined PeopleSoft as their ninth employee. Eventually, they went public and Linda retired to spend more time with her family. But after a three-year career break, she was back in the paid work world as a senior vice president at Oracle. A few more major career moves and she was running a company with more than 3,500 employees. Not bad for an “opt-out” mom
List Of Careers Working With Children Photo Gallery
In 1998, when Brenda Barnes was CEO of PepsiCo North America, she decided to take a career break to focus on her three children. Her decision made national headlines and was called a giant step back for women’s advancement. In 2004, she went back to full-time work as COO of Sara Lee; a year later, she became CEO. Brenda followed her own path and emerged at the top of her industry. That certainly isn’t what we’ve been told about pausing, now is it?
Business women aren’t the only ones who’ve taken career breaks. Leading media personalities including Meredith Vieira; actresses such as Michelle Pfeiffer, Annette Bening, and Meg Ryan; and even cultural icons such as singer, songwriter, poet, author, and iconoclast Patti Smith have paused to focus on their families.
Did you know retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was a pauser? She left her law practice for five years to care for her young sons and then returned to launch her public service career. World tennis champion Kim Clijsters paused her career for two years after the birth of her daughter. In 2011, she returned to tennis and won the Australian Open.
The luminous Tory Burch credits her career pause with the inspiration for starting her eponymous fashion company currently valued at $3 billion. After college, Tory worked her way up in the fashion industry and eventually was offered the presidency of Loewe, a Spanish luxury brand, but she turned it down to spend time with her three young sons. During her four-year career break, she realized there was a business opportunity in the fashion market.
As Tory recounted in her 2014 commencement speech on entrepreneurship at Babson College, “It was during that time that I began developing the concept for my company. It all started when I noticed a void in my own closet for beautifully designed, classic pieces that didn’t cost a fortune. It wasn’t just a void in my closet; it turned out to be a white space in the market.”4 The rest, as they say, is herstory.
The list of successful women who have temporarily elected to reframe their priorities to spend time with their families goes on. These women, and the millions of other women like them, aren’t the exceptions. In fact, despite the national narrative about professional women and their career choices, they may be closer to the norm than most of us realize.
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