In 2012, I profiled the BOMs (Business Owner Moms), a group of inspiring entrepreneurs who meet monthly to support each other as they work in careers intentionally created to allow them to integrate their personal and professional goals. BOM-er Julie Ligon, a mother of three, left her marketing position at The Gap to open one of the first franchise studios of the Dailey Method, an exercise program Kriste Michelini left her lucrative job in sales at Intuit and eventually became an award-winning and highly sought-after interior designer. Jennifer Chaney left her job in magazine publishing to become an in-demand portrait photographer.
The BOMs had each taken career pauses and then launched second careers in which they were making as much money, if not more, than they had previously in their big corporate jobs. By making the choice they did, these women didn’t break any glass ceilings, but they haven’t faced financial ruin, and their talents certainly aren’t being wasted. Most important, they each told me they have no regrets.
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In 2014, I wrote about the tech industry and exciting entrepreneurs such as Mary Page Platerink, CEO of First Aid Shot Therapy. She left a vibrant career at Coca-Cola to care for her children and then raised $3.3 million in venture capital funding for her clinical beverage company. I also profiled Umaimah Mendhro, a rising star at West, one of Silicon Valley’s most highly regarded tech innovation agencies. After an extended maternity leave, she managed to raise more than $1 million in angel funding and launch her online shopping company, Vida. These women and so many others I know in Silicon Valley worked, paused, and thrived.
But perhaps they, too, were the exception. So I began reaching out to friends and friends of friends and even to complete strangers who were willing to share their stories. In all, I interviewed 186
women and, as I expected, their experiences debunked the notion you can’t pull back for a period of time and then, eventually, successfully power forward in your career.26 They proved it isn’t easy to go your own way, but it certainly can be done.
While my research and reporting validated what I had personally experienced, I still craved more data. Rather than anecdotal, qualitative evidence, I wanted contemporary quantitative research on women’s careers to prove what I was seeing and hearing. I was surprised to learn there wasn’t any.