Defining Your Own Success: Your Life, Your Way

Published on HuffPost

Over the last couple months, we’ve heard a lot of buzz around and amplified discussions about women on top. Here, I’m talking about women leaders in the tech sector. There are a lot of questions coming out of these discussions, with people asking things like: “Why aren’t there more women on top?” “Why isn’t there more gender equality in today’s workforce?” “What’s the biggest hurdle that women face?” And “How do we women overcome those challenges?” Well, I’ve addressed some of these issues before, and there has been plenty of dialogue on these topics already. There is still more to uncover, though, which is why I would like to explore something new.

My question: In today’s era of “women on top,” is it considered unsuccessful for women to be stay-at-home moms? My answer: most definitely NOT.

Stay with me here — I know what you’re thinking. You probably think that women homemakers are being subjected to some type of backwards role of domesticity, that by being stay-at-home moms women are somehow stopping their progress. But, think about this. The tech business landscape is changing and making room for women, but this has also never really happened before. The shift to “women on top” businesses means that lifestyles of top leaders may also need to shift. My take? Define your own success. Whether you are working and moving up the ladder or raising your child at home — both are equally successful.

Recent articles and posts about this outlook have been swarming around the internet, as well as panel discussions across the country. This was an especially hot topic when Marissa Mayer was recruited as President and CEO of Yahoo. Mayer faced a large challenge in her new position: dealing with the public and employees about her ban on remote work settings. Then, an article popped up about Mayer’s private life, painting her own office-work balance negatively. I was taken aback that banning remote work would have anything to do with Mayer’s private family life, but this has risen as a hotly debated issue. It’s true that the ban may be a large burden on some employees, but this may have happened because of the burden Mayer carries as a woman on top. I think we must be supportive in her decision. Yahoo was on top at some point before it diminished over the years. Now, as Mayer rolls up her sleeves to prove herself in this important role, the world is watching (and watching closely). Do I believe that she is banning all remote settings work? No, I don’t think so. I think she is trying to bring Yahoo back up to the way it used to be, a leading company. For Mayer, success is optimizing the performance of her team in a collaborative way. This is great for Yahoo — but still isn’t the only definition of success women can have.

One of my friends recently decided that she’ll raise her little girl at home. She is a PhD at heart and is very noble in society. After her first child, though, she couldn’t stand the fact that she’d be away from her daughter. Both my friend and her husband made a very tough decision. She decided she would raise her daughter rather than pursue more opportunities in her field. Was it worth it? She is climbing up the ladder of her own family’s success…and she loves every minute of it. To me, that’s a success!

The interesting part about this discussion, whether positive or negative is that we have the tendency to judge and create our own conclusions of what success looks like for others. Why are we so shortsighted about the idea of choice and the freedom to choose our own paths? We don’t necessarily need to get caught up in the rat race. Yes, it’s very noble when a woman decides to stay at home and raise her children. And yes, it is very noble if she decides to reenter the workforce later on. At the end of the day, define your own success and be proud of your own accomplishments for you and your family.

I attended a function where the panel had a specific discussion on whether women are less ambitious than men. Is it true that we are not as aggressive as men? I think there are a lot of factors in all of this. It’s based on each individual personality. Sure, we might be faced with gender inequality at some point, but we shouldn’t be judging ourselves and others by criteria based on gender biases. Too often we get caught up in the idea of men vs. women, but this is too surface level; we must get to the roots of it. After all, success isn’t defined by who is more or less aggressive.

I recently ran into this article. I think the phrase “you are your own worst enemy” really is true because we criticize and judge others without the full story. Here’s an interesting fact about my career: I’ve had around a dozen bosses — half men and women — and some of the women bosses I’ve had have been horrible. Of course, I’ve been blessed to have some great bosses and mentors as well. All of the male bosses that I’ve had were supportive and wanted to see me succeed, yet some of my female bosses were demeaning and unappreciative. Do I dwell upon it? No! I’ve just realized that those bosses were of some personalities and characteristics that I don’t work well with. All of this taught me how to encourage other women aspiring to be leaders. As a result, I’m extremely passionate about building relationships and mentoring others, especially with fellow women. This is my definition of success!

Whether you’re a woman who wants to stay at home or go to work, define your own success so that you can achieve it. It all comes down to choice! You get to choose the path you want to take. Life should, indeed, be greater than just the sum of your choices — it’s the value you get from being successful in your own way.

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