One Woman Can and Many Women Will

05-16-2013 7:28 AM

We are in the middle of graduation season – one of the most significant life accomplishments for a young adult. So many students are graduating high school and looking forward to the next phase in life. For some that means heading to college while others begin careers in the military and others may begin working immediately.

I’ve always had an interest in mentoring young women in this life phase. Needless to say, when I was invited to speak by the Graduate Women of MIT at their 3rd annual Empowerment Conference, I jumped at the chance.

It was a thrill to be invited as their keynote speaker but at the same time admittedly I was a bit nervous to speak in front of such accomplished group of students.  And even more concerning – what could I say to help these young women see their potential as future leaders? 

Statistics show that although women are more than 50 percent of our population, we hold less than 25 percent of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) jobs.  Additionally, although plenty of women enter technical fields of study the dropout rate is extremely high as they reach middle management.  In my career, I too personally have experienced that being a woman in male dominated research fields is tough. So what could I say to encourage these women to fight the uphill battle?

This topic of female leadership has been in the news quite a bit lately with Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In.” She really stepped out with “Lean In” and started a dialogue about what is statistically and realistically happening to women in business. Women are still making less than men and not reaching the higher levels. Her advice is that women need to take more responsibility for their own careers. 

I thought who knew better that women could do anything they set their hearts and minds to achieve than Mary Kay Ash?  Well, once I decided to use Mary Kay Ash as an example my presentation came together easily.  After all, it was Mary Kay Ash that taught the importance of taking responsibility for your own career and success.  I spoke with the women about how to take charge of their careers, embrace their uniqueness as a female leader and the importance of being a positive female role model. 

In a recent study by Catalyst, they found that companies with more than one woman on their board of directors were more profitable than companies with only one woman.  Women are more successful when supported by other women. 

Again, didn’t Mary Kay Ash tell us that enriching other women’s lives will make a positive difference in your life, too?  I spoke for about an hour and then spent two hours afterwards fielding questions, everything from how to interview for a job to the best ways to dress to be taken seriously. I came away from the event inspired by their enthusiasm to success.  The future for women looks very bright indeed. One woman can and will!

Pictured below: Dr. Beth Lange with MIT students and staff.


Today’s blog post is from Mary Kay’s Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Beth Lange.