Mary Kay Ash once said, “Courage is the art of doing what we fear to do and doing it well, no matter how difficult we think it might be.” If it weren’t for our founder’s courage to blaze a new trail for women 55 years ago, her venture may have never led to what is now one of the greatest success stories of all time.
After experiencing inequality in the workplace, Mary Kay Ash set out to create more opportunities for women by building a company that empowered women and put them in control of their future. She did this with her life’s savings of $5,000, the support of her family and one very important quality – courage.
Before I joined Mary Kay Inc. as Chief Scientific Officer, I read The Mary Kay Way: Timeless Principles for America’s Greatest Woman Entrepreneur. Throughout the book, Mary Kay Ash’s courage resonated with me -- she stepped into unchartered territories all the time and her journey had endless courageous moments. As a scientist, courage is at the core of what we do. You must be courageous to challenge the norm, embark in the unknown and take criticism. Throughout time, science has tended to be a male-dominated field. So, simply being a woman in the scientific community can be intimidating at times. If I’ve learned anything – it’s that it takes courage to work against the norm in both science and business!
My career thus far has been a lesson in courage. After graduate school, I worked in academia and left to go into business. In the beginning, people were often confused about why I would want to pursue science outside of academic research as it was seen as the best opportunity for women in science. Yet I sought a wide range of opportunities – from academic research, teaching at collegiate institutions, internships in crime labs, to research in consumer goods companies – and gained invaluable experience along the way. I moved my entire family, including my young children and dog, to Singapore to explore global opportunities for both professional and personal growth. Everyone handles challenges differently but for me, I saw this as an incredible experience and a way to learn and grow further. Upon joining Mary Kay Inc., my family moved once again – this time to North Texas and home of Mary Kay’s world headquarters. When we look back on our lives, it’s often one courageous decision after another that propels us to the next chapter in our life story.
As I continue to lead Mary Kay Inc.’s Research and Development organization, I strive to instill courage in others. To pursue courageous leadership means knowing when to lead, when to follow and having balance of the two. One of my favorite Mary Kay quotes is -- “Success is largely a matter of stumbling forward. We fail forward to success.” I love this because it applies to science, as it often takes multiple tries to find the expected results, but without the courage to try – we will never know success!