Source: blog by Jennifer Sirangelo, CEO, National 4-H Council
Thinking about my growth and path to where I am today, I can’t help but feel a sense of duty to encourage girls and young women who aspire to lead. I think we all do. At some point, we’ve all had a woman who inspired us, and in turn, we should all want to be an inspiration to someone else. I believe in women helping women.
As I began my journey into my career, I encountered people who already had a perceived notion of who I was. On the outside, they saw a young, outgoing young woman from the Midwest. They automatically assumed they knew who I was and what my capabilities were.
I was underestimated. Maybe you can relate. You may have people around you who doubt your ability to succeed. They may assume the outcomes of your success (or lack thereof) based on where you’re from, how you look, or how old you are. It’s so important to never let others’ assumptions about you alter your path to success – however you define it.
I was fortunate enough to have women in my life who instilled in me the values, confidence, and drive I needed to become the leader I am today. No matter where others thought I should be or what I should do, these women believed in me and my abilities.
My greatest champions were my grandmothers. As women who both grew up in an era where opportunities to have a career were limited, they inspired me to follow my dreams and not to be afraid to step outside of the box of what was considered ‘normal.’
I also saw the female pastor of my childhood church breaking barriers. It wasn’t until later in life that I realized how powerful it was to see a woman from my faith community in a leadership role. She empowered me to aspire beyond the expected norms and gave me my purpose – to help others.
At the most significant period of growth in my career, I had the opportunity to work for a female CEO, which proved to be a gamechanger. I watched her build the organization’s brand, fundraising, and board and her success set the tone for where I envisioned my path to leadership could take me.
Today, I continually remember the women who inspired me. I encourage you to take a close look at the women around you. Recognize the game changers, the barrier breakers, and the sideline cheerleaders that you have in your corner. Learn from them, feel their support, and let their example light the path to your success story. I know yours (or your story) will be a great one.