We’ve made great strides in the workplace—and we’re still forging ahead

I have always been a strong supporter of women leaders. Growing up, I was inspired by my mother, who was leading the way in business and was on the forefront for women’s rights and opportunities.

I grew up with ERA bumper stickers on our cars and picket signs in our yard. While attending all-women schools, I was taught that women can do anything. I remember feeling very disappointed as I learned that the opportunities for women were more limited than I had once believed.

This was during the ’60s and ’70s, and even into the ’80s. There were few, if any, team sports opportunities for women, and beauty was the top measurement for women’s value in the world. I went on to attend Mills College in Oakland, California, and studied a new subject called women’s studies.

At Mills, we read Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying, in which a woman struggles to define what she wants her life to look like and compels that image into becoming a reality. We also read the works of Betty Friedan, whose book, The Feminine Mystique, is often credited with sparking the second wave of American feminism in the 20th century. I graduated with great enthusiasm, feeling that I could take over the world.

There were plenty of other things to be excited about: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination based on gender; the National Organization for Women (NOW) was created, with Friedan as the national president; and the Equal Rights Amendment was passed by Congress.

in-line banner

Welcome to the Work World

Soon, my zealousness was squashed, however. While interviewing for jobs, many times the main question I was asked was, “How fast can you type?” I refused to be pigeon-holed, and then found sales to be an avenue where the playing field was a bit more open than in many other jobs. I do remember not being taken as seriously as my male counterparts and seeing women use sex to get ahead.

As I grew in my career, there seemed to be only two options. One was I could be a pseudo-man, literally; most women were sporting what we called the Dianne Feinstein look, with bow ties, padded shoulders and long skirts. You put your feet on the desk to show you were a player, and kept up on sports to have something to talk about at the water cooler. Or you could sport girly ways, including passive-aggressive behavior and petty measurements.

Neither seemed appealing to me. There were very few women at the top when I started my career, and therefore, not many mentors. When I became a publisher at the age of 30, I found that I was very much on my own and fought hard to have my authority taken seriously.

Also, just a few generations ago, women were forced to choose between career and family. Now that I have a 6-year-old son, I understand the gravity of the choices many women still have to make between the two, and I know that from any woman’s perspective, family and children will always win. It’s very fortunate that today, more companies are making it possible for women to excel in the work world and have a family.

Exciting New Offerings

Nowadays, it is a different world, and fortunately, women have come a long way in business. It is exciting to see women starting companies, and working as doctors and lawyers—yet most Fortune 500 companies are still led by men. We have a ways to go.

With my passion for supporting women and my dream for us to get ahead, we have embarked on two new offerings for women at Smart Meetings. The first is this issue honoring Smart Women.

We have Arianna Huffington on our cover. She’s a true inspiration to me, and I am so happy to share her story. It’s also exciting to feature 25 women who are making a mark with their leadership. They were chosen from a group of 200 women who were nominated by their peers.

The second new offering is our Smart Woman Conference, which will debut June 24–25 at Trump National Doral Miami, preceding Smart Meetings East National June 26–28 at the same property. We are offering this conference for women, and it will include sessions on leadership as well as health and wellness, and provide a hands-on opportunity for women to hone their skills to forge ahead in whichever ways they choose. This will be a ground-breaking opportunity, one that I am personally very passionate about.

I am thrilled about what lies ahead for women. We have so much to offer the world, and we at Smart Meetings are honored to lead the way.

Marin Bright is CEO and founder of Bright Business Media, LLC, which publishes Smart Meetings magazine. She was honored during Folio’s 2015 Top Women in Media Awards as a corporate visionary. Her monthly leadership column appears online and in print.

Further Reading
Special Report: Women Rising Up