They’ll Take Care of Me
There is truth in the old adage: Trust in God, but row away from the rocks. We can’t afford to be naïve. As women, we need to keep our eye on our own welfare and not depend on corporations or spouses to take care of us. Too many of us still believe that a handsome prince is going to ride in on a white horse and take care of us just like in the fairy tales. In today’s world, however, the prince takes off in search of himself and the horse runs off with another woman, leaving us alone to fend for ourselves.
As Gerry Laybourne, co-founder of the Oxygen Network and Oprah Winfrey’s former business partner, told us: “It’s your life, and you have to be responsible for all of it. It’s not your husband’s or lover’s or partner’s or best friend’s or company’s life. You have to own it and live it.”
Jan Yanehiro trusted that the television station she had worked for (and made millions of dollars for) would take care of her after the show she had created was canceled. After all, she had racked up an impressive set of ratings and three Emmys over a fifteen-year run with the beloved daily television program she had created that came into the homes and hearts of millions of Americans.
In a matter of days, however, her contract with the network dropped from $200,000 per year to $26,000.
Nancy Pedot, former CEO of a major retail conglomerate, had a similar experience. Nancy was instrumental in taking her company from start-up to initial public offering in four short years. She appeared on the cover of Business Week and was a darling of Wall Street. In fact, Nancy was a rare breed: a female CEO of a publicly traded company—at the time, one of only three in the nation.
Nancy decided that her next goal was to spend more time with her teenage son. He would soon be on his way to college, and Nancy did not want to miss his remaining years at home. She submitted her resignation to the board of directors, trusting that those in charge would tell the truth about why she was leaving.
Without her permission or knowledge, the news of Nancy’s departure was released in a manner that suggested she had been fired. Although Nancy was not sure of the rationale behind the decision, it did protect the stock from dropping, because, of course, Wall Street would never believe that a woman would leave a CEO position in order to spend more time with her family.
Nancy awoke to a barrage of television commentary and newspaper articles with stories of her dismissal. Imagine her surprise! Friends, former colleagues, and executives phoned Nancy and spoke as if tragedy had struck. When she attempted to tell the truth—that she had chosen to step down and had not been fired—only her closest friends believed her. Nancy had trusted that things would be handled in a respectful and ethical way. But the media told a different story altogether.
Never Make Assumptions
Margaret Loesch is a five-time Emmy winner who built the Fox Kids Network from a start-up to the number-one children’s television service in the country. Prior to her tenure at Fox, she had been president and CEO of Marvel Productions and Hanna-Barbera Productions, where she supervised the development of more than thirty television series. Michealene came to know Margaret through her former boss. “I always respected and admired who she was,” she notes. “The one thing about Margaret that always stood out was her integrity.”
When asked about this, Margaret said: “I’ve always tried to do the right thing. The truer you are to yourself, the less conflicted you will be in life. In my experience, many women are loyal and competent and often optimistic. While most people appreciate integrity and honesty, however, it’s not necessarily what is rewarded in business, so we have to be brave and we have to take care of each other and ourselves.
“Every major mistake in my life has come from my making an assumption,” Margaret claims. “The most career-impacting assumption I’ve made has been to believe that I would be taken care of. Never make assumptions. Today when I speak to women, I pass on this hard-learned wisdom: Don’t assume someone will be there to take care of your interests. If they are there for you, that’s a wonderful gift. But if not, you must be prepared. You must be responsible for yourself.”
Do you see yourself in Jan’s or Nancy’s or Margaret’s stories? If so, simply consider it a naïve mistake, learn the lesson, and move on, as both Jan and Nancy have. There is no value in wallowing in what was done to you, no matter how unfair or undeserved it may have been. Resolve right now that you will move on.
Please know that many smart women have succumbed to the mistaken notion that they would be “taken care of.” Take a few minutes to think through these questions before you answer them in your WIT Kit journal:
- Who do you believe is responsible for you?
- Do you own every aspect of your life?
- What nitty-gritty details have you left in the hands of others?
Then, write three things you will do to become more self-sufficient and less dependent on others.