One is a leader in writing and she created a dynasty of stories that would affect an entire generation’s imagination. How did she do this? Persistence.
One was a leader in a southern state’s congress, a black woman who stood up to be the first of many in a line of powerful women politicians. How did she do this? Persistence.
One is a leader in the arts who faced rejection in a business where looks are valued more than talent. She kept going. How did she do this? Persistence.
One is a leader in the world of business who has faced trials and grief and yet continued to stand up for women in the workplace. How did she do this? Persistence.
“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” J.K Rowling
J.K.Rowling, the famous author of the Harry Potter novels, was a single mother enduring clinical depression when she wrote the first book of the Harry Potter series. She was on welfare and submitted her manuscript to twelve different publishing houses but was rejected by all of them. A year later a small London-based publishing company agreed to publish Harry Potter. Persistence brought us delightful stories that have made many, many people happy.
Barbara Jordan won a seat in the Texas legislature in 1966, becoming the first black woman to do so. She faced negative attitudes and discrimination at first. Her colleagues were not welcoming. But she continued and sought to improve the lives of her constituents by helping pass the state’s first law on minimum wage. Later, she worked to create the Texas Fair Employment. In 1972, eight years after her joining the legislature, her fellow lawmakers voted her in as president pro tempore of the state senate, becoming the first African American woman to hold this post. Persistence gave us a woman who was willing to be ostracized in order to do what was right. She set an example for all women.
In 1975, Dino De Laurentis, producer of the upcoming movie King Kong, sat waiting to watch auditions for the female lead. Meryl Streep, then a little known actress, walked in. The director said to his son in Italian, “Why did you bring me this ugly thing?” Streep knew Italian and was taken aback. She walked out mumbling, “I’m what you got.” Looking back, Meryl wrote, “This was a pivotal moment for me. This one rogue opinion could have derailed my dreams of becoming an actress.”
It didn’t. Streep kept going and is now the most successful actress in America. Persistence gave us many wonderful experiences in the world of movies including The Deer Hunter, Kramer vs. Kramer and The Devil Wore Prada.
“Leadership is not bullying and leadership is not aggression. Leadership is the expectation that you can use your voice for good. That you can make the world a better place.” Sheryl Sandberg
As Chief Operating Office of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg has made a career of persistently leading companies and standing up for women’s rights in the workplace. Some might look at her life and say she is not in touch with the regular woman.
However, in a Forbes article critiquing Sandberg’s book Lean in, Susan Adams writes: “In the book’s opening anecdote, Sandberg describes what a tough time she had while pregnant with her first child. She gained 70 pounds, her feet swelled two shoe sizes and she vomited every day for nine months. I read this and I thought immediately, she gets it.”
Sandberg became the first woman to serve on Facebook’s board in 2012. In the same year she was named one of the most 100 influential people in the world according to Time magazine. Her humility is a part of her determination to fight for other women. “We stand on the shoulders of the women who came before us, women who had to fight for the rights that we now take for granted,” she writes. Persistence gave us a business woman who leads by example and is making strides for other women in business.
If you are a woman in business, be persistent. Women before you have faced obstacles in the workplace and kept going. Do the same and influence the women who will follow you.