Three Things My Mom Taught Me About Women’s Economic Empowerment

May 28, 2018 marks the 12th anniversary of my mom’s passing. For 86 years, my mother was a force of nature – in the world and in my life. We had our ups-and-downs and more than our fair share of tumult.

Edith McKay

And somehow, when all is said and done, it’s her voice that comes to me in my darkest moments – when I need strength and guidance and hope.

I have chosen to write about her here because of the impact she has had on who I am, what I believe and how I operate in the world – including my dedication to the work I am so passionate about – specifically, Helping Women Leaders Succeed.

I want to share some of the words that come to me when I need her most – words she shared while she was alive and that, as hard as I tried to prevent it from happening, still managed to become baked-in to my DNA:

1. My very first memory: I’m about 3 or 4 years old. My mother is looking me dead in the eye and asks me, “are you listening??” and when I nod my little head that “of course I’m listening – you’re my mother,” commands me to “…always have your OWN checking account; even when you’re married. And keep it a secret.”

Lesson:My mother had a vibrant career, married in her mid-30’s and had children into her mid-40’s. In other words, while her own generation considered her a “freak,” to me she was a pioneer – one of the original feminists. She knew what it meant to be economically empowered and raised us to believe that this was the great equalizer between the sexes. I have dedicated my life’s work to this principle in large part due to what she imparted to me (and PS – I still have my own (secret) checking account).

2. Upon graduating from a really good college and struggling to find a job when most of my peers were going to law or MBA school: “Doesn’t matter what you do – sweep the streets for all I care – it’s a start. As long as you can pay the rent and put food on the table, you’ll be fine – and we’ll love you no matter what. You’re smart – it’ll all work-out – and on your terms. I promise.”

Lesson: My mom believed in me. Even today, I am still learning to believe in myself. I’ve lost count of the all the times I’ve revisited those words when I’m feeling that it really won’t all work-out. They still provide deep comfort and strength when I need them most – and I’m pretty sure she was right.

3. The last thing my mother said to me when she died – and I quote: “Just LIVE! All the rest…is sh**.”

Lesson: Life-changing words – and she knew it. She knew I agonized over so many little things and so, just before she stepped into heaven, she found the strength to share the secret to living a happy life. Her final – and maybe greatest – gift. While I wish I’d known this sooner, her parting words guide me every single day.

I miss you, mom, and am incredibly grateful your spirit and wisdom are alive and well in my heart. Now my very biggest goal is to to continue passing all of this along to my own daughters. In the meantime, I’m guessing I’ll be in touch soon.

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At CEO Vision, we believe women leaders can be great leaders.

If you are a leader who wants better results from your team, we can help. We begin by uncovering your natural leadership strengths and then put them to work so you can inspire, empower and activate your team and get the results you want. For more information on how to get started, I invite you to contact me for a 15-minute complimentary conversation to discuss how to start building a high-performing team today.

Ellyn McKay

For almost 30 years, Ellyn has assisted hundreds of women leaders to transform themselves, their teams and their organizations. She founded CEO Vision in 1997 to ensure that women leaders realize the power and value of their leadership in the workplace, the economy and the world.

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