Outstanding Mother Awards
This year, five notable women were recognized for successfully balancing their careers with the demands of motherhood. Gert Boyle, Mika Brzezinski, Maria Shriver, Trudy Sullivan and Deborah Walters may be very different from each other, but they do share an important commonality: They are all mothers to exceptional children of whom they are very proud.
The 31st annual Outstanding Mother Awards benefit luncheon was held on May 8 in New York City with proceeds from the event benefiting the Save the Children's U.S. Programs. I sat down with three of these accomplished women to ask them about their views on work and motherhood.
Gert Boyle, Chairwoman, Columbia Sportswear Company
Gert Boyle did not set out to be a working mother but the sudden death of her husband at the age of 47 left her no choice. She had three children to support and a growing business to run. And run it she did. She transformed Columbia Sportswear Company from a struggling enterprise into a billion dollar business all while raising three children.
PD: Do you think that going to work made you a better mother to your children?
GB: Yes, because I became stronger. I probably found out things about myself which I would not have had I not been put to the test. If somebody says to you "can you swim a mile?", you say probably say "no, absolutely not." But If somebody dumps you out at sea for a mile, you are going to learn to swim really fast! I think working makes you a much bigger person and you can pass on to your children things that you learned that really help them.
Deborah Walters, Senior Vice President and General Merchandise Manager, Saks Fifth Avenue
Married for twenty years and the mother of daughter Allison, Deborah Walters began her career as a trainee at Marshall Field & Company in Chicago. Through hard work and dedication, she worked her way up and was eventually promoted to buyer for the cosmetics department. In her current role overseeing the cosmetics, fragrances and intimate apparel departments at Saks, she is credited with transforming the retailer into the ultimate authority on beauty and fashion.
PD: Dr. Laura Schlesinger recently was quoted as saying that mothers should always be home when their children are. She said her heart hurts for mothers who work for what they miss and what their children miss. What would you say to a working mom who hears this and feels guilty about their choice?
DW: For me, having a career has been very self-fulfilling and makes me happy and I think you need that balance to also have a great home life. My daughter certainly hasn't been affected by me working but I have tried very hard to make sure that I am there for her always. I think it's great that women stay at home - whatever works for you. I'm happy in my career, I love what I do and I think that kind of spills over into the family life.
Trudy Sullivan, President and CEO of The Talbots, Inc.
With leadership roles at such major retailers as Liz Claiborne and J. Crew on her resume, Trudy Sullivan has the business of fashion in her blood. She currently oversees all aspects of Tablot's business and is on the company's Board of Directors. Married for 35 years, she is the proud mother of two daughters.
PD: What would you say to mothers who are struggling with the decision of whether or not to go to work outside the home?
TS: There's no way to prevent motherhood - women are just built that way. But just like parents share in their children's successes, children share in the success of their parents. It is totally doable, otherwise why would 80% of women be doing it? There would be a much higher rejection factor if it weren't possible. I feel sorry for women who were raised with such a stereotypical notion that they don't allow themselves to pursue a life outside of the home. The world has changed and 80% of women can't be wrong.
These three women come from very different backgrounds and families, but they all credit their own mothers for giving them the freedom to become who they wanted to be. And like you and I, they measure their success in life not just by their professional accomplishments but also by the pride they feel in seeing the people their children have become.
Happy Mother's Day!
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