Like many mid-life entrepreneurs, I was an unlikely candidate (a women’s studies professor?!) for starting up my own business. Six years later, I gotta say, I am loving the free-agent life. In fact, I coach a number of women who are starting up their own businesses. Management consultant Rashmi Biswas (author of Rash Decisions) recently interviewed me for her series on female entrepreneurs. Here’s our conversation:
At what point in your career did you make the decision to become self-employed?
After 17 years as a women’s studies professor at The University of Texas at Austin, I felt the need to do something fresh, something bigger, something more challenging. I was attracted to the burgeoning field of coaching as a way to extend my women’s studies expertise and my teaching skills. And as a high-autonomy person who would prefer never to sit in another committee meeting, entrepeneurship was very attractive.
Describe the greatest challenges you faced when making the transition.
I was completely unknown outside of academia, where I had spent several decades building an international reputation. I had to start all over again, in a completely foreign domain. I learned how to network!
Which skills did you need to develop in order to become effective in your role as an entrepreneur?
When I began, sales was my biggest challenge. So I engaged a sales coach to develop those skills. Most recently, I’ve expanded my practice online. WomenAdvance.com is an online career accelerator for women, and the learning curve on all things software has been my steepest ever. I mean, ever!
What is the best business book you have ever read?
“Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi.
What does the future hold for your industry?
Online learning/coaching is taking off! WomenAdvance.com expands my reach as a coach, and it’s more affordable for younger women who cannot afford a private coach. It’s a learning platform with which younger women are quite comfortable. And it’s convenient! I think it’s the future.
How do you feel about the current status of women in the workforce?
Women’s progress in the workplace has stalled. Thankfully, we’re no longer insisting that things are better, or equal. Even younger women are recognizing sooner rather than later that power defaults to the men in the room. We have to remain vigilant about leveling the playing field.
When you are featured on the cover of Time magazine, what will be the headline?
“She’s the Woman Behind the Women Who Changed the World.”
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