Step Up: What it Means to Be a Professional Woman
Do you identify with the word ‘professional’? If you work in a large corporation, a small family company, or are an entrepreneur, the likelihood is that you would say ‘yes.’
But what if you left your big corporate job to have a family and are now staying home with the kids?
As the CEO of Step Up Women’s Network, it is my personal and professional mission to connect you to the professional women you need and the underserved teen girls who need you.
I talk to many women who stumble over the word ‘professional’ and wonder if it still applies to them. Most are hung up on the fact that they no longer work outside the home.
They talk to me about the big career they used to have and speak of their current role as ‘stay-at-home Mom’ almost apologetically.
As a proud professional, I have trouble understanding this. Why would you all of a sudden lose your identity as a professional if you choose to stay home and raise children?
Have you lost your professional skill set? Am I no longer a lawyer because I decided to give up the practice of law?
My guess is that you use your professional skill set in one form or another to manage your life on a daily basis.
The sense I have from talking to so many women is that, because they no longer have the external trappings of the job, they no longer feel justified in claiming an identity as a professional.
From where I work, I say that if you once proudly considered yourself a professional woman, then by all means continue to own that as part of your identity.
Perhaps a more empowering way to look at it is to ask a different set of questions:
• Do you feel you would be a good mentor to a young person?
• Do you face challenges and make choices that others can learn from?
• Do you find yourself utilizing skills and experiences for the benefit of your family?
• What about your choice to leave the corporate world to have a family – can others learn from your experiences?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, not only would I consider you a ‘professional,’ but I’d also love to speak with you about joining us as a mentor in Step Up!
As we tell our Step Up teen girls, your choices and actions in life define you, not your circumstances.
Stop selling yourself short. You could be missing out on the opportunity to build a personal and professional network for yourself and perhaps more importantly, the opportunity to mentor a girl who desperately needs you.
Jenni Luke is chief executive officer of Step Up Women's Network, a nonprofit, professional membership organization based in Los Angeles. In this role, she leads one of the most sought-after women's groups in the country in its second decade of service. Jenni came to Step Up Women’s Network from within the nonprofit sector, having served as the director of development for The Alliance for Children's Rights and most recently, the ACLU of Southern California. She began her career in law and focused on social justice issues. Jenni holds a Juris Doctor from the University of Colorado School of Law and a BA from UC San Diego. She currently sits on the advisory board for the Conference on Girls' Education, set for February 2012 in Washington D.C.