More Than Money
Issue #19

Women, Money, and Power

Table of Contents

“Women Redefine Success”

Reprinted with permission from Joline Godfrey's Our Wildest Dreams : Women Entrepreneurs Making Money, Having Fun, Doing Good (New York: Harper Business, 1993)

At each of the local dinners I hosted for women entrepreneurs, sometime just before dessert was served and the women were feeling comfortable with one another, I posed this question: "What does success mean to you? How will you know when you have been successful with your business...?"

The women represented a wide range of businesses. Some had owned companies for 10 to 20 years, operating consistently in the black. They were reinvesting in and growing their companies. Some were struggling with the traumas of start-up--too much growth as well as too little growth--some were coping with still being in the red; and others, having sold at least one company, were working on the establishment of new ones.

Only 1 woman out of 50 responded to my question without hesitation, "Success to me is what I want to make of my life, and I want to be rich and famous." She was the only one to answer in that way. Indeed, in another city, at a different table, another woman observed, "My father was very rich and very famous. He was dead at 49 of alcoholism. I don't think my father was a success at all."

The other 48 women offered more complex explanations of their own standards for and definitions of success... No one seemed to believe that if they were worth $1 million or $10 million or even $100 million as (measured by either net worth or business revenues) then the question of success was settled... One entrepreneur from Minnesota explained :

Success means being able to have an ever-increasing sphere of people in my life that I care about and can help. When I was a little successful, I could help myself. As I got more successful I could pay for my children's education... then I was able to provide employees with a higher quality of life, vis-a-vis the paycheck that I could give them and the quality of the work life. Now I am helping other women, mentoring and becoming involved with the community. That's what I consider success-- helping others through my efforts.

By a large majority, the women who attended the dinners rejected the assumption that making money for its own sake is either enough or even defensible. Furthermore, they reject it with a kind of amused indulgence, as though sorry for the poor old dinosaurs still clinging to old definitions of success.

--Joline Godfrey  

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