WDYDWYD?Why do you do what you do?
My dad called me “princess,” and he began teaching me about the business when I was eight years old. He had founded one of the original U.S. distributorships for imported automobiles – in Detroit: "If we can make it here, we can make it anywhere."
To me, he said, "I don’t want you to follow in my footsteps; I want you to stand on my shoulders."
As the first woman to manage an engagement at McKinsey & Company, I demonstrated that a woman could develop client relationships, as well as bring clarity to their problems. But partnership presented a different hurdle. A consultant to the firm characterized it this way: "Electing a woman partner requires changing the concept of not only what a partner is but also what a woman is."
Hello, "glass ceiling" (a term that hadn’t been coined yet)!
I realized that I had to "move on" to "move up." I became the first woman to manage a profit center at Citibank and then the first woman to serve on the executive committee and board of directors of a Wall Street firm. I stepped in as CEO to lead my father’s company out of the 1980s recession, enabling him to spend his last years at home. I now advise early stage companies and help them achieve their "firsts."
To today’s women leaders: Don’t beat yourself up because you can’t obliterate the glass ceiling; it will take a few more generations. Stay focused on deploying your unique talents where you can make the biggest difference – and know that paving the way IS a meaningful legacy.
— Mary Falvey
Photography by Ahmet Aydogan
San Francisco, CA
Independent Management Consultant; Falvey Autos, Inc.; Shaklee Corporation; Blyth Eastman Dillon; Citibank; McKinsey & Co., Inc.
Tony Deifell (MBA 2002) created WDYDWYD?, a social media meme of people answering the simple question, “why do you do what you do?” by combining an image and text. To honor the 50th anniversary of women students at HBS, the Women’s Student Association Alumni Team (Annie Wheeler, MBA 2013; Danielle Slutzky, MBA 2013; and Tara Hagan, MBA 2014) partnered with Tony and asked alumnae to answer the question, “why do you do what you do?”
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