My "Perseverance" Led to My Progress
By Diana Taylor, Managing Director, Wolfensohn & Co., Member of Citi Board of Directors March 20, 2015 12:00 PM
To celebrate International Women’s Day, Diana Taylor, Managing Director, Wolfensohn & Co., Member of Citi Board of Directors, shares her story about the defining characteristic that led to her progress.
To say that I came of age in a man’s world would be an understatement.
My formative years in school and career were replete with men. Two-thirds of my classmates in elementary school through ninth grade were male. I went to Dartmouth College where I was in the second class of women to go all the way through the four years. My freshmen class there counted just 200 women — and 3,000 men. I went on to earn my MBA at the Columbia Business School among a mostly-male student body, then went to work on Wall Street. Again: definitely mostly men.
When I started that first job as an associate at a major firm, a full one-third of incoming associates were female. Meanwhile there were literally zero women in the upper ranks of management.
Of course, this made sense at the time. For the most part, until that point in the early 1980s, the only women on Wall Street were secretaries. These were heady times for those of us starting careers. We young women believed we were headed for the highest ranks! We were already breaking through gender barriers, and we were confident we would break through glass ceilings. Women could do anything men could, it was only a matter of time before would populate the C-suites of the business world. We would rule the world – while also getting married and having families!
Several years later, I was promoted to Senior Vice President and invited to an annual strategy session for our firm. There were about 150 people in the room, and at a break I met the one other woman — in the ladies room. I remember thinking: “What happened to all the other women I started out with?”
There has certainly been some progress made in populating the upper ranks and the boardrooms with qualified, talented women, but also progress with women being given a choice.
I look to my college classmates and fellow female associates with whom I started my career. Many of these brilliant women left their promising careers to devote time to their families and charity work. To succeed in global business requires a huge commitment of time, energy and, you got it, perseverance.
I worked really hard and have had a career that spans both the private and the public sectors. But there need to be more women at the top. So I ask my fellow women to persevere through the challenges of managing their professional careers and family life.
At every stage of my education and career I stayed the course. I persevered despite being a female minority among a majority of males, in historically male-dominated institutions. And even as many of my female peers took other paths, I’m still here.