What made you passionate about creating opportunities for women?
Well, to start with, I’ve always been a willful child! Always had my own opinions and ideas whether others supported them or not. I watched my mother try to fit into the cultural norms of the day, in the 1940’s and ’50’s, being a housewife, raising two children, having tupperware parties, and being very unhappy with it all. I saw my grandmother being independent, strong, and making her own way, supporting herself and many of her siblings over the years. I knew I wanted to be like my grandmother.
Even before I finished my B.A. at Marshall University, I left for a summer to find work and a bigger world than my West Virginia mountain home, to live in New York City. I knew no one but saw women working big jobs, getting an education, making their own way. This impressed me. I was nurtured by strong women I met there. Later, after a divorce, I had to make my own way and I experienced the sexism that was so prevalent in the 60’s and ’70’s and even what goes on today. Yes, I was criticized for things the men were praised for. Yes, I made less than the men I worked with as a peer. Yes, I was told to bring my husband, boyfriend or father with me when I went to buy a car! I was told I couldn’t do things I saw men and a few other women doing and I didn’t like it.
My grandmother had always said “you can do anything you want, as long as you’re willing to work hard.” I met a wonderful woman in NYC who became my mentor, my role model, my “good mother,” as it were. Adele Kaplan also told me I could do whatever I wanted with hard work. She gave me opportunities to prove myself and I began to believe. All these experiences created a voice in the back of my head, a whisper: you can do it! These whispers became louder and louder over time and I began to assert myself and accomplish my goals. I wanted other women to believe the same thing.
I saw women business owners who had the courage to start something but were having difficulty growing their businesses because they were reluctant to put themselves forward, to accept the fact that their business success also depended on their ability to relate to people from a strong, confident position. They had to – we’ve all had to — learn to not be afraid of the cultural norms like: “Don’t get above your raisin’.” or “Women should be ladies (not speak out, not be assertive, etc.)” I wanted to change this unnatural norm for women. I wanted to see women be as much as they wanted to be. It wasn’t easy for me and it’s not easy for many, many women, but there is so much talent and ability, it shouldn’t be hidden under a basket. After all, 51% of us hold up half the world!
Wishing you the best you can be,
Janet Steele Holloway
Founder, Women Leading Kentucky
P.S. I’d love to hear about your experiences and get your thoughts on creating opportunities for women. Leave a comment below!
Janet Holloway is an author, motivational speaker and entrepreneur. After sixteen years in small business development as State Director of both the New Jersey and Kentucky Small Business Development Center Networks, she decided it was time to start her own enterprise. This was the beginning of Women Leading Kentucky, a non-profit that fosters leadership opportunities for women and scholarships for women attending KY colleges/universities.
Janet is an active member of the boards of Athens West Theater and The Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning. In addition to publishing many articles, she has released two memoirs: A Willful Child, and Leaving … Sometimes You Have to Leave.
Janet received her B.A. from Marshall University, an MSW from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and is ABD from Columbia University. She lives in Lexington KY with her rescued Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Sadie.
Featured photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash