The Challenges and Successes of Women

Womens magazine photos
The Montage Insurance Solutions team.

To confront or defy boldly the challenges we women face: This is a conversation I have been curious about my entire life. At thirteen, watching women burn their bras in 1968 in New York, as I was beginning to wear one, was impactful. I began a life-long adventure of “why” women feel compelled to confront the norms. Acceptance may be the greatest deterrent to moving forward. It is almost a dichotomy of needing to feel accepted in the “good ole boy’s club,” seeking work-life balance with partners and children and coming into our own as a woman.

My mother worked three jobs to help make ends meet, soI accepted women in the workforce as normal. I listened as she talked with my father over coffee about her challenges. I decided to partner with men, valuing my femineity. As long as I became good at my work, I could do anything. I worked in entertainment for over 17 years, on “Dallas” for 10, leaving the industry to be a stay-at-home mom until my 40s. I started my current career after being inspired by Mary Kay Ash’s book, “You Can Have It All.” She started Mary Kay Cosmetics at 45, helping women. Her company today employs over 1.6 million people. She left poverty to become the first self-made billionairess, living to 103.

I started my career at 40 and my company at 51.

Both grandmothers owned businesses, one a rice farm after Granddaddy passed and the other a car dealership in Shanghai, China. My daughter Breana Kennedy is a partner in TAB Showroom. At 24, I found my life mate, Mark, 40 years strong for us, continually evolving in our partnership and loving grandparenting. Breana has found she, too, is a role model for her children making thoughtful decisions.

I asked women of all ages about their challenges.

Breana wrote, “Owning a business is a huge undertaking. Wow, it is even more rewarding, yet challenging than I thought. As an overachiever, I want to be the best mom, wife, daughter, employer, friend and business partner. The more I add to my plate, the less I can allot to each. I had to learn to give myself grace and forgive myself for not being THE best, but really being MY best in adjusting to the second child, managing the family calendar, feeling overwhelmed occasionally.” She praises her husband, Toby, “for being such a wonderful partner who takes a hands-on approach, never complains, even though we have made huge strides towards equality. Let’s be honest. Not all men see women as equals yet.”

Susie Mellin, HR, says, “my biggest challenge was navigating work/life balance. It’s been exhausting. If women worked and put their kids in daycare or stayed at home and did not work, they were judged. We advocate for women at Montage. I am no longer scared to reach personal milestones. I feel empowered to be all that I can be. I truly can have the family, the job, the happiness.”

Kaisha Trzaska, PR & Marketing, adds “Making sureI am spending quality time with my children and teaching them to be awesome human beings, communicating their feelings. Women are still expected to hold it all together which can be overwhelming.”

Cybel Castro-Sousa mentions postpartum depression, “I constantly felt like I was not doing enough as a full-time mom. Having grace and being kinder to myself has been a huge lesson. My mother is a GREAT mother and role model. Having a traumatic medical experience, she was the beginning of my journey to be more patient and present.”

Kelly Greco’s challenge is “balancing motherhood and maintaining the same quality of work at my job.” As a public defender and mother of a 15-month-old, she misses “time to provide self-care, feeling exhausted at day’s end from work… to cooking, putting the baby to sleep, cleaning. My mother and the generation before me fought for more equal wages and a seat at the decision-making table, choosing between making their career or their families a priority. The number of women in the board room and in top levels of management has increased tenfold. These women in positions of power have had a trickle-down effect making the workplace more understanding for working mothers. Having women in positions of power is the key to our continued progress towards onsite daycares, additional sick/family days … a working mom is her best when she has a good partner.”

Office Manager Crystal Lawrence’s challenge “is being a single mother with full custody. It takes responsibility, dedication, stress, no alone time, but at the same time can be also very rewarding, being able to maintain a roof over our heads, to provide transportation, clothes, food and, by any means necessary, to make the best life for my child.”

My mature friends, like Marlane Jackson and Chaplin Gloria Vives, have the different struggle of outliving partners, causing loneliness. Traveling is harder along with asset management.

Ana Gonzalez, Account Manager, says, “Being a first-gen Mexican American, my mom and her family came here looking fora better life asI reap the benefits, soI can give my future family all I can.”

Malena Orozco-Otero, HR for PUC, in her 40s wants to help 1,000 women. Her gift of mentoring others has provided her with much love and success.

Executive Account Manager Donna Mastalski’s hardest challenge was “balancing my duties asa mom versus my duties as a wife. My husband had a very high-profile, stressful job, traveling a lot for work. He did not spend a lot of time with our son. I was practically a single parent.”

With women at different places in our lives and depending on our age, ages of our children and/or grandchildren, it is evident that we need a network of friends, mentors and/or life coaches as sounding boards to help us be the best we can be – not only for ourselves and our families but for all the future generations to come.

2021 Inspirational Women

–Danone Simpson, Founder and CEO, Montage Insurance Solutions/Founder & Partner, Simpolicy Insurance Solutions