So why write Think and Grow Rich for Women?
The rules of success are the same for everyone. Why mess with the brilliance of Napoleon Hill’s original book, Think and Grow Rich? Why write something special just for women?
These questions, and many more, are sure to be asked. In fact, for most of my career, I have felt the same way. I originally read Think and Grow Rich when I was nineteen and have read it many times during my career, and it has had a huge, positive impact on my life.
My parents taught me that I could be anyone or do anything I wanted as long as I worked hard and focused on my goals. They had worked hard all their lives and were fabulous role models. It wasn’t until I started my career, all alone in a different city, that reality started to set in. It was in the late 1970s and I was one of only a few women in my field. I quickly learned that I definitely had to work harder than my male counterparts if I wanted to get ahead. So I did.
No one said it would be easy—and it wasn’t. No one said it would be a smooth ride—and it hasn’t been. But the resilience and lessons I learned from facing and surviving the tough times were essential contributors to my success today.
Now, more than thirty-five years later, I continue to be amazed by the stories of the incredible businesswomen I meet and how they too, in the face of the glass ceiling or sexual bias, found ways to forge ahead. Many of them had read and followed the teachings of Think and Grow Rich and created great success in their lives, but they have gone even further. They have each taken their success in stride and continued on to open new paths for the women who follow them, evolving their lives of success into lives of significance.
Think and Grow Rich for Women is a celebration of these women and every woman who has succeeded in spite of the obstacles she has encountered—women who have changed history, created great business success, and provided great opportunities for others.
In addition, there have been some incredible economic developments that have brought greater attention to successful women, and in doing so, have revealed that while the rules may be the same, women approach those rules differently, and they apply them differently than men do. While there is still much progress to be made, there has been a “quiet revolution” as women have gained momentum in every aspect of life. The following statistics showing the increasing power of women are the most recent available at the time of this writing.
IN THE ECONOMY
These financial statistics prove, without a doubt, that women have tremendous power and influence globally. Can you imagine what would happen if women came together and used their economic power to create positive change?
• 60 percent of all personal wealth in the United States is held by women.
• 85 percent of all consumer purchases in the United States are made by women.
• Women over the age of fifty have a combined net worth of $19 trillion.
• Two-thirds of consumer wealth in the United States will belong to women in the next decade.
• $7 trillion is spent by women in the United States in consumer and business spending.
• Globally, women are responsible for $20 trillion in spending, and that number is expected to rise to $28 trillion by the end of 2014.
• Globally, women stand to inherit 70 percent of the $41 trillion in intergenerational wealth transfer expected over the next forty years.
The United States Department of Education estimated that in 2013
• 61.6 percent of all associate degrees;
• 56.7 percent of all bachelor’s degrees;
• 59.9 percent of all master’s degrees;
• 51.6 percent of all doctorate degrees.
In summary, in 2013, 140 women graduated with a college degree at some level for every hundred men.
IN THE CORPORATE WORLD
While tremendous progress has been made in the lower ranks of management, there is still a great need for women to advance to the higher levels of leadership in corporations, which is evidence that the glass ceiling still needs to be shattered:
• There are twenty-three, or 4.6 percent, women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.8
• Women hold 16.9 percent of board seats in the United States, as compared to 40.9 percent in Norway, and 6 percent in Asia.
o It is important to note that Norway passed a law in 2003 requiring companies to appoint women to 40 percent of board posts.11
o A study of companies in the MSCI AC World index, which is an index designed to measure the equity market performance of developed markets in twenty-four countries, found that companies with a gender-diverse board outperformed those with only men by 26 percent over six years.
• Women hold 14.6 percent of executive officer positions.
o According to a report by Catalyst titled “The Bottom Line: Corporate Performance and Women’s Representation on Boards,” Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of women board directors attained significantly higher financial performance, on average, than those with the lowest representation of women board directors. In addition, the report highlights that boards with three or more women directors show notably stronger-than-average performance. It shared three key measurements:
◊ Return on Equity: On average, companies with the highest percentages of women board directors outperformed those with the least by 53 percent.
◊ Return on Sales: On average, companies with the highest percentages of women board directors outperformed those with the least by 42 percent.
◊ Return on Invested Capital: On average, companies with the highest percentages of women board directors outperformed those with the least by 66 percent.
While the overall statistics are still disturbing, when you dig into the detail, a positive trend emerges:
• Women are paid an average of 77 cents for every dollar men make. In 1970, it was 59 cents.
• While the 77 cents statistic has remained constant over the last few years, a total of sixteen states report that their women are earning 80 cents or more for every dollar men make.
• When you exclude self-employed and workers who work only part of the year, in 2012 women earned 80.9 percent as much as men.
And a review by age group shows significant improvement for younger women. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
PAY EQUITY BY AGE
Age Groups Women’s Percentage of Men’s Earnings
• 20–24 93.2 percent
• 25–34 92.3 percent
• 35–44 78.5 percent
• 45–54 76.0 percent
• 55–64 75.1 percent
• 65+ 80.9 percent
• Globally, men’s median full-time earnings were 17.6 percent higher than women’s in developing countries. The biggest gender wage gap was in Korea and Japan.
• Globally, according to a Deloitte study, women’s earning power is growing faster than men’s in developing countries. Their earned incomes have increased by 8.1 percent, compared with 5.8 percent for men.
IN BUSINESS OWNERSHIP
More and more women are shunning the corporate world in favor of entrepreneurship, thereby circumventing the impact of the glass ceiling altogether. The “State of Women-Owned Businesses Report” for 2013 (commissioned by American Express OPEN) reveals:
• Between 1997 and 2013, the number of women-owned firms has grown at one and a half times the national average;
• The number of women-owned and equally owned firms is nearly 13.6 million and they:
• generate more than $2.7 trillion in revenues;
• employ nearly 15.9 million people;
• represent 46 percent of U.S. firms and contribute 13 percent of total employment and 8 percent of firm revenues.
More women are entering politics than ever before. The following statistics, however, show there is still a far way to go to reach parity with male political leaders.
•There are thirty-two female leaders in countries or self-ruling territories.
In the United States, women hold:
• 20 percent of seats in the U.S. Senate;
• 17.9 percent of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives;
• 23.4 percent of state-level elective offices.
As women realize their economic power and start leveraging it, these statistics will continue to improve. In addressing this global shift at the World Economic Forum, the International Monetary Fund’s managing director, Christine Lagarde, talked about the power of what she termed “inclusive growth.” She stated, “The evidence is clear, as is the message: when women do better, economies do better.”
While I look at these statistics and applaud the progress women have made, and are making, I realize that there are many other women who still react to them with anger. Is there still progress to be made? Of course there is! Certainly, the fact that the glass ceiling is still holding down the number of women in the top executive positions and corporate boardrooms, as well as the fact that there is still a formidable pay gap between men and women, both continue to challenge women striving to excel in the corporate world.
But instead of focusing on the negatives, let’s acknowledge the positive accomplishments of women leaders in business, both as corporate leaders and entrepreneurs, in politics and education today, and let’s celebrate these women. Celebrate them for their courage, their success, and their leadership. Then let’s come together as women to provide mentoring to younger women and tell them that they can be anyone, or do anything they want, as long as they work hard and focus on their goals. Women must help other women to succeed.
Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg triggered a media blitz when she called for women to “lean in” and pursue their careers aggressively. In her book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, released in 2013, she encouraged women to adopt traditionally “male” characteristics like working long hours, taking credit for performance, and being outspoken.
Many of her critics pushed back, saying she was an elitist and out of touch with middle-class working women who cannot afford expensive nannies, while others criticized her for focusing on internal issues that women face, rather than the external issues of equal pay and opportunity and condemning current male-dominated corporate executive suites and boardrooms for not inviting more women to join their ranks.
Both positions have valid issues; instead of criticizing each other, it is time to join forces for the betterment of all women.
Some of Sheryl’s comments about the women, their struggles, and how to overcome them rang very true for me and I would like to share them:
Throughout my life, I was told over and over about inequalities in the workplace and how hard it would be to have a career and a family. I rarely heard anything about the ways I might hold myself back.
Don’t put on the brakes. Accelerate. Keep your foot on the gas pedal. When more people [women] get in the race, more records will be broken. More female leadership will lead to fairer treatment for all women.
As I read her book, I saw Sheryl sharing her own successful career path as a woman, and the decisions that she made along the way, in the hope that it would provide inspiration to other women. One of her strongest messages is that women are taught that they need to limit their drive for power, which in turn limits their own ambitions and as a result often sabotages their careers.
I believe many, if not most, women do face self-confidence issues. While one woman may not be able to change the law regarding equal pay and opportunity, every woman can change her own internal dialogue about her ability to be successful. Think and Grow Rich for Women focuses on how women today can shed the chains of old thinking and old paradigms, and confidently create a life of success and significance.
I would highlight the fact that what helped successful women succeed in the past may not be the right advice for women seeking success in the future. While I agree that women need to face their own internal struggles, often about work/life balance, I believe that rather than telling women to be more like men, we should highlight the benefits found in female leadership that may be better suited for today’s business environment.
As women have increased their numbers and influence in the workforce over the last decade, the business world as a whole has also been changing. We have moved from the Industrial Age into the Information Age, and there has been a spiritual change in the way business is done. The Industrial Age was one where competition was king. The competitive environment created a win-lose or dog-eat-dog philosophy in business dealings.
Today I see a very different business environment: one built on collaboration, strategic partnerships and alliances, and joint ventures; one that nurtures a win-win philosophy; and one where the parties will seek and find ways to leverage each other’s strengths for the benefit of the ultimate consumer. This collaborative, cooperative environment is one where women do and will thrive.
Given the change in women’s global influence and the change in the way business is done, I believe we are at a true tipping point for women. For years, women have told me they want a guide that is relevant to them, written by women who have created success in their own lives. I have studied successful women of the past, interviewed successful women of today, and analyzed Think and Grow Rich and its thirteen steps to success for women through the eyes and experience of these successful women. I have to admit I resisted writing a book for women for many years. But now is definitely the right time for Think and Grow Rich for Women.
The book addresses the issues women face today with real-life advice on how to overcome obstacles and seize opportunities—from family issues, to job advancement, to business ownership. For years, women have been taught that they should be able to have it all. They should be able to choose to work full-time or part-time, or work from home while still getting married, having children, and managing a household. But there were no rules or guidebooks on how to have it all—and keep your sanity in the process.
Think and Grow Rich for Women debunks the work/life balance guilt trip that women struggle with. I personally believe the word “balance” was created by a group of old male psychologists who saw the rise of women in the workplace and wanted to make sure they had a steady stream of female patients—women tormented with guilt and frustration with their inability to achieve the psychologists’ definition of “balance.”
In fact, I can’t remember a time when a man has complained to me about work/life balance. Can you?
By the end of the book, my hope is that you will find your voice and that you will realize you have tremendous power and tremendous opportunity to create the life you choose. The most powerful word is “choice.” You can replace the guilt from feeling out of balance with the power to make different choices. You can replace the goal of seeking work/life balance with the goal to seek one big life filled with love, family, satisfaction, success, and significance.
All that said, this is not a male-bashing book by any means. Although Napoleon Hill is the only man quoted in the body of the book, he is not the only man who has influenced my life for the better. Nevertheless, I wanted to focus exclusively on women as the sources for the book, and found it to be an unexpectedly huge task to find quotes by women for the subjects covered in each chapter—proof positive that we need this information and that we need to support one another as women of success and significance.
In the afterword, however, I invited some of the men I consider to be champions for women to share their thoughts on the importance of the messages found in Think and Grow Rich for Women.
Hill’s original work, Think and Grow Rich, was written based on his interviews with more than five hundred of the most successful men of his time, as well as thousands of people who considered themselves failures. For Think and Grow Rich for Women, I invited many women to share their expertise with my own, in the desire to create a similar compilation of success for women. So, just as Think and Grow Rich was a compilation of success wisdom derived from many successful men, Think and Grow Rich for Women provides a compilation of wisdom derived from many successful women.
The book follows the same chapter outline as that of the original Think and Grow Rich. Each chapter begins with a contemporary review of the teachings of Napoleon Hill. The chapter review is followed by the personal stories of women thought leaders who have employed the lessons of that chapter to achieve success in their lives. Then I share how I have employed Napoleon Hill’s lessons in my own life and the wonderful discoveries I have made along the way.
I include in each chapter a Sisterhood Mastermind. Napoleon Hill introduced the power of the Mastermind as an integral and necessary step to achieving success. So the Sisterhood Mastermind for each chapter shares a group of quotes from incredible women who further highlight the importance of the messages and lessons of that chapter. Think of every woman in the book as available for your personal Mastermind.
To wrap up each chapter I have added an Ask Yourself section. In order for us to achieve success, we must take action. This section takes the messages and lessons of the chapter and asks you to apply them to your own life. Use a personal journal to help you record your thoughts as you read how each of Hill’s original steps to success is presented through the eyes of successful women. Think and Grow Rich for Women was truly written for you. You can find downloadable PDFs to assist you in the Ask Yourself section and additional resources at www.sharonlechter.com/women. This section will help you more quickly identify areas where you can ignite and accelerate your own path to creating the life you wish to achieve.
May you be blessed with success!