I decided in January 2003 to return to my day job at the aerospace company I had retired from eight years before. I needed the benefits of a full-time job - lots of stress, strict deadlines, plenty of work to do, and socialization with other people - after our son's death. And right away I realized I had made the perfect decision. I was so busy I had no time for wallowing and grief.
Almost immediately I was assigned to lead major proposal projects - that is, efforts to obtain government contracts for my company - and for the most part we were successful. I also became a mentor to the less experienced people in my department. Many looked upon me as "Mommy."
About a year and a half later one of my colleagues surprised me with her decision to nominate me for our company's Women of Achievement award, given for quality of work, community service, and accomplishments both in and outside of work. One person from each of seven job categories would be eligible to win.
I didn't take the nomination very seriously. I of course was honored that my colleague wanted to nominate me, and that my boss also got into the act, but I didn't believe I had a chance. I hadn't been back in the company long enough. And when I looked at my competition, I felt my qualifications didn't come close to theirs. The morning of the awards ceremony my husband said I shouldn't feel badly if I didn't win, and I assured him I wouldn't give it another thought. Needless to say, he was so confident I wouldn't win, that he didn't attend the ceremony with me.
Of course I attended, and I sat with my competition, as assigned. Once I was there I realized what a big deal this was. The president of the company would present the awards, and every vice president sat in the first row of the auditorium. When my boss took a seat in a row or two in front of me I began to think I had a chance. This was not nothing!
And, then it hit me. The woman at the podium began to read and within seconds I knew she was reading about me. I had won in my job category. My boss turned around and smiled at me, I turned to my seatmates and practically bragged, "that's I she's reading about." And when I was asked to go to the stage to accept my award, I could barely walk I was shaking so much. Needless to say I changed my mind about the seriousness of the award.
In the aftermath, my company, through the Women's Network, asked me to speak and serve on panels to discuss the changing role of women over the years. I had forty years of change to tell them about. This Women of Achievement award was more than kudos for me, it gave me the opportunity to talk to other young women professionals and encourage them to reach for the heights. I first started in the early 1960s when it was almost unheard of for women to get ahead, and still I was able to succeed. Now the young women have an advantage - a glass ceiling we've raised quite a few feet.
Causes Madeline Sharples Supports
Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center, Culver City, CA
Vistamar School, El Segundo, CA
Crossroads School, Santa Monica, CA (Endowment in...