I have a mentor. You may not have heard of her, because even though she founded one of the first retail businesses that focuses solely on women athletes, she rejected the status quo. She took one look at the male-centric sports world and decided that rather than trying to break into the game, she'd create her own game.
She's smart, bold, certain, aggressive, energetic, strong, and is old enough to share important business lessons from the past 4 decades. In other words, you won't read about her in newspapers and magazines because it's easier for them to breathlessly cover the non-threatening girl boss du jour.
As you do with a mentor, I bring her my woes and frustrations. I rail against bias. I shake my fists at injustice. I share stories about corruption and exploitation in the sport. She listens, and sometimes she laughs. In her subtle but still-present Southern accent she says, "Oh Sally... you really should put that down. Why? Why are you fighting so hard?"
I knew I couldn't not fight, but I understood what she meant. Create your own place and space. Not give up, but give out. Grow where there's oxygen, not where there's no light, no air. Don't waste your life energy on an industry designed to keep you and other women down.
I think about that every day. And depending on how sad, mad, excited, inspired, or entertained I am by our corner of the sports world, I wonder if she's right.
Sometimes we argue, but it always feels safe to argue...as though she's daring you to flex unused muscles. And while our opinions may diverge, our values are solidly aligned: women in power is a good thing. Women creating products for women is a good thing. Women succeeding is a good thing. And women helping other women succeed is a very, very good thing.