LinkedIn | This Ain’t No Stinkin’ Mid-life Crisis

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Mid-Life Crisis.

The phrase typically conjures up new hairstyles, fast cars, tennis pros, a new job or younger spouse, possibly collateral damage, broken dreams and dead ends. Mid-life can be a crisis, it can also be an opportunity. The fiction is that forty is past your prime. The fact is it can be the beginning of your most productive era.

Three years ago, Christina Vuleta had just quit her job to start her own consulting firm, and discovered an energy and thirst for reinvention among the over 40 crowd. Christina wanted to create a 40 over 40 list as an antidote to all of the 30 Under 30 lists, a list that would highlight the significant achievements and momentum of women over 40. She and I became acquainted through The, a community of women involved in technology, media and entrepreneurship. When she told me about her idea, I'll confess I was hoping to be an Over 40 honoree, but when she invited me to create the 40 over 40 list, it was too exciting to pass up. As both of us looked around, we didn't see women opting out and chucking their dreams, we saw women, including ourselves, getting scrappy and creating new dreams.

Two years and thousands of nominations later, we are in awe of the women who earned their spot on this list — some of whom you’ve heard of, many of whom you haven’t. What they all have in common is that they have more ahead of them than behind them. We are thrilled at the opportunity to inspire these 40-plus individuals to persist despite age stereotypes, while motivating women in their 20s and 30s to see new possibilities by placing a spotlight on the 40+ set’s achievements.

Contrary to popular opinion, the future does not belong only to the young. It is in all of our hands to create it. We aren’t out to out-do the 30 under 30 and 40 under 40 movers and shakers, we just think it's time to recognize the ‘over’ half who are also transforming the world. This year’s 40 honorees range in age from their 40s to 70s.

Take that midlife crisis.

We worked with a panel of advisors and judges, which included many of last year’s honorees as well as an external panel from the tech, entrepreneurial, media and corporate world. Each judge reviewed the candidates based on a set of criteria that places value not only accomplishments but also forward movement and impact:

  • Impact: Are they creating growth or making in impact in their field of work, community and beyond?
  • Role Model: Is this person a positive role model, through mentoring, leading by example, innovating around work/ life issues or promoting women for leadership, whether in business, board rooms, building diverse communities?
  • Momentum: Does this person have more in front of them than behind them? Are they taking on new challenges and harnessing the power of their experiences?

The list features women such as:

Karen Carter, one of the highest-ranking women at the Dow Chemical Company. In 2013, she was the only woman with a P/L on the global leadership team for Dow’s $15 billion packaging and plastics business. Per the woman who nominated her, “Karen has been a role model and mentor to many female and minority employees. She has been my mentor for 10 years.”

It includes entrepreneurs such Erin McKean, a lexicographer (dictionary editor) by training who made her way to Silicon Valley by way of a 2007 TED talk that described how the English language is far too big for any paper dictionary to hold. A wife, mother and author who has written about fashion, Erin is now the founder of Reverb Technologies, a content discovery reader.

Mauria Finley, founder of the rapidly growing startup Citrus Lane, brought the subscription business model to the parenting / baby market, …delivering curated “best of” products suited to a child’s developmental stage and product preferences to new parents overwhelmed by choices.

There are activists, philanthropists and musicians. Farah Mohamed is the founder and CEO of G(irls)20 who works to change how prime ministers and presidents thinking by convening girls from throughout the world to speak with world leaders.

As Director of the Vodafone Americas Foundation, June Sugiyama is the mastermind behind the Vodafone Wireless Innovation Project that seeks to identify and fund the best innovations using wireless related technology to address critical social issues around the world.

Hilary Weeks, a singer/songwriter, whose most recent album charted in the top 10 Contemporary Christian Charts. After learning that the average person thinks 300 negative thoughts per day, she launched a, to promote positive thinking.

And there are women applying their change-making passion to a completely new area such as Sallie Krawcheck, once known as the “most powerful women on Wall Street” with former executive roles at Bank of America and Citigroup. Krawcheck recently acquired 85 Broads, a women’s networking organization now known as Ellevate, and has launched the Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund, the first and only mutual fund in the United States that focuses on investing in companies that are global leaders in advancing women.

The full list of winners can be found at 40 Women To Watch Over 40.

Over the past two years, the list has quickly found support across generations and genders. A fair number of nominations were made by men. And we were delighted to see both young and women were eager to be involved. 20-somethingsMolly Ford, a blogger and digital marketer, and Pooja Parthasarathy, a financial analyst, both joined the organizing committee to gain access to more varied mentors in their own lives and the desire to champion women in all stages of their career. And, 50-something Patti Finn Bumgardner came on-board to get inspiration to re-up her own career after ramping off as a mom.

Similarly, the external judging panel included a high caliber, diverse mix of both men and women:

  • Adam Grant, Wharton Professor, author, NY Times Bestseller, Give & Take
  • Binta Niambi Brown, lawyer, startup advisor, human rights advocate, Davos Young Global Leader
  • Courtney Boyd-Myers, Founder,
  • John Gerzema, NY Times Bestseller, The Athena Doctrine, Social Strategist
  • Justin Stanwix, Director, Friends of eBay
  • Vanu Bose, CEO/Founder of Vanu, Inc

Now, you be the judge!

Who of the 2014 honorees inspires you?
Who would you recommend be nominated in 2015? Possibly yourself?
Is 40 a time of crisis, or the opportunity of your life?

Photo credit: Jurriaan Vogel / Flickr


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