Stereotypes stink, and few reek worse than the notion that money mastery is a masculine trait. In this case, reality is wildly divergent from perception.
In 2012, women hold top money management positions in government, industry, finance, education and entertainment. The cover story of Time magazine’s March 26 edition explores how women have begun to overtake men as primary breadwinners in the family.
Clearly, financial advice for women now needs to go way beyond “balance your checkbook” and “clip grocery store coupons.” Fortunately, there’s no dearth of financially savvy role models for women looking to take control of their finances. Here are three money-smart women and some lesson’s we’ve learned from them:
Role model: J.K. Rowling, author of the “Harry Potter” series
Financial lesson: Never give up on your dreams.
Born in 1965, Rowling first had the idea for Harry Potter in 1990. It took five years to complete the first book and find a publisher for it. After being rejected by agents and a dozen publishers, the book finally was published by a small London press that gave her an advance of 1500 pounds (roughly $2,300) and told her to keep working as a teacher since children’s books didn’t pay well. At the time, she was a single mother living on public assistance of about $100 a week. Today, the series has sold more than 400 million copies worldwide, making it the best-selling book series in history, and has spawned a hugely popular film franchise.
Role model: Ursula M. Burns, chairperson and CEO of Xerox
Financial lesson: Working your way to the top works.
The daughter of immigrants, Burns was raised by her single mother in a New York City housing project. In 1980, while studying engineering in college, she went to work for Xerox as an intern. She was hired there full-time when she graduated, and over the next 20-plus years steadily rose through the ranks. In 2009, she became Xerox’s CEO – the first African-American woman CEO to head a Fortune 500 company.
Role model: Oprah Winfrey
Financial lesson: Where you started from doesn’t matter as much as what you do on your way to the top.
Born in rural Mississippi to a single, teenage mother, Winfrey grew up in inner-city Milwaukee. After a rough childhood in which she was so poor she often wore dresses made from potato sacks, she landed a job as co-anchor of a local news program in Tennessee. She carved a career for herself in television and in 1986, landed her own talk show. The rest is, as they say, history. Winfrey now has her own satellite TV network, is recognized as one of the most influential women in the world, and is lauded as one of the modern era’s greatest philanthropists.