Denita Willoughby, 46, of Los Angeles went around the glass ceiling, put her family first and still became the CEO. Read how the Los Angeles-based mom with two sons ages 12 and 16, proved that she could have it all.
by Denita Willoughby
as told to Julie Weingarden Dubin
In March I became chief executive officer of WikiLoan, a small technology company. The Wiki Group, a new and publicly-traded technology company has enormous opportunities for growth. (WikiPay allows you to send and receive money via text messages and over the internet.) One of my mentors suggested me for the CEO position.
I work hard and I’m not shy about sharing my goals. I have an incredibly supportive husband, family, friends and a great network of mentors and coaches. I shared my career plans with my boss, mentors, and coaches and asked for their advice on how to get there. There were times when I asked for a job that wasn’t available but when it became available, my name surfaced. I put my own name on the radar screen.
When I was in college I aspired to be a chief executive officer of a Fortune 500 company. At the same time, I always knew I’d be a mother. I grew up in a wonderful, loving family and I always wanted my own family. Hanging out with my husband and kids and creating memories together brings me my greatest joy.
Since I was little I believed that women could have it all. I watched my mom and other women balance work and careers. I knew early on I’d have to plan and juggle. No one said it would be easy but I knew it could be done.
The career path for women is very different than for men – especially if you are a mom. I bumped into the glass ceiling when I worked for a Fortune 10 company because they said to move to the top I’d have to relocate. I couldn’t move – my husband has his own law practice in Los Angeles and my kids love their schools. I love living in LA! I said I wouldn’t relocate. I put my family first and because I was clear on my priorities, the glass ceiling signaled the need for me to chart my own course. I definitely felt scared leaving a big job with a big company but there were more important things guiding my decision making.
Women need to support each other. Until we recruit, retain and promote more women, the outcomes won’t change. We need to develop, coach and train other women for leadership roles. We also need to educate men about the need for a more diverse workplace.
I’m hoping women can help each other and that’s why I shared about my career journey in the book, Life Moments for Women, written by Maureen Ford and Patty DeDominic.
It’s difficult being a working mom. The demands are nonstop. Planning as much as I can in advance has always helped me. There are never enough hours in the day. My biggest challenge is getting home to help with homework. Some days it’s just impossible. I got frustrated when the kids were little but I didn’t have perfection as my goal. I just tried to do my best. I also reached out for help and asked my grandmother to come live with us. If I had to work late or travel, I always knew my kids were in great hands.
I want my children to know that they’re loved. I want them to be thoughtful, caring people and to value hard work and education. I hope they know that our family is my number one priority and that I work hard to provide a happy home for them. I also want them to know that a woman can run a business and serve Dad breakfast in bed (at least occasionally)!
Moving to a small technology company wasn’t part of my original vision. Life teaches you that there will be twists and turns. The key is to embrace change and make the necessary adjustments, all while staying true to yourself and your priorities.
I always tell myself that there will be good days and bad days. Appreciate the good days and when a bad day shows up, greet it as if it was expected and get through it.
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