By Jo Mooy
It was only 1970, but it feels like eons ago. It was a time when men were the “breadwinners” and women were “homemakers.” In those days, graduating from college was rare. Eighty percent of Americans didn’t go to college, and only 8 percent of women had college degrees. I was one of them, entering my first job in the corporate world. I assumed the degree would be my passport on a smooth glide path to a long career. Imagine my shock when a year into it, “He Told Me No.”
“He” was a senior executive at IBM, the corporate face to countless branch and regional offices across the country. These executives arrived with great fanfare, met with selected employees, documented their chats for headquarters, then went on to the next location. It was a plum job for long-term executives who were at the end of their careers and nearing retirement.
I was an anomaly—a woman who was also a new college hire. So, of course, I was paraded out to meet with him. From the beginning, it didn’t go well. He had a notebook with a series of questions. We never got past the first one, which was, “What are your aspirations?” He didn’t like my answer because I wanted to be promoted to a first-line manager. He sputtered and fumed, telling me it was impossible. When I asked him why, he said, “Because you’re married.” I said, “So are you!” The interview catapulted downhill from there.
He informed me that being married and having a baby (my daughter was one year old) meant I’d have to relocate. He asked what would my husband do? “Come with me?” I suggested. He assured me that men did not follow women’s careers; rather, women followed their husbands. He tried to move on, then the conversation diverted to the Vietnam War. When I told him I was going to the March Against the Vietnam War in Washington, D.C., he practically convulsed saying no manager, much less an employee, should be seen at those events. My career was on the brink of being over before it began. I decided to resign.
After the meeting, the branch office manager asked me, “My God, what did you say to the senior executive? I’ve never seen him have such a reaction.” After replaying the conversation the branch manager begged me not to resign. “Go to the march!” he said, which was followed by, “We need you.”
I didn’t resign! And, I went to the march—in fact, many of them over the course of a 30-year career. When He Told Me No, I didn’t understand what was actually happening that day. Eventually I realized I wasn’t just witnessing great changes across established opinions and beliefs, but I was actually part of the transition in consciousness. What was proper to him in the 1950s was being replaced in the 1970s by equality, civil rights, and the new roles of women. These were budding changes in human consciousness that would launch powerful social movements.
I was at the forefront of women on the move in corporate America. Despite the fact that He Told Me No, I did get promoted to a management job a couple years after the interview fiasco. I had to move across the country. My husband followed me. When introduced to 200 people in a Pittsburgh ballroom as “the first female manager in the region” I saw many young women in the audience staring back, smiling and nodding. In that moment I made a vow to never tell them no.
I spent many years in the corporate world witnessing great changes, including a woman who is now CEO of IBM. In those 30 years, I moved seven times. My husband followed me in every move. I eventually ended my career and retired as a third-level manager of managers. I kept my vow by promoting many women managers. Each one was told the story of the time He Told Me No.
Jo Mooy has studied with many spiritual traditions over the past 40 years. The wide diversity of this training allows her to develop spiritual seminars and retreats that explore inspirational concepts, give purpose and guidance to students, and present esoteric teachings in an understandable manner. Along with Patricia Cockerill, she has guided the Women’s Meditation Circle since January 2006 where it has been honored for five years in a row as the “Favorite Meditation” group in Sarasota, FL, by Natural Awakenings Magazine. Teaching and using Sound as a retreat healing practice, Jo was certified as a Sound Healer through Jonathan Goldman’s Sound Healing Association. She writes and publishes a monthly internationally distributed e-newsletter called Spiritual Connections and is a staff writer for Spirit of Maat magazine in Sedona. For more information go to http://www.starsoundings.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.