In January 2002, nine retired women executives of AT&T were brought together by Yvonne Shepard, a former president and COO of AT&T, for the purpose of doing something interesting and challenging that would make a difference in the world. Though they did not all know each other, they had something in common: they were successful businesswomen who had retired early and were wondering what they would do next. While they were uninterested in reentering the corporate world, they weren't ready to spend their days playing golf and bridge, either. They had a wide variety of expertise and talent and lots of time and energy, which they wanted to use to help other women, especially women in transition.
Yvonne relates her impetus for calling the group together: "I was full of ideas of what to do, searching for the one thing that would be unique and wonderful. I had too many ideas. Nothing jelled. No path was clear...And then, on September 11, 2001, the World Trade Center Twin Towers collapsed, and with them the lives and dreams of thousands were buried under mountains of rubble. The uncertainty and frailty of our lives became real for me. No guarantee of time, no guarantee of safety, no guarantee of quality of life. While I knew this before September 11, I was not propelled into taking action." The action she took was to begin calling together a group of women, which she originally named The Brain Trust.
Beyond the Corner Office is a chronicle of how these women came together and found a common purpose, as seen through the eyes of each member. These women were so delighted and fulfilled by their group experience that they created this book in order to share it. They developed group guidelines and a questionnaire to facilitate other women who might want to form similar groups. In the Introduction, they declare, "Since the beginning of time, women have worked together for the good of their communities and for themselves. The act of working together on something interesting and challenging, in a supportive environment, is hard to find in our often frenetic, compartmentalized society. We believe that one of the reasons this group has been so meaningful to us is that it addresses this very fundamental need."
For women who have never facilitated or been a part of this type of group process, this book is a good primer. The women are honest about the problems they encountered and enthusiastic about the rewards of group interaction, though their suggestions are unintentionally skewed toward women like themselves who are well off financially. The guidelines and questionnaire are simple, basic, and easy to follow, and the authors encourage readers to contact them via email or their website and create a dialogue.
Group member Kathy Meier says, "For thirty years my unrelenting focus on financial and professional success suppressed any other desires. Reliving my life and the lives of the other eight women in the group, I realized that I have many more dreams to fulfill. So what is to be my life beyond leisure? In this journey I do know that I will have the support and friendship of eight women with whom I have laughed and cried and who are on their own journeys...I look forward to our adventures together."
This is a book to help other women find fellow travelers with whom they can explore ways to enrich their own lives as well as the lives of others.
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