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A woman in a man’s world

A woman in a man’s world

Do you know basketball star Candace Parker?  I like her style.   I think it’s truly special to have a child and to continue to do all things men can do. My coach used to joke, ‘Can you imagine Magic Johnson being out with a baby? Or LeBron missing a season to have a child and then coming back as strong?’” (from an interview with

Candace was influenced by her two brothers.  I grew up hanging out with my two brothers, Tim and Tom.  My early memories are of us building forts, watching cartoons, and rough housing with my dad.  We learned to ride bikes together, went sled riding and dunked each other in the pool.  You could say I was in a man’s world from the cradle.

There did come a day when my brothers were better at something than me.  Dad put up a basketball net on the garage in our driveway.  We started playing ball and I discovered that I could not shoot a basket.  The boys could.  It was a shock to me.  Was I going to be left out – not able to keep up with them? 

Mom came out and sized up the situation.  She sent the boys on an errand and showed me how to shoot a basket.  My life might have turned out differently if Mom would have said, “Karen, come inside and play with your Barbie’s.”  But, that wouldn’t have been my mom.

She showed me how to set my aim by holding the ball high lining it up just above the rim.  Then bring my arms down so the ball was between my legs.  Finally, heave my arms up holding onto the ball to the point that I had aimed for and let the ball fly.  (Ok, Mom was no Candace Parker.)

That wasn’t how my brothers were shooting baskets, but after a few tries – I heard the “swish.”  The ball went right through the net.  The technique Mom taught me worked well enough for me to win more than a few games of P-I-G with my brothers.  (Later, Dad taught me a more socially acceptable approach to shooting baskets.)

I took science and math courses in high school.  My guidance counselor suggested a home economics curriculum.  I ignored her advice.  I went on to major in chemical engineering attaining a Master’s of Science degree.  I worked in the chemical industry in research, manufacturing, and business.  I was the only or first woman in many positions for most of my career. 

From a women who has lived in a man’s world.  I have to admit it was challenging.  You work twice as hard to prove yourself, but in the end you build confidence in your own strengths.  With every challenge I overcame as a woman in a man’s world – I heard the “swish.”  I agree with Candace Parker, succeeding when you are different does have its own reward.

My passion today is to encourage women to aim high in their career – and assure them, as my mother and father did for me, that they can do it.  This has led me to found the Working Parent Café – bringing people together to share experiences and build work/life strategies to be successful and fulfilled.


  1. Tabby Hahn

    Great article Karen, thanks for sharing. Your experiences are as valuable if not more than hearing about Candace’s.

  2. You are truly a woman who hears the “swish” success often these days! Thanks for all you’re doing to encourage us working women.