Interviews with purpose-driven leaders who are dedicated to helping others and making a positive impact in the world.
September 26, 2022
Barbara Brooks | SecondActWomen
TELL US, WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU DO?
My name is Barbara Brooks and I’m the founder and CEO of SecondActWomen. Our mission, and frankly our vision, is to eradicate gendered ageism. We aspire that women over 40 are lifted up, admired, valued, hired, and helped in this time of middle-essence rather than be put down, pushed aside, and forgotten. We connect women by providing them with high-level personal and professional development workshops led by experts in their fields who are also women over 40 and 50. It’s really to help spur the growth of their business transition into new careers, encore careers, and get hired. It’s also a safe space for women over 40 and 50 to talk about the things that we go through: the good, the bad, and the better.
HOW DID YOU GET HERE?
I am a corporate leftover. My life has been spent in mall marketing, radio, and TV. I came from corporate America as a director of marketing and business development for shopping centers all across the United States. I dipped into radio and TV as well as sales, and ultimately back into the shopping center world. In 2011 I left my career with Park Meadows Retail Resort to launch my marketing and public relations company.
WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR? WHY IS THIS WORK IMPORTANT TO YOU?
I stand for equality and fairness. I stand for ownership of who I am. I stand for equity for women over 40 and 50. I stand for the value that we bring to our careers. My mission at SecondActWomen, alongside my co-founder Guadalupe Hirt, is standing up for women over 40 and 50, particularly Gen X women who have been pushed aside. I stand for our confidence, our equality, our equity, our experience, and the value that we bring to our jobs, our businesses, and everything in between. I stand for the modern Gen X women of today.
WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
At SecondActWomen, we help women in their careers through education, events, workshops, and retreats. We also do that for small business owners, really helping women take a hold of their second act. We’re making sure they have a community to back them as they launch their company, and connecting them with the resources and tools they need to grow. We’re also making an impact in the modern workplace. For instance, we are partners with Western Union, where we’ll be doing some speaking engagements. We’ve launched a job board in beta form on SecondActWomen.com to ensure women in the workplace aren’t experiencing impostor syndrome, and they’re owning their own personal brand or understanding their skill sets. That includes soft skills, which are innate in women over 40, and hard skills that they’re gaining on the job to make them valuable players and help them grow up the ladder. The impact that we’re having is twofold. We’ve had women who have successfully transitioned and created encore careers after 20 years in other industries. Thanks to the community that we have built, women are supporting them and connecting them with those tools and assets.
WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO DO THIS WORK?
The person I truly look up to is my mom. My mother has always worked. My mom has a fierceness, a tenacity, and a willingness to always learn something new and lead by example. She never let life or where she was in her career get her down. She always persevered, and she is resilient as all get out. I get a lot of that, as well as my community work, through my mom.
The other person is Ann Walters-Pope. When I started my first corporate job at the Citadel Mall in Colorado Springs, Ann Walters-Pope was the person I looked up to. When I did an internship for two years there I knew that was the industry I was going to pursue and I was going to mimic her career. She was well-respected, smart, educated, driven, bilingual, and a Black woman. I looked to her and really modeled my career after her. I knew I wanted to be a respected, award-winning marketing director and I wanted to be known for being good at what I do, much like her.
WHAT’S YOUR VISION, YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
Eradicate ageism across the board, although that may not happen in my lifetime at a proud 55 years young. My corporate vision and my internal vision are to continually push for equity and equality for women over 40 and 50. A lot of what I like to do is work with women themselves. My business partner is the same, but she’s also learning about policies, things that I can see our company taking note of once we have our own footing in our community. It’s really to make sure that ageism is a part of the inclusion paradigm. Of those corporations that have a DEI initiative, sadly only 8% have age as an “-ism.” This is the only “-ism” that can be joked about in birthday cards and on TV shows. It’s an “-ism” that women and men will all encounter at a certain point in their lives.
WHAT CHALLENGES ARE YOU FACING?
I would like for big brands to actually take us seriously. (My co-founder) Guadelupe Hirt and I talk about “look-ism,” and part of our vision and mission is to work with these brands. Dove and Target are two brands that seem to already get it. I can see that they have people who look like me, with a little bit of gray, 55 years old, and Black. With Dove, our body sizes are represented and our ages are represented. I would like to partner with other companies to advocate for women in their 40s and 50s and show they understand their value and worth. We hope that they will let go of the brand-ism that is happening in today’s world and include more women and men of all ages.
WHAT’S ONE THING YOU WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR CAUSE AND/OR THE WORK YOU’RE DOING?
You can do anything you want at any age. That is not a cliche. You can switch careers, you can start a successful company. I want people to understand that when they put their minds to it, they absolutely can make it happen. As I like to say, “I am growing up at 55 and I’m discovering if I say ‘Yes’ to something instead of ‘Can I?’ or ‘Should I?,’ I can do it. To go along with that, you’ve got to find the right people. It’s such a cliche, but you’ve got to surround yourself with the right people. If your family or friends say you can’t, then find someone else who will support you and lift you up. I’ve divorced friends in the last 10 to 15 years who were not good for my psyche, who were not good for my mental health. I also live with depression. I understand the dynamics of taking care of yourself. We are a work in progress, and women don’t expire. #WomenDon’tExpire. I put this company’s idea on the shelf for far too long, and I thought it was the idea that had expired. I thought I had expired. But that’s not the case. Women do not have an expiration date. Neither do men.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE QUOTE OR WORDS OF INSPIRATION TO SHARE?
Wake up, dress up, show up, and never give up. I wear a bracelet that says “Never give up.” It’s a good reminder on those days when it’s not all rainbows and unicorns in the world of entrepreneurship.
HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
We have an annual membership program, both IRL and virtual, for those who are looking to grow themselves in business, in life, in middle-essence, or needing tools, resources, and the community. The membership includes live events for women over 40 and 50 focused on career and small businesses. Go to SecondActWomen.com and learn about them. Join us for some of our breakfast club events every month, and get to know us by joining our Facebook group @SecondActWomen 40 & 50+ Women’s Group.
At Orapin, we believe those who are working for the greater good should be known, supported, and celebrated. We give purpose-driven organizations that want to do PR the strategy, resources, and support they need to get started so they can increase awareness and maximize their impact. If would like to be featured in INSPIRED IMPACT™, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.