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I’m Thankful for Sports and Women in Sports

November 19, 2018

Monday Motivation, wisdom, inspiration for women in sports, female athletes, businesswomen, women entrepreneurs

Today is not only our Women in Sports blog day but the Monday of Thanksgiving week. As I sat in the clear crystal blue sky on my pool deck this morning (which is covered with snow), I was thankful to be able to meditate on the blessings in my life that involve sports and women in sports.

There is no conceivable way I would love sports, adventure, fitness and the outdoors as much as I do without my parents as role models. Thanks to them I learned how to ski and swim by the age of five and sail and waterski by the age of ten. Life was about everything good outdoors – fresh air, speed going down the hill and perfect snowplows to stop, sailing and tipping over, running in the neighborhood and biking five miles to my grandmother’s house. Who needs a ride over in a car when you can bike it? Speeding down ski hills gave me fearlessness of heights and strength in taking risks. Sailing showed me how to catch the wind just right or be patient when it died down sometimes leaving me to tack back and forth to get back to the dock.

Life with sports meant ski trips to Gore Mountain, Stowe Vermont and Whiteface Mountain, New York. Cross country skiing meant skiing on deep woods trails surrounded by nature and animals. Biking was not only a means of transportation but a way to feel the breeze in my hair and sun on my face while giving me control to get somewhere else. A simple game of ‘kick the can’ meant enjoying the thrill of running and winning a fun game with neighbors. No wonder I’m thankful for growing up with physical education and coaches as parents.

As I entered my forties my love of sports remained but led me to enjoying being competitive at the same time. A couple 5K races turned into training for the Boston Marathon in 2017 after meeting the one and only Kathrine Switzer. Racing alone on American soil turned into racing with International women in a marathon relay race over English meadows, crooked streams and up grassy hills thanks to 261 Fearless. If I never took risks in trying to do more in running, I would not have met the most amazing women or seen the finest vistas and new horizons.

Now as I prepare to shine a light on women in sports and inequality for women in sports for 2020, I am grateful to women who have opened up their stories with me so I can share it with other women. Whether it has been meeting Billie Jean King or writing about blind paralympic tandem bike racer Shawn Cheshire, women in sports have so much to share and teach us. They face many inequalities as women in the workplace and community. I hope my excitement for sports and sharing amazing stories of females in sports will increase the enthusiasm for other women to get more involved with sports and support female athletes.

After you eat your large Thanksgiving meal and wish there was a way to exercise off the meal, think about how important it is to have fitness and sports to help you do that! Be grateful and join our Women’s Athletic Network in 2019 to connect with like minded women and learn stories of amazing female athletes you haven’t heard before.


Thanks Michelle Obama for “Becoming” – A Gift to Women

November 16, 2018

Inspiration, Wisdom and Honesty for Women and Females Today

When I picked up the book “Becoming” by Michelle Obama, it was the title that grabbed me. Don’t get me wrong I have admired Michelle for many years since she came on the nation’s stage. I love her strength, intellect, humor, role model as a mother and her general goodness. I listen to podcasts with her and think how much I would love to hear her in person or to meet her one day. She is a shining example of what a great woman looks and acts like. I am excited to get to know her better in her memoir.

Today as I stepped out into the foot of snow in my lawn in Syracuse, New York I said to my husband, “I think I am a snowman (really a snowwoman) if you put me in this setting with my bald head, button nose and two eyes which look like coal. All I’m missing is the cob corn pipe!” Somehow I find acceptance and joy in laughing at myself in this drastic alopecia condition having lived 53 years with dark, brown flowing hair, long eyelashes and perfectly designed eyebrows that never needed tweezing. I also miss the periodic waxing of my mustache handed down in my Italian genes. I don’t even have that beauty to stare at anymore. All the hair is gone – gone like the warm summer breezes and leafy trees leaving Central New York with a bald, snow covered canopy of white fluff.

Every time I look in the mirror I wonder what ‘I’m becoming.’ I can’t quite tell yet. I’m morphing before my own eyes….and the eyes of the world as I step into the light talking about my condition. Yesterday when a local NFL player named Tim Green disclosed his ALS diagnosis, I hurt for him knowing his diagnosis is so much serious than mine and how he will go through his own transformation and ‘becoming’ with this disease. I also reminisced about the beautiful female Paralympics athletes I saw rolling across the stage at the Women’s Sports Foundation Gala in October. How brilliant they looked, in beautiful gowns with gorgeous smiles in wheelchairs, on the glitzy stage being recognized for their stellar contribution in sports. I am sure they contemplated how they would “become” after their accidents; as I’m sure our American military heroes and heroines feel after losing limbs in war.

Ten years ago after losing 75% of my hair to alopecia and struggling with its loss, I went to my trusted therapist in tears after a doctor told me I’d be completely bald in a month. My counselor said to me, “Tracy, don’t you realize you lose your looks as you age and you won’t have control over your body at some point?” I never thought of it. Who does?

But there is truth to the fact, we age every moment from birth, every hour, every day and every year. We can try to stay as health as possible through eating right, exercising, choosing a career we love, loving the people in our life and cherishing every moment we have on earth; but we can’t stop genetics or fate my friends. ‘Becoming’ is accepting all that we are and what life has given us….or what we make of life.

‘What we make of life’ is what ‘Becoming’ is in my mind. We become what we want to become. We grow, develop and transform into what we desire, focus on or choose to do. My head might be colder this winter but my spirit is brighter knowing I’m accepting ‘becoming’ into a new space within my extraordinary life. Becoming means a blessing to me now. Thank you Michelle Obama for helping me see that.

Thursday Thoughts: Let Wit and Compassion Lead The Way

November 15, 2018

Inspiration for women, women entrepreneurs, businesswomen and women in sports

I thank my father for my sense of wit. My sister Bre’ has it too. It must be one of those really cool genes passed down from generation to generation for the good of humankind. As easily as it is to write inspirational posts, I can easily drop a witty comment making most people laugh at the drop of a dime. I didn’t realize I needed my sense of humor this morning.

As I entered Cosco to pick up some items for Thanksgiving, I didn’t have my membership card so I proceeded to the front desk for a temporary one. I was dressed in my Boston Marathon jacket and New York Yankees dark blue baseball cap and jeans. I suppose I looked quite sporty but that’s how I like it since I’ve lost all my hair, eyebrows and eyelashes to Alopecia. I just don’t like wearing wigs even though when I see myself in one, I think I look pretty good again.

The front desk lady asked me for my license to confirm my membership, as she handed it back to me she said, “How did you lose it?” to which I replied, “I lost it all to alopecia see how long and lovely my hair is in this photo?” She said, “No, I meant your membership card. How did you lose your membership card?” I chuckled and told her my husband says to me all the time,”Everything revolves around your hair or lack of it!”

After shopping, I approached the checkout register where the woman working it said, “Hello sir, how are you today?” I looked at her stunned and with my quite female voice said, “I’m fine” as she looked at me again realizing her mistake.

It was the first time someone has mistaken me for a man and it took me back. I know menopause hasn’t been especially kind to my once slender, and now round, Italian body and alopecia has stripped my female identity from me and now to the public. After she realized her mistake, she was overly generous with compliments. I didn’t blame her. I get it. I chose to wear my dark blue sporty outfit and not my traditional pink hats and shirts. Maybe the comment was due to me for being so pro-female in business, sports and life for so long.

Just as people can misjudge someone based on their looks quickly or ask a question without thinking, it is just as easy for people to be kind and empathetic to strangers. When I think back on my morning trip, there were also unexpected smiles, pleasant interactions and nice conversations with other strangers. In the end it is not the negative things we should hold onto that happen to us, but rather the unexpected positive ones. Let wit, compassion and light lead our way today and every day this holiday season.

How to Pivot in Business to Be More Successful

November 14, 2018

Wednesday Wisdom and Inspiration for Women Entrepreneurs and Businesswomen

Sanibel Island, Florida photograph by Tracy C. Higginbotham

One week ago, I was on the beautiful island of Sanibel on Florida’s southwest coast. Traditionally a November birthday in New York means never waking up to sunshine, 80 degrees and palm trees swaying in the winds. The days have been more like today with barren tree limbs, snow covering the ground and 30 degrees at best. I was fortunate my husband and son had an extra week of vacation time to spend somewhere and I was asked to go.

As my birthday arrived, my guys asked me what I wanted to do to celebrate my day. Being the adventurous soul I am, I told them I wanted to para-sail high in the crystal blue sky above the warm waves in the sunshine. With hesitations written all over their faces, I soon realized they were afraid of heights. I tried for an hour to convince them we’d be safe if we went. About an hour later, I realized the plan would have to change if I wanted to include them in my fun.

After fifty three years on earth and twenty three years running a business, I know for sure you don’t always get what you want when you want it. Patience, opportunity and understanding are traits we embrace from the time we are born and when we give birth to our companies. Nothing works on our desired timing alone. We must compromise, adjust and re-route ourselves if desired outcomes aren’t occurring. Basically we must pivot.

I learned of the word “pivot” in basketball when instructed to keep one foot on the ground without lifting it, but turning my body in the other direction to make something happen. Pivot is a perfect action for women entrepreneurs. When we don’t get what we ask for, we have to pivot to make something still happen but typically by going in another direction. We aren’t giving up our game, but shifting the route.

Today’s Wednesday Wisdom is to remember if you cannot get what you desire in business today or this year to ask yourself what can you do to pivot in a new direction with your feet still planted in your mission? To pivot you must stay grounded but turn another way to produce new or better results. If you are stuck ask yourself, “What do I want and will pivoting help me achieve what I’ve been waiting for?” Remember your ‘foot’ aka ‘mission’ stays in place but you rotate or move in a new direction.

On my birthday, I pivoted from going parasailing to sea fishing and caught a couple big ones to prove to myself and the three guys on the boat that women are adventuresome and willing to change course. I can tell you one thing, I am so glad I pivoted.

Monday Motivation – Sports is a Gift for Women on Vacation

November 12, 2018

Inspiration and wisdom for women, women entrepreneurs and women in sports

As we drove up and down the bridges of the quaint Causeway Islands to arrive at our destiny of Sanibel Island, the moist humid warm air hit my face. I saw boaters, bikers and fisherwomen on the small dots of land with tranquil palm trees swaying in the breeze. Even though this was our vacation, I was excited to be outside and enjoy fitness and sports in the warm sunny air. I was not there to only lie on colorful beach towels or sit under a sun-shielding umbrella but to get out and live it up participating in exercise and sports.

The bike shop is always out first stop so I could rent a pink bicycle for the week to get up early and bike parts of the island if my husband and son are sleeping. I usually run every morning but switched up my routine biking on vacation since flat roads and palm tree canopy give me the perfect biking path. Even on vacation, I wanted a pink bike to remind me of the benefits of being a woman entrepreneur on vacation peddling in the sunshine. The bike came with a basket and bell to ring as I passed walkers. I delighted in racing my husband and son to the lighthouse on our “feminine bikes” proving girls could outlast boys on an island bike race.

Our new condo unit came complete with two tennis courts and a pickle ball court – a much shorter and boxier platform to play a similar tennis style sport. We choose tennis one morning to the delight of an older couple who were playing a serious game. Our lofty lobs, with a need to have the ball bounce twice and not once, didn’t impress them any but we had fun. My running legs felt the difference playing a short run game sport the next day and my arms and shoulders actually had a workout compared to their typical robotic running style workout. I credit Quinn Gleason, an up and coming female tennis player I interviewed for my “Women in Sports” project, getting me out on the court that day.

Since I was on the swim team in junior high and high school, the lapping ocean called to my swimming spirit. The salt water was a perfect 80 degrees and buoyed me in the swallow waves. My son and husband invited me to a Frisbee game in the water. I attempted to play but realized my soul just wanted to swim and dance in the waves instead. Sometimes the soul speaks and we must listen. With my new bald head from alopecia bobbing up and down in the water as I swam, I’m sure a few beach spectators thought I was a buoy loose from its mooring.

My 54th birthday came in the middle of the week and I wanted to do something really new and adventurous so I asked my guys if they would go Para-sailing with me. Little did I know both of them are afraid of heights ending my high-flying birthday dream so instead we chartered a fishing boat and fished for four hours. I told the captain I wanted to catch a 54 pound tarpon for my 54th birthday and all three of the men laughed at the thought. I said to them, “If I had female friends on the boat, they wouldn’t laugh at me. They would believe I could do it!” I never landed the big one but did hook three fish giving me another fun sporting day.

At the end of every blessed day, we walked down the beach a couple miles to view the sunset and give our legs one more workout before another day in paradise came to its end. There is nothing better than walking in the golden arms of the sun to a sky painted in soft hues of purple, orange and yellow in a Monet style. Our spirits and body enjoyed one last exercise walking in the sun kissed rays looking at the changing colors of the sky and picking up beautiful seashells to take home.

Today’s account is really a Monday Motivation for all women to seek out and participate in familiar and new sports, fitness or exercise to brighten their lives. Living in Upstate New York means, we don’t have 365 days to enjoy the outdoors like they do in Florida, but don’t let cooler air, cloudier skies and brisk winds keep you locked up all fall and winter; get out there and enjoy the sports you love or try something new. If you go on vacation to get away from the cold, remember fitness and sports can be the best gift you give yourself on your vacation.

Wednesday Wisdom: “No More As Is”

October 31, 2018

Inspiration and wisdom for women entrepreneurs, female business owners, female athletes, women

“No more as is. Change the world” was on a green card in a special inspirational calendar a woman entrepreneur gave me a few months ago. Every day is a different quote with different meanings. I suppose it is similar to each weekly Wednesday Wisdom. As today’s quote glared at me, as if I had to answer it, I said to myself, “Gosh, I always live in a space of ‘change the world’ so what does it mean especially for me today?”

As I contemplated the card again, the words “No More As Is” came to the forefront. Hmmm….there are some “No More As Is” for me right now. I bet it’s the same for most women reading today’s wisdom. If you contemplate your life or business using the words “No More As Is” what comes to mind? Could it mean no more excuses when it comes to making sales calls or not another day goes by without revising your business plan? Does it mean less work and more time for personal relationships or vice versa. There are a thousand “No More As Is” in our lives; but today why does it make you pause when you hear these four words?

For some of the feminist women in our organization and community it might mean, “No More As Is” by not showing up at the polls or deciding to volunteer for a female candidate running for office or standing up to pass an important law. For the women in sports in our organization it might suggest, “No More As Is” training for the next race or settling for small goals or committing to a healthier diet. We all get to a point when we know “enough is enough” aka “No More As Is!”

The change you make today might not be something to literally change the global world; but it might be the most important thing you do for yourself that feels like you have changed the world for the better. Why not try?

Today’s Wednesday Wisdom should inspire you to list that one thing that needs to be changed and then ask yourself these questions: What will it take to change what I know needs to change and refuse to recess back into the old habit or circumstance? Who do I need by my side to help me or don’t I need anyone because I can do it myself? What is the date or time I want this action to begin and end?

If you have more than one thing you want to change, list them in a journal or on paper next to your computer where you see it every day.

Commit right now to what that “No More As Is” is for you. If it ends up changing you as much as you think, it might just change the world too.

Testifying On Behalf of Women For Equal Pay

October 30, 2018

Inspiration and wisdom for women voting, females in business, businesswomen, women entrepreneurs

One week from today, women will be at the ballot boxes casting their votes for representatives to support our outlooks and pleas for equality on all fronts – especially pay equality. It is a subject near and dear to my heart. If you are just finding out about this passion of mine, find out why I implore you to read this entire blog post and part of my testimony to advocate for closing the gender pay gap.

On July 13, 2017, I faced a long skirted table for the New York State Labor Commissioner and 9 others to listen to Syracuse community members state their case for why the government should pass a pay equality law to benefit women. With photographers in the corners and a small table in front of the long table for each person testifying, I walked up with my pink glasses in my hand, comments on index cards and sat down at the small table. I sat down and said into the microphone, “I am putting on my pink glasses because this is how I see women’s equality or inequality. As I testify, I want you to hear me as well as see me in these pink framed glasses to understand my passion in the gender pay gap issue.”

I began….

“Thank you to State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon for inviting me to testify on the Gender Pay Gap in New York State. This has been a subject near and dear to my heart for 22 years.

My name is Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham, the Founder and President of Women TIES, LLC, which stands for Women Together Inspiring Entrepreneurial Success, founded on March 3, 2005, during women’s history month. For the past 12 years, Women TIES has specialized in promoting, publicizing and uniting New York State women entrepreneurs and their companies online and in person in order to cultivate strong economic relationships to advance their companies, and help eradicate pay inequality. Yes, you heard it right “help eradicate pay inequality” is literally part of my company’s mission statement.

Ever since becoming a woman entrepreneur 22 years ago with my first company I have surrounded myself with other women business owners and know this niche very well, so well I have received many awards including “Women in Business Champion” awards from the USA Syracuse Business District – one in 2005 and another in 2011. I do not tell you this to boost but to have you understand my deep and unwavering commitment to help women entrepreneurs succeed.

In fact, my personal mission statement for 22 years has been to help women become more financially successful by encouraging them to put their money in the hands, pocket books and bank accounts of other women first and foremost to increase their individual revenue and assist this generation of women and the ones to follow to have a more financially successful future.

The main reason behind my unique “feministic” approach to business lies in the pay inequality issue that has plagued women for centuries and continues today. Women do not earn the same as men in Corporate America or for Woman Owned Companies and the government has not done enough to equal the playing field for women by passing an equal pay bill to ensure women, who make up 52% of our population, receive fair salaries compared to men.

Women similar to me choose entrepreneurship as a career for five main reasons based on many articles I have read on this subject online. You can look and read for yourself. I brought each of you copies of a couple articles.

According to the readings, my own experience and speaking with thousands of women entrepreneurs the past two decades, women become entrepreneurs because they

1. Want to be challenged
2. Desire independence
3. Want a flexible work schedule
4. Yearn to Balance work and life duties
5. AND Expectation for higher earnings

Women may find success in the first 4 reasons but not in the fifth one of higher earnings because:

1. Women set their expectations and salaries against the benchmark of salaried women which are earning less than men.

2. We lack confidence when we look at historical data perspectives on the financial success of women.

3. Women tend to negotiate themselves down in contract pricing.

4. There is pronounced gender segregation in types of businesses men and women start.

5. AND only 42% of women vs. 57% of men pay themselves a salary.

These situations were true for me as well:

* I left an Assistant Director position at a local college after having my second son and work from home.

* I have never giving myself a set salary. I put the money back into my businesses or helped save for my two son’s college expenses as equally as my husband.

* I own a service business which demands a lower hourly rate than a woman in a technology, science or product type business.

I’m happy with my career choices but wish – not only for myself – but for the thousands of women entrepreneurs I have represented over two decades that there was Equal Pay for Women law so we had justification for asking a certain hourly wage based on our education, experience expertise and a rate comparable to our corporate sisters in the marketplace.

I honestly believe equal pay will only happen for professional career women whether entrepreneurs or employees – if our great nation finally creates and passes an Equal Pay Act Law. The important word in all that I have stated is the word “law.”

I urge you and your congress members this year – 2017 – the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in New York State, to finally pass a law for equal pay just like it passed a law for women to vote.

Women couldn’t wish to vote. We had to have it be a law. Women can’t wish to receive equal pay. It must become a law. That law will help not only women, but families earn more which in turns helps them contribute in greater ways to our local and national economy.