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Ep34 Transcript: Interview with Barbara Brooks
Andrea Vahl: Unable to get a job or even a callback at the top of her marketing career, Barbara Brooks went on to found second act women, a community of women in their forties and fifties supporting each other. And now it’s grown to thousands of women in a short amount of time, and she has really started a movement around ageism.
Listen in as this force of nature, Barbara Brooks shares her wisdom.
Intro: Hello dreamers. Welcome to the Late Starters Club, giving you the inspiration, mindset, and tools you need to start something midlife and beyond. Remember, it’s never too late to follow your dreams.
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Andrea Vahl: Hey, late starters, it’s your host, Andrea Vahl, and I am joined by the amazing Barbara Brooks, founder of Second Act Women, and a huge proponent of people who are getting a late start in life or starting or restarting or pivoting or all of that stuff.
Thank you so much for joining us, Barbara. It’s great to have you here.
Barbara Brooks: I am so thrilled to be here. Thank you Andrea.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah, and it’s so awesome to get connected cuz like I was telling you before when I was starting this podcast, everyone was like, you gotta talk to Barbara, you gotta get connected with second act.
Great act Women, you gotta . . I was like, great. I’ll just invite you to be on the podcast and then we’ll get connected and I’ll get over to your events and all that stuff.
Barbara Brooks: And here we are, and here we are.
Andrea Vahl: So great. I’m excited. So you started second Act women it’s been how many years ago?
It’s origin when you were 51?
Barbara Brooks: Yeah, it was 2018 that I started it summer 2018. 2018. Okay.
Andrea Vahl: So yeah, so yeah. Four or five years ago. Yeah. At this point
Barbara Brooks: I can’t believe it.
Andrea Vahl: And it’s grown so, so fast and so amazingly well, and that’s just a testament to the need for this type of community. So that’s awesome.
Barbara Brooks: Yeah I can agree it’s interesting because when the company first started as you said, I was 51 at the time and I was the target demo that I’m reaching now because it started because I couldn’t get into Corporate America or back into it, I should say. And so I decided it was time to do something about it, and I didn’t realize that it would actually turn into this company that I was creating with finger quotes.
Would turn into a company solely focused on women over 40 and in particular between 45 and 62. . It wasn’t until in conversation and strategy sessions and things that, that when I started a company again in 2018, it was like my third company since I couldn’t get hired.
That it came about that. Oh! I should focus. I’m hearing the same thing over and over, that you we’re being forgotten and left behind and…. Yeah. So here I am.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah, it’s time to do something about it. And you did. That’s great.
Barbara Brooks: I did do something about it.
Andrea Vahl: That’s great. Yeah, because you had an amazing career marketing for CBS Radio for town of Aurora, lots of like high level marketing positions,
Barbara Brooks: Park Meadows Retail Resort, Fashion Show Mall in Las Vegas, Nevada all over Texas.
I was, yeah, I had a successful mom marketing career mostly. And then yes, I dabbled in radio and tv. . And yeah, that’s what surprised me is that I wasn’t getting the calls. I wasn’t getting… I wasn’t even getting invited to the table to even interview. And when I did, I would get these Dear Jan letters or get ghosted, believe it or not, all together.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah. Yeah. So crazy. Yeah. Someone with such high level experience, great experience, you could not get another job. So you created your business.
Barbara Brooks: I created my own job, . I created my own job, which is what a lot of women today are doing. If they are deciding to leave corporate they are deciding to create their own pathway, they’re designing their own lives and their own careers.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah. Cuz you do have a mix of people in second act women too. It’s both the career women who are navigating that kind of ceiling that they might be up against. and also entrepreneurs, right?
Barbara Brooks: Yeah. And I have to say it’s transitioned into roughly 80 to 85% business owners. Women over 40 are starting more businesses than ever before and frankly, pre pandemic 1,220 businesses a day were started by women over 40.
And so it’s only. Gotten larger since the pandemic, when the great recession was happening. The great, what was that? The resignation was happening? Yes. It was more like a great pushout of women and men over 40 and 50. And so they, were starting companies and I would say now our community and our larger focus, we have two targets and that is the business owner of the micro business.
And then the second are corporate women. But within corporate America, we’re working with corporate America and working with their women within their walls. Now Because it turns out ageism, age is just not an “ism” that they add into their DE and I initiatives. And as a black woman, I appreciate that I am included in their initiatives, obviously.
But the fact that age is not. Amongst any of the of the 8% of companies, by the way, that have DEI initiatives, diversity equity and inclusion initiatives. Age is not one of them. Only 8% of the companies include age.
Andrea Vahl: Wow. Yeah. And that’s shocking to me that there’s only 8% who do include a DEI . Yeah. Yeah. , that is crazy. Yes. That. , that’s hopefully that will start changing as companies,
Barbara Brooks: hopefully, with our mission, our movement that we’re creating with other companies other women’s organizations, there’s changing the narrative. There’s so many other companies out there like ours that are working on behalf of changing the dynamic of what age looks like today, and the fact that gendered ageism really should be let go of . You’re not let go of anything in corporate America. Let go of the gendered and ageist bias. .
Andrea Vahl: You’ve started this whole movement and whole community later in your life and what has been one of the lessons you’ve learned as you’ve started this later?
I think the amazing growth is shocking, but, what has contributed to that success and what kind of lessons have you learned along the way?
Barbara Brooks: I’m going to tell you, this company started originally as four women, again, over 40 and 50 as an event company, and of course, COVID came along and wiped out that mission.
And so we had to do our own swiveling. We say that versus pivoting (so overused) and gosh I have to say perseverance and the community. The lessons that I learned is the importance of sticktuitiveness. And if you have something that other people appreciate, understand, and are joining on their own, that means you have something solid.
That means that your purpose and your passion are in the right place. And so you need to stick with it in good times and in those damn bad times, , trust me, it’s not roses and rainbows all the time. So I would say it’s the perseverance and sticking with it and listening to others and also having built this wonderful community that has really kept me uplifted.
And the learning of how important it is to support other women. How important it is to build a community. And by community not only social media, but I really mean also your friend dynamic, your family dynamic, the community you build around yourself to also Keep you uplifted and also tell you the truth, frankly,
I’m very independent, and so in the past I would not listen to other people. It was like, no, what are you talking about? I got this. No, .
Andrea Vahl: Feedback is key. Is and done with love, right? Loving…
Barbara Brooks: Can I tell you too? Also, continued learning continued personal and professional development. I have never been one for self-care, or honestly, it’s not, for me, I’ve always been a workaholic.
That is my passion, my purpose and everything, and anything that I’ve done. But I think the lesson learned is also to take care of me, my mindset. , and also make sure that I’m doing the same for others. So I’m checking in on those that have big personalities that go silent.
So because maybe they’re in a hole, they’re in their own minds. They’re going through depression, whatever it may be. So I think the lesson is taking care of me. And I’m still working on that. But it’s also, and I know that sounds so it’s something everybody says, and I never thought that I’d be that person that would repeat that and also now believe in it. But I get it. I get it at 56, I get.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah I totally agree cuz I think starting your own business and having almost unlimited possibilities sometimes is overwhelming. And I think there is no boss or is no, team necessarily telling you what the direction is and you have to choose it all on your own and it’s highs and lows that just come through.
Yeah. This whole entrepreneurial journey, it’s, I think it’s very different than being in corporate America for sure.
Barbara Brooks: Absolutely. The fact that you can get up every day and determine what you are going to do for the day, or hopefully you’ve made a plan , so know what you’re going to do the day before for the next day.
But yeah, the fact that you can drive your own mission. . And also drive your own ability to create your own revenue. Your own revenue sources. So now it’s not just one source of income, on this job that maybe you like, maybe you don’t. But now it’s also as an entrepreneur.
Oh my gosh. I’m a visionary. I want to do this and this and I can make money at that . You don’t have to just do one thing anymore.
Andrea Vahl: I know. It’s definitely exciting. But for people who are like idea factories who I think you are,
Barbara Brooks: that’s me. Oh my gosh.
Andrea Vahl: If you could go back and tell your younger self one thing, what would that be? As you’ve gone through your career and seen the trajectory of everything, what advice would you give to your younger self?
Barbara Brooks: So this question always gets me because I would not tell her.
I would let her be who she was at that time. , I don’t think there’s any advice that I can give myself back then that I would’ve listened to , frankly. I think who I was back then, maybe who I am today. So when I get this question, I’m always tied up with, how do I answer it?
Because other than what we all say is everything is going to be okay. I guess I’m a futurist in a sense, so I would like to say to my future self, instead, I’d like to flip the table and say to my future self that what I am building and doing today is changing lives and the legacy that I am building for myself and helping other women build for themselves will always be, again, I’m talking to my future self. Just keep going. Keep swimming. Because there are times that as an entrepreneur, we said this, that we want to give up. We get burned out. It’s very easy to get burned out. . And then you’re reminded wait.
Okay. Hold up. Let me just rescript this mindset. Let me rework and remind myself why I am here and what it is I’m doing. I don’t know. I like to say, what would I say to my future self? So for my future self, it’s keep going, keep swimming.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah, I love that. Yeah, I love that whole idea because it is true, like it’s, people say, would you go back and change anything?
And of course, there’s little mistakes or learning.
Barbara Brooks: Yes, teachings, but I made a lot of them .
Andrea Vahl: But you wouldn’t be who you are today, right? And you wouldn’t be, in that space. So I definitely agree. I love that. So it’s important to not look back with regret, but with love and say. That you’re…
Barbara Brooks: it’s okay. Those mistakes that I made that sat in my brain for days, if not weeks, by making major or little, or, setting things on fire, not literally setting things on fire, . But those things that were so little, right? That was so big at the time. That crowded my brain with depression and those are the things that I’ve learned from, I don’t
Andrea Vahl: Yeah. So Let’s actually dive into that a little bit deeper. Has there been a big, and I never like to call anything a mistake necessarily cause I do feel like it all teaches us lessons.
Barbara Brooks: What would you make of things? Yeah.
Andrea Vahl: But has there been a time like, an oh shit moment or something where you. It was really a bad situation that you got through. And how did you get through that?
Barbara Brooks: So there have been many of those. At 56, of course there’s been many
So let me make sure that I’m clear. Are you talking about in life, in business, in my past career in corporate.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah, any one of those. Cuz I think if there’s a lesson, that you have learned from something I’d love to just hear if there’s, at any point, could be personal, could be…
Barbara Brooks: Could I tell you? It is.
I would have to say that I think my my oh shit moment would be not taking the time not understanding my brain, and that now that I have I really have been told that I have ADHD not realizing what that has done.
I think it’s taking the time to take a breath. It’s taking time to listen to others. , it’s taking cuz I’ve had many, Oh Sh** moments where had I just taken a step back and listened to that person or listened in that moment about what was happening, whether it’s on the job where it’s a business problem, right?
Or a personal problem. It’s taken a step back breathing and not immediately reacting and not immediately being in the moment where I’m reactionary because I’m a reactionary person. And I’m realizing now at 56 that I need to take a beat because when I don’t take, when I haven’t taken a beat in times it’s gotten me in trouble.
, whether it’s me speaking out of turn or being wrong because I want to do this and instead of listening to what the person said, I did this and I should have did this. , and had I listened to them, things would’ve been better . So I think, and I know that I’m going around and some of that again, as the ADHD, which I so fascinated with, and finally knowing that this is what I have and why my brain works the way it does.
I would have to say, yeah, I’ve had many moments where had I just taking a moment to understand my brain and understand I need to just. Pause.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah. No, that’s probably where all problems come from, right? ? Like anything. Yeah. Anything. If we’re just know,
Barbara Brooks: just being reactionary first, yeah.Yeah.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah. And as someone who gets things done, you’re a mover and a shaker who does things. So with that type of personality, it’s easy to just quickly jump in and be like, oh yeah, I’m going to, I’m going to fix that. Cuz I definitely feel that myself as well, and I think that the advantage of now doing something older in our lives, is that we know ourselves so much better. We’re able to understand our patterns, our weaknesses, where we fall down. Back when we were interviewing for jobs, they would ask what the weakness is.
Oh, I care too much. Or whatever. That
Barbara Brooks: all those that you’re like, you sitting there going, oh my God, if I hear this answer one more time. That’s what we’re train to say.
Andrea Vahl: We know our actual weaknesses. Yes, mine is trying to do all the things. But I think that’s great, just realizing that and seeing that is so helpful now.
Barbara Brooks: Can I also say too, it’s also, we’re talking about age now, it’s also knowing that there’s power in this number, in this chapter number, there’s power in the experience. And there’s power in even , where we’ve been. And yes, the mistakes, the reactionary moments that , we’ve all had the moments of time that you wish you could take back, but in actuality, when you look back, you’ve learned from them.
But understand that, at least for me, that you’ve learned from them until you hit this time, this age where you’re just ready to accept who you are, understand it, learn from it. Ask for help when you need to, because if you’re an independent, A type personality, asking for help was always a difficulty, and now recognizing that it’s okay to ask for help and you should.
Because that’s where the growth happens, right? It’s it’s admitting when you’re wrong. It’s at, it’s, it’s all those things, but it’s the power of this age, of the thirst to learn, the thirst, to understand, it’s just it’s a power dynamic that a lot of us are unaware of. That we have. Because of the imposter syndrome, because of the lack of confidence, because of what we’ve been told that we’re too old to be, to do at this age, because we’re told we’re over the hill. Thanks. Those damn black balloons that we that used to be so big when we turned 40 even. You’re over the hill.
Andrea Vahl: 40?? I know, right?
Barbara Brooks: When I’m at the top of the hill, don’t tell me I’m over the hill. Are you kidding me? I have so many things that I want to do with my life that I am doing with my life. I haven’t expired, there’s no expiration date on this box.
Andrea Vahl: for sure. That’s great. That brings up a great point though, on society’s view of aging, do you think that society has been shifting their view of aging, or do you think it’s improving, getting worse? Because I know, I remember we had those black balloons even when my parents were, turning 40
Barbara Brooks: and we would laugh about ’em.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah. Yeah. But now I, do you think there’s a shift or is it something that we’re still having to really push through in the messaging?
Barbara Brooks: We still have to push through. ageism is alive and well. It’s the new sexism and it is running rampant within corporate America and in small business ownership. We as women only receive 3% of funding.
If we are looking for VC funding or any type of funding, we are overlooked. We are still unheard in corporate rooms. We are, undervalued. We even have the internal ageist bias. And we’re still looking at magazines that say, oh, the styles of wearing your hair at 50.
And they’re all short haircuts. What?? Or women are still being pushed out of their jobs that they’re front facing because they have gray hair and they want to own it. So it’s still there, but I will say that things are changing, so the tide is changing thanks to organizations like.
Second act women. Change the Narrative. You have Grace Creative out of LA, you’ve got Fancy L C, the Modern Gen X Women. You’ve got these companies that are being built by women over 40, more specifically over 45 it seems, that are now owning our age.
We’re owning and valuing this time in life, and we’re out. We’re coming out. That’s it. We are coming outta the closet to letting you know, and so we’re not being shamed because we’re going through menopause and I’m having a hot flash and I’m admitting it and I am now matter of fact. So we root company, but also we’re talking about the state of our bodies we’re owning the fact that I ca wear really cute skinny jeans, even at my size 18 South and look good in it and feel good. So it’s, we are now, oh, we can wear two piece suits and not be shamed for it, and we shouldn’t be, whether you’re thick or skinny. so it’s a matter of, I think women are starting to take the narrative back but there’s still a lot of work, just like there was, as an African American female, there’s a lot of work, in the racism and LGBTQism, just all these isms it’s just now all the women who, all the people that are, that have isms placed on them are now out and boldly changing the narrative.
And by the way, 56 is the new 56 . Cause I’m 56, I don’t want to be 46 again, I don’t want to be 36. And I had have a lot of fun at 26 just out college as I did all through all those times . But I don’t want to go back. This is what it looks. Yeah. Yes. It was 56.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah. , it’s, I know, and it’s a, it’s amazing.
And I literally, when I turned 50, I had that, I was oh, I don’t want to do, I don’t want to turn 50. And everyone’s no, fifties are great. Fifties are great. And I was like, oh, you’re just, You’re, you were just saying that and that’s. You’re crazy.
Barbara Brooks: Cursed earlier. Cause I was going to say that’s bs, but yeah,
Andrea Vahl: It is BS. No, it’s fine. It’s all good. I’m not opposed to cursing. .
Barbara Brooks: my mom wouldn’t appreciate, but
Andrea Vahl: Yeah, and it. It actually was true when I have leaned into the fifties and they are amazing. Amazing. They’re wonderful. It’s so great. And I love it. Yeah. Come in ladies. The water’s warm.
Right? And I have to tell you, so I have always owned my age, no matter. You know what, age 40 when I was turning 30. Remember how that was a big deal? Oh my God. You’re turning 30 and then turning 40 and then 50, and then, 60 for me in four more years. So I’ve never been afraid to turn it.
I think I do go into a depressive state leading up to it boards more on the fact that I’m still single. So I think some of it is like my own internal, what I still haven’t found my man. And there are other things that I, that as I turn these certain age that I. Thought or want it to be or do or whatever it is.
That’s what gets me. It’s not the age. My mom has always owned her age. Yeah, she’s 85. When she was 40, she would tell people she was 40. So it’s, it’s, yeah. So I’m glad that more women and even within our organization, when we have meetings and you see my number is on screen my chapter number, we actually encourage our women if they’re comfortable, cuz we don’t wan to push them to do it. But if they’re comfortable, share your age on your name tag and it is amazing. I would say probably 90% of the women now are comfortable doing that.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah. It’s …why not?
Barbara Brooks: cause they know they’re amongst their own. So some of it is that, I don’t know if they would do that outside of the things that we do, but we’ve got to own the number because that only makes the case for the fact that we are a power dynamic.
We have been buying power, by the way. Oh yeah. Of $15 trillion and I just saw a new number of $18 trillion, but, so I’m going to stick with $15 trillion right now. For women over 50. And so for brands to now apply brandism to us and not cater to us outside of drugs, Depends. Things that they, think that we need.
Yeah. We may still need those things too, but on top of that, we still, we. We shop Target, we shop Macy’s, we shop Old Navy, yeah. We, yeah. Yeah. We shop Amazon, we shop, so
Andrea Vahl: well. The other thing that is crazy for me, and I don’t want to get started too much down this road cuz I could. Go all day about this, but the beauty industry and the whole, like
Barbara Brooks: the beauty industry,
Andrea Vahl: the whole, like all of a sudden I’ve gotta have a specific cream for my neck and my eyebrow and my, I’ve gotta feel bad about my eyebrow wrinkles and
Barbara Brooks: Age Defy, age defy? I’m not trying to defy my age. This is who I am. Take that age defy, yes. Yeah. No, stop it. . This is who we are, that only drives the message. That we’re too old to own our gray. Or we’re too old to have crepe. I think it’s called crepe. I don’t know. Yes, crepe. Yeah. Yeah. Or we’re too like we, our wrinkles.
Come on. Yeah. We’re all going to suffer from this ism in particular. This is the one ism. Absolutely. Everyone has the chance of feeling at some point, everyone. Yeah, it’s, and it’s yet still the only ism that yes, the beauty industry can get away with the age defying crap and can be laughed at from the stages of comedy stages or sitcoms.
You can still laugh about this ism. We’ll stop it. Yeah, stop it.
Andrea Vahl: Exactly. Exactly.
Barbara Brooks: I’m owning my gray and yeah, you know what?
Andrea Vahl: It’s great.
Barbara Brooks: It’s just a color and I choose for my color to be a mix of this and a mix of gray. Yeah. And one day I will want to have a new color and that new color may be gray. Yeah.
But that’s all it is a color. That’s all it is.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah. .
Barbara Brooks: Sorry. I get on. I get on. I know I get on.
Andrea Vahl: I know. Believe me.
So now the podcast is two hours of I like,
Barbara Brooks: oh. And I, I’m still trying to fix my hair. There we go. Yeah. I’m trying off my little gray streak.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah. It’s, this is great. So I so appreciate all the work you’re doing and
Barbara Brooks: thank you.
Andrea Vahl: All the all the community you’re building. I can’t wait to get in there, be a part of it as well, and connect. As we’re wrapping this up, I told you before and my listeners know, I love quotes, mantras, all that kind of thing, and I’d love to have people share something that motivates, inspires, or gets them going.
Barbara Brooks: So it’s funny because you Yeah. We were talking about that. So I do have this one. So I do try to give myself a quote and even though that one’s simple, I do a weekly and I just put it on my desk.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah. So we’ll just say what that is since some people might be listening.
Barbara Brooks: Yeah. “Life is so beautiful. Live it, Barbara!” Cause I literally want to talk and I don’t refer to myself a third person ever except for this time. I say this because I have sadly I have a friend who’s experiencing a very sad diagnosis. And so I’m remembering to live my life in this moment. But the one that I say to myself, when I live with depression.
And most people who didn’t know it till I came out with it eight years ago when I learned that’s what else was going on. There are times where I don’t want to get outta bed and people that I live with depression know that feeling. The negative thoughts. So I try to tell myself to.
“Get up, dress up and show up.” So even though I work from home and I also have co-working offices, I try to do those things. I try to put on my face, I put on the clothes, I have shoes on, even though, again, I’m sitting in my home office. I literally need to do that because that puts me in the right, for me, from corporate America, it puts me in the right frame of mind and it gets me excited for the day. Yeah it gets me ready for the day. So for me it’s get up, dress up and show. I love it. And never by the way the end of that is never, ever give up. Never give up. .
Andrea Vahl: That’s awesome. I love that. So great and simple. Easy to…
Barbara Brooks: simple, easy to, it’s on my whiteboard, it’s everything.
Alexa tells it to me from time to time.
just, a little quick , but she just heard herself, so
Andrea Vahl: That’s great. Barbara people can find you at secondactwomen.com, right?
Anywhere else? Is that where people just head?
Barbara Brooks: Oh gosh. We invite them to join us over at Facebook, in our Facebook community of 4,800 beautiful dynamic business women and career women over 40 and 50 from around the globe.
That’s on Facebook. It’s second act women, 40 and 50 plus women’s group. And there we have real conversations. So it’s not just about you can’t put baby in a corner. . So we talk about it all. And so it’s not just about business again, it’s about life and middle essence. And and what it’s like to be this age.
And there’re going to be ups and downs, but this is it. We have one life to live and let’s live it out loud and in color.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah. That is awesome. Thank you so much, Barbara, for being a guest here. Getting everyone, excited about aging. Excited about the life we’re living. So That’s awesome.
Barbara Brooks: If you are aging, you are alive. Yeah. , it is a privilege to turn every age. Let’s keep that in mind, .
Andrea Vahl: Yeah, exactly. I love it. I love it. We’ll have all these links in the show notes for people. Thanks again, Barbara. And. Bye everyone.
Barbara Brooks: Thank You
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