The Girls Network

By LIZ MARCHI

Moving to the barn seemed like a great, romantic idea in June.  Grass was green, my garden was new, and the temperature was a comfortable 60 degrees.  It’s November and after the first dip into the teens, the barn office well, feels like a barn.  It’s cold and drafty and my two space heaters aren’t really getting the job done.  Yesterday I typed in gloves until almost 11am.  In some perverse way, I feel more like a real Montanan. Other than the two dead mice I found in the bucket that is catching a leak in the storage part of the barn, I am actually adapting.

This past weekend I enjoyed the company of three ladies that I adore.  Pat and Sandra were raised on eastern Montana ranches; Betsy is an east coast debutante (Smith graduate with a geology degree) who married the son of the owner of a Montana dude ranch she vacationed on with her family.  She wound up on a Montana ranch with three babies in two years (twins).

These three women today are the CEO, COO and board member of an oil and gas company in Billings.  They are just a bit older than me. When they tell their career stories, what seems to me egregious sexual discrimination to them was just accepted.

Marchi FriendsUnderstanding our past work and career history enables us to focus on today and what matters for the future.  Betsy was so excited to be asked to join the Montana Geological Association that she agreed to be the Secretary and bake all the cookies for the meetings.  Problem was, the meetings were at the old petroleum club which was menonly.

That too, changed after some time but hers is a career of being out in the field, often the only women for miles, doing something she loves to this very day.

Pat moved to Idaho and became a gymnastics coach.  She remembers the days before Title IX.  The girls’ teams rode the bus, the boys teams flew.  The girl’s teams raised their own money for uniforms and travel.  That’s hard to imagine today.  Girls sports are full on in most high schools and colleges.  She then came back to Montana and ran a successful lumber business.

Sandra grew up in far eastern Montana and went away to school She was a teacher for years before coming back “home” in her early 60’s.  She took the helm of a company her father had started years ago and has learned the business from the ground up.  It’s doing just fine.

I am always inspired by their spunk and stories.  It reminds me to keep learning, keep working and keep laughing.  They have great partners, like mine, who respect their skills, their intelligence and their femaleness.  My take away from them is just be who you are meant to be and don’t pay a lot of attention to what you are “supposed” to be and do.  Work should not be gender driven.  We still have a ways to go there but the girls’ network is making a difference.

I am thankful to all the amazing women in my life from Montana to Alabama to New York City and North Carolina and beyond.  May you prosper as we build out a network for growing businesses, raising children and living lives in Montana and around the world.

Liz Marchi

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Liz Marchi lives on a ranch in Polson, Montana  with her husband Jon. She is the Fund Coordinator for the Frontier Angel Fund and spends a lot of time thinking and learning about entrepreneurs, the economy and Montana’s unique place in the world. She has three daughters and a stepson and daughter and a grandchild.  She graduated from Hollins College and is entering the final quarter of life…unless we go into overtime.