It’s thrilling to live during a moment that is changing history. The “metoo” movement is redefining the workplace for women due to some brave women who fought a very powerful man. Everyone knew that sexual harassment was happening in all industries and it has been amazing to watch one executive after the next be fired for their egregious behavior. Some women go to battle for others every single day. Linda Rendleman, the President and CEO of the Women Like Us Foundation, fights for an end to sex trafficking and homelessness through education.
As Evolistas, we always want to know what motivates, inspires and empowers other women. We sat down with Linda Rendleman to learn more about how she became the compassionate powerhouse that champions women across the globe.
Interview with Linda Rendelman
What motivates you to get up every day? What is your passion in life?
I have a very full and rich life, full of family, friends, and, of course, the foundation. My passion is to support women in the world and the work that they do, while also being a good partner, friend, and mother.
Was there a time in your life where you felt like you needed to take a different track and evolve into something else?
Yes I have had that a couple of times. I completely believe that our life develops in stages and with those stages comes opportunities for decision to take a turn. As a little girl, when I first heard the Robert Frost poem, “The Road Less Traveled,” I was in. As a woman in my late 20’s and I became a single mom with 2 little girls I had an epiphany: if I wanted to live the life that I truly want, I must do it myself.
Having been raised in the Midwest during the 1950s and 1960s, I assumed that early marriage would bring happiness. I imagined myself as a “June Cleaver”… you know the woman with the high heels and frilly apron, pearls around her neck, hair immaculate, who did her housework, cooked for her children and waited for her man to come home. No wonder there was a feminist movement!!! Needless to say, things did not pan out as I expected. I became a single mother, but rather than let that define me in a negative light, I owned that freedom.
Later in life I was diagnosed with cancer, which was a wake up call to truly continue on my path of making my life what I wanted it to be, and ultimately transitioned from a for-profit business (which I ran) to the Women Like Us Foundation.
We all have a mother, a best friend and possibly a daughter. How has your relationship with other women impacted your life?
My mom was the original feminist. As I look back at her life, she had her foot on one side of the world that stayed in her place behind her husband, yet her other foot yearned to be free. In her older years, she started her own business, brought my father in to work with her, and became the role model for me. It was a struggle as I’m sure it was for many women of that era, still is for many more.
It is a process, but we are gaining on the acknowledgment of the power of women. My daughters and my son have each contributed their own stories to my life. Jane, my oldest, is just now realizing her potential and going back to school to steer her own way; my daughter Catt is just a perseverer, I learn from her everyday; and my son, who once said he wanted to marry a girl like his sisters was the greatest thing for me to hear. He is my true friend, rock and confidant and manages his life with so much conviction I am always in awe of it.
Taking care of ourselves is important to age well. What is your best beauty tip?
Yoga! All that deep breathing is fabulous for your skin. Currently I’m very involved in “Body and Brain” yoga. It helps me understand the connection of my brain and the rest of my body; the importance of taking 60 seconds each hour of the day to do one simple exercise; and the importance of meditating. On another note, I wash my face every night religiously and make every effort to eat well.
How did you evolve into your current career path?
As a child I wanted to go to New York and become an actress. Although I never got there I did get my Bachelor’s Degree in Speech and Theater with a minor in English. Later, I obtained my Masters Degree in counseling. After my divorce, I began a magazine, radio show, TV show; created workshops for women, wrote books and began the foundation. It was amazing that all the areas I was attracted to have been my life’s work. I feel very fortunate.
What was the impetus that led you to start the Women Like Us Foundation?
I had always thought my work would end up in charity. My business for ten years, Business Women Connect, began as a for-profit, however I also created a nonprofit with the same name. It was at this time when my life threw me a curveball: my cancer hit, forcing me to pause my charitable pursuits. Once well, I penned my first book, which catalyzed the transition from Business Women Connect to Women Like Us Foundation. This organization has allowed me to travel the world, meet wonderful people and make a difference for humanity.
How do you select the charitable organizations that you support?
We started the foundation with a really broad approach. We were trying to literally change the world, however we spread ourselves too thin. Realizing the need to narrow our focus, we whittled our focuses to sex trafficking, homelessness and education. We maintain our global mark through our ongoing work in Kenya. Kenya is my heart. I’m so blessed to simply be able to pick and make it happen. 🙂 Not that it’s easy…but it’s worth the work.
Currently, we seek women-led organizations that have at least three years of work and have made some impact in one or more of the three pillars of focus. We carefully review their past achievements, outlined plans, their finances and needs. There are so many organizations that need help to continue: that’s why our work is so critically important. The selection can be hard, but we realized that we can’t help everyone as much as we would love to. Maybe some day we’ll get a huge donor that can help us get there.
What goals do you have for WLUF over the next year?
Our newly finished documentary is a big goal. There will be screenings in Los Angeles, Indianapolis, and New York City. We will be taking the film, along with my most recent book, to colleges and universities to create awareness and raise funds for women’s initiatives. Additionally, we will be continuing our work in sex trafficking, homelessness and education, nationally and on a global scale.
A huge thank you to Linda Rendleman for sharing some insights about her life with us. We encourage you to go to the Women Like Us Foundation to learn more about what they do, get involved and/or make a donation.
To read more about some other women that inspire us, Caroline Scott Low has the most interesting career as an Art Consultant. And Chrissie Kremer is helping women go back to work after an absence like raising kids with her company Reboot Accel.