Inspirational speaker and author Mary J. Dowell pulls from a lifetime of challenges, perseverance, and ultimate success to motivate others to achieve their dreams and live their best lives.
Mary Dowell wasn’t born into privilege—she was one of six children in a blue-collar minority family—but that didn’t stop her from climbing the corporate ladder from entry-level secretary to vice president of global community relations for a Fortune 100 company. It wasn’t easy. Racism and sexism often threatened to defeat her. But she persevered, leaned into adversity, and learned to pursue resources to foster success. “I wanted people to see past me as a female or an African American and see who Mary was,” she says. “I wanted to be seen for my attributes of being smart, resourceful, and accountable. I always pushed to be the best no matter what I was doing.” Though her family had meager means, Dowell’s parents were determined to send each of their six children to college. Thanks to her mother’s creative and courageous pursuit of every grant and scholarship she could find, they reached their goal. That fortitude has stuck with Dowell her entire life. “Seeing what my mother’s example of perseverance did for us, I always knew that no matter what the challenge was, I could figure out a way to overcome it,” Dowell says. “She taught us there’s always a way to have what you want. You just have to be willing to work for it.” Dowell’s success is a living tribute to her mother’s words.
Once retired from corporate America, Dowell dreamed of inspiring others to overcome adversity and achieve their dreams, as she had. She launched MJ Dowell & Associates in 2015—a management consulting firm with emphasis in leadership workshops, career coaching, human resources, and inspirational speaking—and has been taking her messages on the road to corporations and community forums ever since. It’s her way of paying it forward, she says. “My role is to inspire and encourage others. No matter where you are in life, there’s always something else you can achieve.” Her work extends to philanthropic endeavors as well, serving with a diverse lineup of boards and nonprofit organizations, including Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Concordia University Foundation Board, United Way Women’s Leadership Council, and the Milwaukee Urban League. “After one of my presentations, someone said to me, ‘I thought my life’s work was done, but listening to you today has changed the whole trajectory of where I want to go, because now I know I can do more,’” Dowell reflects. “That is the very essence of this mission I feel I’ve been given to do.”
Part memoir, part self-help, Mary J. Dowell’s “Playing Through the Fence” is an award-winning book in which 19 women share powerful stories of perseverance and success, sometimes against seemingly insurmountable odds. This book is for emerging leaders and anyone seeking inspiration while facing obstacles on his or her career and life journey.
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