Cheryl Saban is an author, psychologist, philanthropist, wife, mother and grandmother, glass-blower, jewellery designer and founder of the Self Worth Foundation, oh, and did we mention that President Obama nominated her to be a Special Representative to the U.N.?
It’s fair to say she has lived more lives and achieved more in her time on earth, than any of us could ever dream of (did we also mention that she recorded a disco album?). But who is this super woman and how does she do it?
Cheryl came from very humble beginnings. She was born and raised in San Diego to a working class family. Her father worked for the local telephone company, and until she went to University, Cheryl worked in a number of low skilled jobs such as waitressing at a local BBQ Pit. She married her first boyfriend aged 20, and had two daughters; but the marriage was short-lived. Cheryl eventually became a single working mother who struggled to make ends meet.
But in 1986, she accepted a job as an assistant to Haim Saban, of Saban Entertainment, who made his fortune creating theme tunes to popular children’s cartoons, such as Inspector Gadget, The Mysterious Cities of Gold, He-Man and She-Ra, as well as being responsible for the production of the hugely popular Power Rangers. They married a year later and had two children. Cheryl and Haim (now worth an estimated $3 billion), have been happily married for 26 years, which has served as inspiration behind her books such as, Recipe for a Good Marriage and Recipe for a Happy Life.
Of course it could be argued that it’s easy to have a good life and marriage with all of the money in the world at your disposal. What’s to be unhappy about? You could have anything you ever wanted. But there are those of us that are smarter than that, and know that money doesn’t bring you happiness, and that happiness comes from within. Cheryl was sexually assaulted as a teenager and it’s this painful experience that has driven her to give back, particularly to women and children. She is quoted in Genelux Magazine as stating “I had difficulties in my own childhood. I was sexually assaulted when I was in my teens. It was an extremely painful experience, so I focus my attention on women and children who are in groups like the Rape Crisis Centre. I have an empathy for these women, so now that I have the resources to help, I jump right it.”
When Cheryl was a young single mother with very little money to her name, she sought free medical help from the Los Angeles Free Clinic, and never forgot the kindness they showed her. When her fortunes had reversed, she returned to the clinic and made a sizeable donation and continues to support them. It’s these acts of kindness and generosity that we find endearing about her. She never forgot her humble beginnings.
As a writer, she focuses predominately on family, women’s empowerment, education, and paediatric healthcare. She is the author of 14 books including, What is Your Self-Worth – A Woman’s Guide to Validation, and 50 Ways to Save our Children, which she wrote to encourage community giving.
Cheryl is President of the Saban Family Foundation, which supports children’s medical and educational programmes, and has been a major contributor to a number of organisations and charities, such as the John Wayne Cancer Institute, the Saban Community Clinic in Los Angeles and The Saban Birth and Maternity Centre in Soroka.
In 2009, Cheryl founded a non-profit organization, The Cheryl Saban Self Worth Foundation for Women and Girls (www.whatisyourselfworth.com), with a $10 million pledge to charitable organizations for the aiding, advancement and empowerment of girls and women. The Foundation has made numerous grants, including a $1 million grant to the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, and a $500,000 grant to Girls Inc. which inspires girls to be smart, strong and bold.
The Foundation also supports Girls Who Code, the brain child of Reshma Saujani and Jack Dorsey, the man behind Twitter. The organisation helps to educate, inspire and equip 13-17 year old girls by teaching them how to code. And at tender age of 62, Cheryl is now learning how to code too. “Why shouldn’t I? I can’t even imagine what I might do at 82.”
She has lived a remarkable life by anyone’s standards, and has changed the world for so many people, yet she remains grounded, approachable and generous with her time. She could have become a billionaires wife filling her days with shopping trips, long lunches and tennis lessons, but she chose a different, more selfless path, one that can inspire us all.
Q: What work would you do if not this? When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
It’s funny – you’d think I would have had it all figured out…but back in the fifties, our family lived very modestly, and I wasn’t exposed to a lot of options in my younger years, so I didn’t even know what to dream for. But still, as a little girl, my very earliest idea of a career choice was based on the admiration I had for a woman who was independent. She had her own money, she dressed beautifully, in clothes she ether made herself, or bought with money she earned herself! She worked only 4 days a week, and in those days, she made a good salary – to me, she has won the jackpot. She didn’t need a man to give her an allowance (which is what I saw in my own house). You know what she was? A dental hygienist. I wasn’t sure I wanted to look into people’s mouths every day, but I liked the “independent” and having my own money” part.
Q: Is there still a glass ceiling?
From my observation of women in the US and abroad, I would say that there are all kinds of ceilings, boundaries, walls, obstacles, misunderstandings, stratifications, ancient traditions and cultural habits that are tough to change or dispel. You may break a ceiling in one arena only to find a so-called ceiling somewhere else in your life. Women walk into a home, boardroom, business setting, religious institution, or political arena with a whole set of preconceived stereotypes wrapped around them. Men have their own set of stereotypes too, of course – but the rules of the game were, for the most part, set in motion by men back “in the day” – so they have a leg up. And if some of you don’t believe this – then perhaps you would agree that we still live in a predominately male-dominated world. And women often start out at a disadvantage. Therefore, we have the most to prove.
Q: Do women have an obligation to help each other at work?
I don’t know if I’d call it an obligation. But I certainly think we should all try to make that effort for each other. Just knowing what a difference it makes for all of us should be inspiration enough. I mean, hey, do any of you have daughters? Don’t you want the women who have succeeded ahead of them to cut them some slack? Well I have daughters and a son, and now I have granddaughters and a grandson. I want them all to thrive. I don’t want any of them to be held back, or face needless obstacles. In my heart of hearts, I want our double XX’ers to have every chance to succeed and get a hand up from their female counterparts. How can we expect men to be cooperative and fair with us, if we don’t offer that same respect and humanity to each other? There is enough success to go around. Trust me. Read “The Law of Attraction.”
Q: How do you define success?
Ah ha! I may define it differently than others. It’s not only about finances, although financial security is one common measurement.
But once your basics are taken care of, and you have a livelihood that entices you to get up in the morning, success for me means that I am living an authentic life. I love fully, robustly and passionately. I care deeply about my family, my friends and will go to the mat for them. I am devoted to the welfare of other people – especially women and children – and I couldn’t survive (none of us can) without our amazing, precious environment – meaning, a connection to nature. I believe it’s important to give. Even if you don’t have a lot in terms of dollars to donate, we all have one of the three “T’s” – time, talent, or treasure. Offer it up. We’ve all been greatly blessed. I say a prayer to heaven and the cosmos every day for the blessings of my life.
Also, I believe it’s important to be kind. After all that, I think you are successful when you find a vocation in life that you’re passionate about – that makes you happy to jump out of bed every morning to pursue. If you can make a living at it, then you’ve caught the golden ring.
Q: What does an average day look like for you?
I usually get up at around 5:30 or 6:00am in the morning. I get my coffee and I write for a while, and work on my jewellery designs, and plot out new glass items I want to blow. I have a lot of reading to do to keep up with the various boards I’m on, and to follow up with the organizations my foundation funds – so these early morning hours are my best working hours. I have a canary who sings his heart out as soon as I take the coverlet off his cage. He knows I’m there, and he keeps me company.
Most of my morning can fly by while I hand-bead a necklace – reading the news and keeping up with social media. And I must admit I’m a slacker when it comes to that last bit. If I’m blowing glass – I go to the studio at 10, and work till 3:30. If not, I’ll go to meetings, or to my Atelier, or my foundation office. In between I’ll stick in a Pilates class and a Zumba class. Between all that I try to meet up with one of my four kids for lunch every week or so. This has proven to be a challenge indeed.
Q: Has your work ever conflicted with being a wife and mother? How did you overcome this?
I’ve been a mother since I was 21 years old. I’ve basically never known any other way. Life conflicts with everything, don’t you get it?! There is no easy answer – no cheat-sheet, no skipping the rules or getting around the hard stuff. Every one of us had to suffer when we went to work and got hung up in a meeting and accidentally missed the beginning of a recital. Or maybe, like me, you were late to pick up your child from school one day – (oh the horror!) or worse, you couldn’t afford to put your child into all the fancy tutoring classes or dance classes. Sometimes we thought we sucked as parents. I know I had those days. But actually, I didn’t suck at all. My four kids are all adults now, and they are extraordinary. They adore me – they’re all very close to me, and the two who have children of their own, really appreciate what I went through when I was such a young mother. At the end of the day, with all the ups and downs, I think we are all generally doing the best we know how to do at the time. I was a survivor, and I was a lioness when it came to my children – ultra protective. I tried to strike a balance. Sometimes I managed it. Mostly, as I got older and my life smoothed out, I realised it was better to simply seek “harmony.”
Q: What has been the most difficult part of your career? How did you work through it?
When I was a single parent, I had to switch gears, career-wise. Financial security is a potent motivator, especially when you’re in charge of other human beings. So I went from being a recording artist, to the office manager of a design firm. And I basically started this reinvention of myself on the bottom rung of the ladder. It took a lot of internal adjustments, and external, social ones too.
Q: Could you have been as happy working for someone else?
Funny, this question dovetails from the answer above – I could have rambled on about that period of my life for pages! In the end, yes. Now I was working for someone else – and though I was now in an office environment, I was still around creative people, and I was happy that I was making a salary that was consistent- even if it wasn’t as much as I was worth, and not as much as I needed to keep my children and I secure. But happiness doesn’t come from the money, or even the situation. I made a personal discovery about that. It was at this period of my life that the universe was pitching me some fairly hard balls – and the lessons I was learning in the process of fielding them have stayed with me. One of them was about happiness, and the fact that it is something I can generate from within. It made all the difference in how I weathered some of the difficulties I faced during those years.
Q: If you could go back in time to when you were 20, what advice would you give yourself?
I answer this question with one caveat – that I wouldn’t change a thing about my life (except being raped of course), because my life journey brought me my 4 amazing children – 2 of them by the time I was 23). With that said, I would tell my younger self to stay curious, to travel to other countries and experience different cultures before you settle into a career, to wait a while before jumping into marriage and parenthood, to seek out a mentor, to go camping more often, to be part of a group sport, to maintain connections with friends, to keep a journal!
Q: What’s the best piece of business advice you have ever been given?
Learn to listen. Let the other guy speak first – and find out what they have to say. Ask questions! Don’t pretend to know what you don’t know. Give it your all.
Q: How do you keep motivated during difficult times?
I have an amazing support group around me – my family, and some amazing friends. If ever I need advice, I can turn to any one of them in a heartbeat, I’d have one of them by my side, cheer-leading me on.
Q: What advice would you give to someone starting their own business?
Research the market. Assess feasibility. Know what you want to achieve. Set reachable goals. Have a team of pros as advisers who can shepherd you through the process. Have a strong business plan. Join a women’s business networking group and participate! Don’t give up!
Read this article from Cheryl Saban – http://therightstripes.com/why-women-need-to-help-each-other-up/