Meet Our Members: Maria Ciliberti

The Twenty-first Century Woman:  Anything is Possible


I love watching “Outlander,” “The Crown,” and “Game of Thrones.”  It’s fascinating to see what life was like for a woman in the 1400s, 1800s and mid-1900s.  In spite of the allure of times past, I believe there is no better time to be a woman than in the twenty-first century.  

We can be married or single. We can be married with kids or single with kids. We can be stay-at-home moms, full-time working women, or part-time working women. We can be self-employed entrepreneurs or empty-nested, loving wives. I can’t think of any option not available to us these days.

In 1981, I studied chemical engineering and financed my degree while working full-time. Scarce financial resources and lack of free time didn’t allow for much fun, but I believed such sacrifices would pay off.

After university, I got married and worked in a paper mill. Three years later, I changed companies and simultaneously started an MBA program. Working full time in  a position that required business travel while attending university at night, I once again had chosen a hard road. After finishing my MBA, my career options expanded tremendously, opening doors to marketing, sales and business management.

For career growth, I accepted positions in cities 2 hours away from my home. This became especially challenging when my son was born. When he was 2, I took a position with General Electric Plastics in Bergen op Zoom, The Netherlands. My spouse was based in Cologne, Germany, so childcare solutions were difficult. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,”  and I made it work. I drove 3 hours a day to and from daycare providers, had little sleep and felt the continuous pull on my heart that I was missing key moments in my son’s childhood.  This was probably the most difficult time in my life, but again, I thought these sacrifices would pay off in the future.

Several years later, I took a better position in Europe that involved significant overnight travel. As a single mother of a 12 year old boy, I once again faced the problem of suitable childcare. An American expat male colleague offered overnight supervision. He was a complementary role model during my son’s teenage years and became my husband and partner for life.

Juggling it “all’ was not my only challenge. Being the only woman in a business meeting, earning the respect of male colleagues and superiors, and numerous other aspects of business life needed to be overcome. Some of these challenges prevail for women who choose the working-woman lifestyle. Today’s women are not only surviving but are thriving, no matter which life style options they choose. It’s great to be a woman in the twenty-first century - loads of options and anything is possible!