A Passion for Equality

by Penelope Willard Mudry '92

After graduating from Scripps, I had a rude awakening. Not everyone in the workplace had a fire in their belly about the equality of women, or the equality of all people. In fact, there was a distinct lack of fire in the belly or elsewhere. As I adjusted to the pace and temperament of the “real world,” I began to wonder if my Scripps experience was at best a fantasy or at worst artificial. Having a broker ask me to photocopy my naked body and fax it to him while working at one of my first jobs didn’t help.

But then, in 1996, I found some sanity, or at least a company that gave me hope that my Scripps life could be a reality. I landed a job at Advent Software in San Francisco.

Stephanie DiMarco founded Advent when she was 25, in 1983. She told stories like the time in the late ’80s when she was trying to put her laptop in the overhead compartment of a plane (back then laptops were huge) and a man asked her if he could help her with her sewing machine.

She created a culture at Advent where women and men could achieve equally. Many of the top executives were women, and several of their husbands were stay-at-home fathers. There was a room in our office that started out as a nap room for folks working long hours, but also became known as the breast pump room for new mothers. People were charged with a feeling that we had to do everything we could to help our clients be successful, almost as if we had a mission. We worked hard and played hard together. Even when we weren’t at the office, we talked about work and our clients. I got to know the guy who is now my husband over such a conversation.

It sounds absurd to describe a financial software company in these terms, but that was how it felt to work there at that time. Like many companies in the late ’90s and early 2000s,Advent worked hard to keep its stock price rising and its shareholders happy. But what goes up, must come down, and we all saw the dot-com crash bring down many other stocks with it. That sort of wild and crazy ride ripples through an organization, affecting the people and the culture, as well as the stock price. People were laid off; others became disillusioned.

Advent is still the leader in software for financial services professionals, with Stephanie at the helm. Now, my life is focused on my beautiful little boy, my amazing husband, and a few freelance writing jobs. I hope to go to graduate school in the near future. But my time at Advent is a touchstone for me. It gave me opportunities, experience, and success. It also showed me that workplaces exist where the people think like I do, live like I want to, and stoke a fire in their bellies.