Linda Franklin is a trailblazer. She was one of the first women to infiltrate “The Old Boys Club” of Wall Street, own her own seat on The New York Stock Exchange and make partner in an all male investment firm.
She now spends her time carving a new trail for women over 40 and is now considered a leader in the "Cougar Movement." Linda says, "Every woman, whether she realizes it or not, has a Real Cougar just waiting to be unleashed. Living life as a smart, sexy, independent woman is the best gift you can give yourself. Get over listening to what other people think and start living the life you deserve."
Linda's passion is debunking the antiquated cougar myth. "A Real Cougar stands alone and refuses to be defined by her choice in men. A Real Cougar can attract any man at any age because she is secure standing in her own shoes." - therealcougarwoman.com
Linda has been helping thousands of women tap into their Cougar Power with her extremely popular website www.TheRealCougarWoman.com which is why we've chosen her to be our Kougar of the Month.
I understand firsthand what it means to reinvent yourself after forty. I was born in Toronto, Canada, and moved to New York City in my early twenties. Without a college degree, I had to work extra hard and completely revamp my belief system if I were going to create a lifestyle that was rich and fulfilling. That wasn’t an easy task, but I did it. At age 28, I began constructing a dream career that lasted almost 25 years. Being in the right place at the right time never hurt, but that’s just one piece of a very complex puzzle.
Wall Street in the1970s was not a woman-friendly environment, but I was able to use that fact to my advantage. Just tell me I can’t do something and then watch me make it happen. I worked hard and absorbed knowledge like a thirsty sponge. It paid off. I am proud to say I was the first Canadian woman to own a seat on The New York Stock Exchange, in addition to managing an all-male trading department for a leading Wall Street investment firm. I loved being a trader, and I loved the passion and pressure I was faced with each and every day. It was so much fun to watch my highly educated MBA team freeze when it was time to make an important trading decision. That’s when I took over, and I loved it.
I loved my life, but at 49 it started to change drastically – so drastically, that I made the painful decision to leave Wall Street.
I get asked all the time, “Why? Why did you give up something you loved so much and were so successful at doing?” To be honest, I am not quite sure. All I know is that I was starting to go through menopause, which signaled to me I was old. Aging had always scared me, and here it was. I started to lose my confidence, and that is a death knell for anything positive in your life. I fought it, but it was too powerful a combatant. The strong belief system that had taken me so far was now failing, so I walked away.
That decision was the hardest of my life and dealt a devastating blow to my psyche. I didn’t realize how much of my identity I had attached to work until it was gone. Retirement was never part of my plan, and I had no idea how to cope with the fact that I no longer had somewhere to be every day. My midlife crisis, or my “tsunami of change” as I like to call it, hit me hard, throwing everything that I feared right at me all at once. When I could no longer stand people asking me questions about what happened, I retreated into solitude. My husband was supportive but didn’t really know how to help me. Needless to say, this was putting a real strain on my marriage.
Eventually, there came a day when I could no longer tolerate my own self-pity. It was on that day I made the conscious decision to take back my power and my life. Over the next two years, I went on a quest to find the answers that would help me calm down my fear of aging. I decided to find out how to maintain a healthy body, look fabulous, start a new career, and fill my spiritual reservoir.
Change, as hard as it was, turned out to be a blessing. It gave me the opportunity to reignite my passion and start to live the second act of my life with gusto instead of fear. I was feeling stronger and more powerful than I had in a long time. I was eager to share my experience with other women who were handling their own tsunamis, so I started my blog.
The decision to name my blog The Real Cougar Woman was made after reading a number of unflattering articles about women over 40 who were being called “cougars” and portrayed as predators on the prowl for young cubs. To me it seemed that “cougar” was quickly becoming a derogatory term used to stereotype women who appeared to be strong, sexy, and confident. The purpose of my blog was always to celebrate our age, our accomplishments, and our passion for life. I believe that a Real Cougar is a woman who is proud to be over 40 and who exudes intelligence, sophistication, and independence. This is a woman who refuses to be defined by the age of the man she chooses to be with. My goal is to make “cougar” a designer label that women all over the world are proud to wear.
It’s unfortunate that the media puts such a negative spin on cougar women. Shows like TV Land’s The Cougar and ABC’s Cougar Town do everything possible to make the female characters appear desperate, shallow, and man-hungry. This stereotype is not how Real Cougars are living their lives. There is still a double standard that dictates what is acceptable for a man and what is acceptable for a woman. These shows and the stereotypes they portray only serve to widen that divide.
When actresses like Kim Cattrall and Demi Moore declare their hate for the cougar label, it only results in scaring women who are in loving, lasting relationships with younger men back into the shadows. When men date or marry a younger woman, it is as if society hands them a badge of honor, but an older woman with a younger man is still viewed as tawdry. Updating and equalizing this old-fashioned double standard is just part of my mission as I work to redefine what a Real Cougar Woman is.
The Real Cougar Woman Club, my online membership community, now has thousands of women who are proud to call themselves cougars. All of the members participate in our forums where we discuss anything and everything that relates to our lives. Our discussions serve as a great support group where women can find the comfort and encouragement they need from other women who understand the issues they are facing.
After seeing the way our online community expanded so quickly, I was inspired to write a book in hopes of reaching an even larger audience of women around the world. In Don’t Ever Call Me Ma’am! – The Real Cougar Woman Guide for Life Over 40, I share the experiences of my life in order to help women who are struggling with the same ups and downs that I did after 40. In addition to covering issues including menopause, sex, finance, and maintaining healthy relationships, my book provides an up close and personal look at some of the incredible women that are part of my Real Cougar community. These are the women that serve as my daily inspiration.I can honestly say that I’m not sure where this path will lead me next, but that is one of the greatest things about it. At this point in my life, I am happy; happy to be in the place that I’m in, happy to have the opportunity to help others, and happy to be strong, sexy, independent, and PROUD TO BE OVER 40!