Finding the Balance Between Family and Career: Ann Raider Highlights the Importance of Male Allies in Workplace Equity

January 17, 2023 - Emily Jodway

For Ann Raider, failure has never been an option. The highly successful businesswoman and mother has let passion and drive carry her through the many successes and difficulties of life, including running a multi-million-dollar company while balancing being a single mother to two young boys.

Family has always been ‘absolutely the most important thing’ in Raider’s life, and her oldest son Jeff, the Co-CEO and co-founder of Harry’s and the co-founder of Warby Parker, can attest to this fact.

“Many people know my mom as a strong business leader, but my brother Michael and I are lucky to also know her as an incredibly caring friend, giving colleague and devoted mom. She cares so deeply about everyone around her and even in the busiest of times went above and beyond to support others in her life and to always be there for us.”  

She credits those closest to her and their coaching and support for setting her on the path to success early on. Choosing to study economics and business at MSU in a time when it was rare for women to do so, Raider knew the road ahead wouldn’t be easy. 

“In my class of 140, there were only a couple of women, and I was one of them,” Raider said. “After I got my MBA, I sent out 100 resumes and only got three offers. There just weren’t people accepting women. So, I was lucky that I had that kind of support from male mentors saying ‘She can do this’ early on in my career. But it was still hard work.”

Raider set off on a food business career track and built her own company, Consumer Card Marketing, Inc., which designed and pioneered the first-ever loyalty programs for supermarkets. Her perseverance did not go unnoticed.

“My son Jeffrey makes references often to seeing me sit at the table and work long nights for my first company,” Raider said. “I worked a tremendous amount, and I took care of the boys, and for many years that’s all I did,” Raider explains. “But that was the commitment I made; I wanted to do these two things that to me were the most important things in my life.”

Raider never expected her sons to follow in her footsteps in the way that they did. However, her sons won’t let her forget how she inspired them.

“I would not be where I am today in my career without learning from the example my mom set,” shares Jeff. “Her persistence in overcoming adversity and enabling the success of her business was inspiring.”

“I was actually surprised that Jeff embodied what he saw [growing up],” Raider said. “I never thought about it. I was humbled. It’s heartwarming for me to hear them talk about business and for me to be able to participate in those discussions.”

Raider is an avid supporter of aspiring young women, especially those also seeking to stake their place in the ever-competitive world of business. She also acknowledges that despite the strides women have made in recent decades, they still have a much more difficult path to navigate than their male counterparts.

“The main problem is, 35 years later, women still do not have the same opportunities as men in business,” she said. “There is all kinds of hidden bias for women in business. I want to see [women’s] lives easier than mine. So any time I get to help young women, I am absolutely committed to that.”

One way that Raider commits to these efforts of supporting young women is through her participation in Michigan State University’s Women’s Leadership Institute.

“My biggest advice to women would be to say, find out what interests you,” she said. “Ask yourself, ‘Where do I want to be in ten years? What would make me happy?’ Be honest and educated in whatever it is you choose to do, be clear about your goals and what you want to achieve, and go after those goals.”

Raider hopes that as time goes on, more and more men will step up to support these women and their goals in the way that her mentors did and acknowledge the impact women have made to further their success.

“[Men] need to appreciate the talent that women have and help them to navigate a career and give them good advice about what it takes to go from one step in that career to the next. Give them exposure, give them advice, give them responsibility and help them get to whatever standard they need to be at to succeed.”

Raider will be speaking as part of the WLI’s 2022-23 schedule of events on January 27 in a virtual conversation with members of the program’s student cohort.