Gladys Ruiz is president of Little Children Schoolhouse in Brookline, MA. Ruiz and her sister Elizabeth opened the Little Children Schoolhouse in 2004 and now operate three facilities with year-round, full-day programs for infants, toddlers, preschoolers and pre-K children. A child-centered curriculum promotes growth in all areas of development: social, emotional, cognitive and physical. Through its well rounded curriculum, students participate in weekly music and yoga, reading lessons, cooking classes and science activities that support a child’s natural curiosity. Gladys and Elizabeth received the Urban College of Boston Emerging Leader Award in 2009 for their leadership in the early childhood community.
1. What advancements have you seen women make in your industry in the last few years?
Women’s role in the Child Care business has historically been as teachers or directors, while the programs are predominantly owned by men. More and more women with experience in the industry are venturing on their own to start viable Child Care programs with great success.
2. What do you see as the greatest challenge to women in your field?
Now that women are a growing percentage of Child Care business owners, the greatest challenge for women in the field is not gender specific: maintaining enrollment. The industry has become extremely competitive which requires that programs market themselves differently.
3. What are your tips for achieving work-life balance?
This is an area I am constantly working on. My extended family is extremely supportive, especially when I need to put in long hours. They understand that running a successful business is demanding. I remind myself that I couldn’t do what I do without their support. As a family we make time to have fun and spend quality time together with long weekends in Maine and other travel.
4. What is your favorite forum for networking and making authentic connections with other professional women?
Though I do frequent Facebook, my authentic connections are definitely made through meeting other professionals at workshops and meetings. My former college professors have been a great resource for referring student teachers.
5. What advice do you give to young women just starting their careers?
Learn everything you can about the job. Crawl, walk, and then run. There is no such thing as “menial job” when climbing up the ladder of success.
6. Do you have a mentor or a sponsor, or are you a mentor to other professional women? What is the greatest benefit you’ve received from this relationship?
I did have a mentor in Grace Caines, former professor and Department Chair in the Early Childhood Education division at the Urban College of Boston. She passed away several years ago, but I will never forget the important lessons she left with me. Grace often challenged me to set my “bar” at a higher level and not be afraid to think out of the box. Her slogan was known by all her students, “YOU CAN DO IT, YES YOU CAN.” Her support and encouragement was instrumental in the success of my Child Care program. Today, instead of giving myself reasons why I can’t, I give myself reasons why I can.
7. What is the most fearless thing you have done professionally and/or personally and what did you gain from that experience?
Walking away from a job where I was gainfully employed to start my own business was frightening yet exciting. I knew that there would be hurdles to jump and some days I would ask myself “what was I thinking”. However, the rewards of a dream come true are so invigorating. Each day as I walk into the building I feel a sense of accomplishment. I am living my dream and though I do have side ambitions, my focus is making sure that my Child Care program continues to grow as I do the same professionally.