“I’m going. I’ll figure that out when I get there.”
Going to Emory was one thing Bailey was certain about — however, what she actually wanted to do after that was a yet-unanswered question for her. But she also knew, it’s not when you start, it’s that you start.
She said she got started when she figured out what she wanted to do at the age of 30. But then came the next mountain to climb — how would she do what she wanted to do?
She was well aware of the reality of business — male dominated and hard for women to be taken seriously. The glass ceilings hadn’t really been shattered but Bailey was going to give them a permanent crack, and another, and another throughout her career.
Strikingly reminiscent of her decision to go to Emory, Bailey dove into her destiny knowing she could and would figure it out. And again, she did. She positioned herself as a self-motivated entrepreneur, learning the ins and outs of business and carving out her own unique path. She was conquering the mountains that lay between her and her goals. And in doing so, she was becoming the quintessential poster child for women’s rights, particularly in business, working to get women in the virtual “locker room” with their male counterparts.
Long before Bailey was breaking glass ceilings, female author George Eliot had worked to do the same, in her own unique way — and succeeded in giving the glass ceiling a good whack too. She penned the infamous quote, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” This could have easily been Bailey’s own mantra, with the addition of “you’ll figure it out.”
Bailey has spent her life looking behind her as much as she’s looked ahead — not with regrets, but only to give others a hand up and skills to find a new way up and out. She focused specifically on helping other women whenever the opportunity arose, recommending and promoting women to positions they’d always been qualified but overlooked for. (Her benefactors would mostly likely describe her as one-half guardian-angel mentor and one-half business mogul.) She set the bar high and she set it how and where she wanted to.
Even today, she remains unwavering in her desire to keep going, keep working, keep helping and keep keeping on. To be in Bailey’s world is to be with a leader who never looks down — not on others and not on opportunities. At 50, she finally found herself for the first time working at a job in a company that she didn’t own. She fit right in, as if she’d always been there. Age is not a factor that influences her drive — again, it’s never too late to figure it out or to succeed. Her legacy is a testament to that.
"Women tend to not take risks unless they feel they’re 100 percent prepared. But I try to help them see things from a different perspective..."
Bailey never forgot her time at Emory or what she had learned there — acquiring an EMBA from the Goizueta Business School, after graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics.
She served for more than a decade as a trustee of Emory University, as well as serving on its finance and audit committees. She also chaired the development committee as it launched a billion dollar plus fundraising campaign.
And now, when most people still refer to business as business, Bailey is including the caveat that business is people, too — and she has a keen sense for both. Her efforts are meaningful and her tenacity is to be revered, as is her generosity of spirit. Giving back and helping other people rise up isn’t something she does, it’s something she is. She now refers to herself as an “intentional feminist,” a title she’s always had but had not yet verbalized till late.
For more than 30 years, Bailey has seamlessly worked across a wide array of industries, from real estate development and management to restaurants, publishing and healthcare. For the last 15 of those years, she was chief operating officer of Cardiology of Georgia (COG). It was a mountain that provided many challenges and opportunities, and she conquered them all. Under her guidance, it grew from one office with five physicians to 14 offices with over 30 physicians. By hiring the right physicians and through a series of mergers, the firm thrived beyond projections. Once the firm peaked, Bailey saw the next step, surprising many who thought sustaining the status quo was the way to go. What others missed, Bailey homed in on, seeing a strategic risk that offered measurable returns and proceeded to oversee the restructuring of COG into several large hospital systems.
She’s made 77 trips around the sun now and still wakes up every morning to take on her unique piece of the world, leaving it and the people she meets better off in the process. Currently, Bailey is helping others figure it out too. She mentors and teaches young people, providing them the confidence and perspective needed to escape the traps circumstances can bring.
“I’m 77 and I’m trying to help young women find their way and find their path. Women tend to not take risks unless they feel they’re 100 percent prepared. But I try to help them see things from a different perspective — one that’s helped me succeed again and again — just try for it, whatever it is. Because if you fail, as I have many times, you will figure it out.”
Failure can be the greatest teacher, as life most often gives you the test first and the lesson afterwards. But those lessons transcend the ideas around failure transforming them into the most valuable, or more accurately invaluable, tools needed to build stronger and clearer understandings of business so they can keep moving forward with confidence and resilience.
Bailey said, “I’ve learned much more about myself, my own abilities and my ethics by failure than I ever have by successes.” She also said, “You have to have faith in yourself. This takes guts to do. It has its costs. It’s hard, but it’s also fun and very much worth it. You’ll make mistakes and screw up, but you’ll figure it out and gain greater confidence to start again. Your failures are the tools from which you’ll build your success.”
She sees so much more to still do, particularly when it comes to gender parity. Bailey said she looks forward to the day when people have reached a mindset of saying, “I have a doctor, not I have a woman doctor.” It’s as simple and as hard as that. But don’t expect this intentional feminist to give up or let those around her give in or give up either.